If someone said they’d pay you thousands and thousands of dollars to wear a shoe, how bad would a shoe have to be for you not to wear it?
I’m asking that of Novak Djokovic today.
Djokovic is the third ranked men’s tennis player in the world. He’s also adidas’ top endorser, given that both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are sponsored by Nike.
Djokovic had adidas logos all over his apparel at yesterday’s first round match at Wimbledon against Michael Berrer. But his most important piece of equipment was his shoes. And it appears like he was wearing Nikes.
Djokovic did an excellent job--maybe the best we’ve seen--at whiting out what is a black Air logo on the tongue and on the Nike swoosh on the side of the shoe. Unfortunately, we here at Sports Biz, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, have too many good sources at the All England Tennis Club, who tipped us off.
Take a look at the image of Djokovic’s shoe during the match and then compare it to Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II’s. You can see on the tongue where he covered up the Nike logo and the air holes are just a total giveaway. Plus, the fact that his regular adidas shoes have three black stripes on it.
The unconfirmed story we were told is that Djokovic felt he was slipping too much on the grass court earlier this month while playing the Queen’s Club tournament in London, in which he lost to Rafael Nadal in the finals.
I went back through photos and found Djokovic wearing the adidas shoes at an adidas promotional event on June 18th in London and he was wearing his adidas shoes throughout the entire Queen’s Club tournament.
It’s not a total marketing disaster. Djokovic isn’t endorsing Nike. But his shoes don’t have adidas logos on him, which is clearly the most important part of his entire shoe and apparel deal. And folks, this is Wimbledon. If Djokovic really had a problem, he should have addressed it with adidas. We have a hard time believing that they can’t make shoes that won’t slip on the grass. We'll be watching his second round match against Marat Safin to see if we see those three stripes again.
UPDATE: Adidas has responded to my report in a statement:
"Adidas is committed to providing the best possible sportswear products to inspire and enable all athletes to achieve their Impossible. However, in the tradition of our founder Adi Dassler, we do not oblige athletes to wear a product in competition they do not feel are 100 percent suitable to their style of play. Therefore we have reviewed the request of Novak Djokovic to use another brand of shoes at Wimbledon and have agreed he can wear a product he feels is more suited to his current grass court needs.
"Over the past 5 years adidas’ commitment to my career has been unbeatable," Djokovic said in the statement. "Adidas Tennis has actively sought my feedback on new products and technologies and I am excited to work on a new products for the 2009 season. In the meantime, I am grateful for adidas’ unrelenting support as I aim to achieve my Impossible at Wimbledon this week."
I stand by my previous comment. How hard is it to make a suitable grass shoe? If you are going to spend the money to sign a guy like Djokovic, you have to make sure you can make the shoes for all courts that is comfortable for a guy like him.
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