Just Do It.
When it came time to sign a new deal for sports apparel for the University of Arkansas, that was the motto and the logo that stuck in the mind of Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long.
"What made this happen was the fact that we wanted Nike and Nike wanted us and it wanted the entire program and not just some of our sports," Long said. "That's a great compliment to the University of Arkansas and its fans that Nike feels we had risen to the level that they wanted to be associated with us with an all-sports deal. There are a lot of teams that are a Nike football school or a Nike basketball one, but they put an all-sports offer on the table and they just don't do that very often. They are very selective in doing that.
"Nike made it clear that we were the number one school on their board," Long continued. "With the economy the way it is, Nike was not out making deals. In fact, we may be the only one that they have signed to an all-sports deal since the downturn began."
It wasn't just the success on the field or diamond that brought about the interest from Nike, billed as the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities.
Nike has owned the top spot in the Collegiate Licensing Company's collegiate apparel royalties rankings since 1999.
"Nike is a company that wants to be associated with winners, but this is also a retail business decision for them," Long said. "Our fans have made us one of the top schools in retail sales when it comes to apparel and that definitely caught their eye."
Adidas made a run at keeping the Razorbacks, but Nike got it done by bringing a lucrative five-year, all-sports deal to the table.
Thus Nike will be taking over as the exclusive provider for Razorback Athletics as of July 1.
"Adidas is a German company that really did great things for us and this was not an easy decision," Long said. "But they have been affected by the economy like everybody else and have not been able to thrive. Nike has dealt with it, is an American company that has remained strong and is a brand we are overjoyed to be affiliated with as we move along.
"While there are always financial considerations in these deals, our number one goal was to make sure it was a deal that outfitted all of our teams," Long said. "We got that accomplished."
The Beaverton, Oregon-based company will outfit all 19 different Arkansas teams, which amounts to just under 500 athletes.
It is already turning the heads of the recruits according to Long.
"Nike is the brand of choice with the young people of today and we have already seen the excitement of us moving to Nike in our discussions with recruits," Long said. "Nike is what they wear, what they want to be seen in and what they want to play in. We think it is going to have a definite impact."
Arkansas' most successful program over the years has been track and field. This decision plays into that as well.
"There is little doubt that Nike is the brand in track and field," Long said. "We have had to really work hard to tell kids who knew Nike was the track king why Adidas would be the better shoe for them and they would wear that here. Now we can't just go about being a Nike school and what comes with that."
Long believes that Arkansas has hit a home run with Nike, just as it did in landing the ISP Sports multimedia rights deal back in 2008.
The 10-year ISP deal guaranteed the UA $73 million.
"We were fortunate to get the ISP deal done right before the economic down turn," Long said. "We got in just under the wire. On this deal, we feel like we were very fortunate to make it at a time when the economy tries to come back."
Long knows that there have been some illustrations from fan of what the new Arkansas football uniforms might look like.
Those have excited some fans and horrified others.
"What I can tell our fans is that we are not going to come out in something like Oregon so they don't have to worry about that," Long said. "Our goal is to have keep the traditional elements with just an updated style and flair."
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino has had a hand in what those uniforms and what they will look like.
"I can tell you that Coach Petrino has been very forward about what he wants and what he doesn't want when it comes to the uniform," Long said. "There's not anything to worry about. We will not let go of our traditional elements."
Because of the lateness of the deal, Arkansas fans might see a different uniform in year one under the deal than they might in year two.
"We got this deal done right on the edge when it comes to time," Long said. "Nike is working really hard to get the stuff we need and I have no doubt that we will have what we need and for this season.
"But I will tell you that the uniforms you see in year two of the deal might be slightly different than what we see in year one," Long said. "We worked on what we needed this year and will move from there. I would say that it is a work in progess."
There's also speculation that Arkansas is trying to move more toward a Cardinal color than a red one.
"That leaves a lot open to interpretation because a lot of people have a lot of different ideas about just what Cardinal is," Long said. "And I can tell you that any shade of red is one of the hardest colors to match when it comes to different fabrics. It looks different on each individual fabric.
"But yes, we are definitely trying to move toward our true school colors - Cardinal and White," Long added.
There will certainly be some Nike fan apparel available in retail stores on July 1, but not everything right away.
"Like I mentioned before we were very fortunate to get this deal with Nike, but it was up against the edge of time," Long said. "There will be certainly be fan apparel available, but more will become available as time goes on."
Long looks at partnership with Nike as a win-win situation for everybody involved.
It hasn't gone unnoticed that the last nine NCAA football champions have been Nike-outfitted squads.
Nine of the 10 teams in the BCS bowls this year were Nike teams.
"What a great compliment to our student-athletes, our fans and our University that Nike wants to be a partner with us," Long said. "It speaks volumes to how they like what we are doing here and how they believe - just as we do - that we are a program that is on the rise and headed to great things."
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