Nike And Adidas: The Raging "Battle" Over China

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CNBC.com

In my 10 years of reporting on the business of sports, I have never heard of this happening. Company A announces itself as the market leader in a certain category or country. Company B then refutes the fact that its competitor is the market leader.

Well, that's what's happening in the shoe and apparel market in China. On Tuesday, I interviewed adidas CEO Herbert Hainer. Here's our back and forth.

Darren: Tell me a little bit about China. By the end of the year you say you'll be No. 1 over Nike?

Hainer: China is definitely, for all of us, a growing market, but especially for us. We started in 1993 here when we founded our subsidiary. The last four years of course we have used our close relationship with the Olympics to build our business here, and this year we will do over $1 billion. According to the market share figures, which we have gotten from retailers and other panels, we are already the number one here in market share. So China is definitely where it is worthwhile to invest and to further invest.

Interested to get Nike's reaction on being passed, I called Nigel Powell, Nike's vice president of global communications, who said he was "bemused."

"We are the clear market leader," Powell said. "We have been tracking this market for years and all our estimates show that we are 30 percent bigger than the nearest competitor. We reached the $1 billion mark six months ago, which was a year ahead of our plans, and we continue to see accelerated growth in this exciting marketplace. Nike has achieved this status by connecting--better than anyone else--to Chinese consumers who continue to be inspired by sport."

By the way, if you are an analyst and have estimates on the Chinese market on adidas and Nike, please send them our way.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com