adidas gains rights to Beijing 2008

German sneaker giant Adidas Salomon-AG has won the sponsorship rights to the 2008 Olympic Games, a move the company hopes will cement its position in the world’s largest emerging sportswear market.
Under the terms of the agreement announced Monday, Adidas will outfit the staff of the Beijing Games, as well as the Chinese Olympic team. In addition, Chinese athletes will wear only Adidas apparel in the upcoming 2006 Winter Games in Turin.

Adidas, which is the world’s second largest sportswear manufacturer after Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike Inc., is opening 40 new stores in mainland China per month, underscoring the importance of the Chinese market to the company.

“China is our fastest-growing market. We more or less double our sales in China each year,” said Jan Runau, global public relations director for Adidas, whose American operations are based in Portland.

Sportswear analysts said the sponsorship deal is potentially bad news for Nike, which along with Adidas is one of the two main players in Asia. Massachusetts-based Reebok Inc. is a distant third.

“This is the first Olympics that are being held in China and so the visibility will obviously be enormous,” said former Fila executive Howe Burch, now the president and CEO of Twelve Sports Marketing in Baltimore, Maryland. “From a competitive standpoint, they certainly have struck a blow.”

Most recently, Adidas was also the sponsor of the Athens Olympics, where Olympic athletes wearing the German manufacturer’s iconic three stripes brought home more than 400 medals.