On Monday night, The University of Alabama and Clemson University will face off in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Alabama and Clemson have faced off in the title game in three of the five years since the CFP (College Football Playoff) structure replaced the old BCS (Bowl Championship Series) format.
And in all five years of the CFP format, both schools in the title game have been Nike-sponsored.
Alabama and Clemson are both Nike schools. The only other schools that have played in the title game in the CFP era are Oregon, Ohio State, and Georgia, which are all Nike-sponsored as well. Oregon, in fact, is Nike’s “flagship” school, where founder Phil Knight ran track under coach Bill Bowerman.
Among the top 25 ranked schools at the end of this year’s college football regular season, only four were not Nike-sponsored.
One of those four was Notre Dame, an Under Armour school, but Clemson routed the Fighting Irish 30-3, dashing Under Armour’s hopes of having its logo on the jerseys in the title game.
And of the 80 schools that made a bowl game this season, Nike sponsors 49.
None of that is to say that Adidas and Under Armour don’t care about college sponsorships. Both brands have sought to ramp those up in recent years. Under Armour in 2017 began an eye-popping 15-year, $280 million deal with UCLA.
Adidas in 2017 announced an unprecedented partnership with one of its sponsored schools, Arizona State University, to study athlete health and science in a permanent program, complete with a former Wharton sports business professor, Ken Shropshire, as academic chair. At the same time, Adidas’s presence in college athletics right now is still under the pall of the shocking bribery scandal last year involving two Adidas executives and a University of Louisville recruit. The Adidas-affiliated defendants were found guilty of wire fraud in October.
Of course, skeptics also dismiss the supposed value of the logo exposure that brands get from sponsoring colleges or even pro athletes. It’s difficult to slap a dollar figure on the value of reaching those eyeballs. But one thing Nike marketing execs can at least be sure of is that for 3+ hours, viewers of the national championship game will see the Nike swoosh again and again, and won’t see much of the interlocking ‘U’ and ‘A’ or the three stripes.
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.