MADISON – The University of Wisconsin is going from old and classic to cutting-edge and new when it comes to outfitting their student-athletes.
Following the approval from the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin System, the regents voted to approve a 10-year sponsorship agreement between the school and athletic apparel giant Under Armour, beginning in the 2016-17 academic year that is worth roughly $96 million.
"This is a great day for the University of Wisconsin and, in particular, the athletic department," said Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. "We're thrilled to partner with an energtic, hard-working brand whose story mirrors our own."
Wisconsin’s sports programs have been outfitted by Adidas since August 2001, a deal that has been extended twice and runs through June 30, 2016. The new sponsorship agreement with the Maryland-based outfitter brings a “significant increases in cash contributions in product allotment,” as laid out by the regents’ Business and Finance committee meeting materials. That committee met Thursday morning to review and discuss the plan, per the regents’ agenda.
Alvarez has known Kevin Plank, the Founder and CEO of Under Armour, since he began the company in the late 1990s. The first serious discussions between Wisconsin and the company began in late February, right before the Wisconsin men's basketball game in Maryland. Wisconsin joins Maryland and Northwestern as Big Ten schools outfitted by Under Armour, a company that is paying the University a hefty amount for that distinction.
A product allotment of Under Armour shoes, apparel and equipment would be given annually “at no cost" to the university and its 23 intercollegiate teams. UW would receive $3.3 million in product during the first year “to account for the increased product needs associated with a change in Sponsors.”
Starting in the second year of the deal, Under Armour would provide UW with $2.45 million in product, with that number increasing over the years to over $3 million in the tenth and final year of the contract. Under the current deal with Adidas, the last year -- 2015-16 -- pays $1.375 million.
In addition, Under Armour would give UW cash compensation each year, with the university eligible to receive annual bonus compensation based on the overall performance of its teams. UW would receive $4 million annually of cash contribution. With the current deal in place, Adidas’ cash compensation varied between $750,000 (first two years of the agreement) to $800,000 (the last three years).
The university would also receive “an annual guaranteed minimum licensing royalty” from Under Armour -- paying UW $450,000 annually. Adidas currently dishes out $100,000 per year to UW.
There are non-financial positives to this proposal as well. Under Armour agrees to “acknowledge its plan of action with respect to human rights issues” and will allow the university to access archives and “contemporary inspection and monitoring reports” for all of Under Armour’s facilities producing goods for UW. The sports clothing and accessories company would also bring on two students from the university per contract year to participate in the company’s Summer Rookie internship program.
Under Armour become UW’s “exclusive supplier of accessories, apparel, equipment and footwear” to its teams and coaching staffs, along with being granted the distinction of “Official Outfitter of University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletics,” and the “Official Outfitter” of the university.
Adidas has received some criticism from fans regarding certain looks, including last season’s 2014-15 men’s basketball uniforms that boasted a red stripe across the shorts’ waist. Prior to that in 2012, Wisconsin and Nebraska debuted its “Unrivaled” series jerseys in a match-up between the two programs in Lincoln, Neb.
Under Armour, based out of Baltimore, is known for its bold uniforms and seen as a young, hip apparel company.
"I'm impressed with their creativity, their technological advances and their presence in the market," said Alvarez, who added UW is a program that changes its uniforms once a year compared to once a week. "Under Armour is a modern success story. We think this will be a fantastic, long-term relationship that willl benefit the University of Wisconsin and Under Armour."
Boston College, Notre Dame and South Carolina are other collegiate programs who hold similar agreements with Under Armour.