UCLA announces new deal with Jordan Brand, Nike to replace Under Armour
Something historic was afoot Tuesday morning as Martin Jarmond strolled across UCLA’s campus. The Bruins athletic director headed toward the football practice facility to make a major announcement, providing a giveaway with his sneakers.
They were Jordans.
UCLA had agreed in principle to a six-year partnership with Jordan Brand and Nike to replace Under Armour in its first major coup under Jarmond, providing a swag factor and potential recruiting boost that the school never enjoyed with its previous apparel sponsor.
The response from players was predictable given the brands’ broad appeal.
“Wooooo, we got Jordan Brand!” cornerback Jay Shaw said, recalling the reaction among the football team. “Wooooo!”
The Bruins trumpeted the contract set to begin July 1 with a tweet showing the Jumpman logo superimposed on the middle of their football practice field as well as the Pauley Pavilion scoreboard and a pair of football gloves. The school also released a video narrated by basketball alumni Russell Westbrook and Jordin Canada ending with a shot of Jarmond wearing a Jumpman T-shirt.
“Elite is in our DNA,” Jarmond says in the video, “and it’s time to join the Nike and Jordan family.”
Jordan Brand, a hip offshoot of the Nike line, will outfit the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, making UCLA the only Pac-12 Conference school to wear the brand and one of only five schools in the country to wear it for those three sports. Nike will supply the school’s other 22 varsity teams with uniforms, footwear, apparel and equipment.
UCLA shooting guard David Singleton could furnish his own team several times over with the 80-plus pairs of Jordans he said he owned, including two pairs that he said were coming in the mail that he hoped to wear in games later this week. His haul of the sneakers is a testament to his love for the brand and its namesake, Michael Jordan.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson compiled one of his most efficient performances against Arizona State in his return from quarantine.
“As a young kid, he became my favorite player,” Singleton said of Jordan, whose games he would watch on VHS tapes and whose shoes he would spend hours waiting in line to buy. “I’m not as big as Michael Jordan, but I always loved his demeanor, I loved his will to win.”
Power forward Cody Riley said he preferred Jordans because they were more comfortable than other brands and had worn them going back to his youth basketball days. The brand is popular among top prospects who now might have additional reason to consider playing for UCLA.
Bruins basketball coach Mick Cronin said players told him that before his arrival, the team had lost some recruits because of its affiliation with Under Armour. Now the Bruins will be able to tout the industry’s hottest brand, Cronin noting that his daughter had asked for Nike Air Force 1’s for Christmas and his stepson Jordans.
“It’s undeniable, Cronin said, “the popularity of the brand.”
Financial terms of the deal were not available, but it was expected to be nowhere near the record $280-million contract UCLA signed with Under Armour in 2016. UCLA has sued Under Armour for more than $200 million, alleging breach of contract after the apparel company tried to back out of its 15-year deal with the school shortly before Jarmond arrived this summer.
Jarmond solved his first major crisis by securing another brand after gathering insight from Westbrook and fellow Bruin alumnus Kevin Love.
“They helped me understand in ways that I wasn’t fully aware,” Jarmond said, “how young people feel about Nike and Jordan Brand as opposed to other companies.”
Partnering with UCLA strengthens the West Coast presence of Jordan Brand and Nike while affiliating them with the school that has won a record 11 national championships in men’s basketball as part of its haul of 118 NCAA team titles.
UCLA safety Quentin Lake will be back in the 90th edition of the USC-UCLA rivalry after missing last season’s due to a hand injury.
“Like Nike and Jordan Brand, the Bruins have a championship mind-set and their impact is felt both in sport and within the community,” Craig Williams, Jordan Brand president, said in a statement. “We are beyond excited to welcome UCLA into the family and are looking forward to partnering with some of the best athletes in the world.”
As part of the deal, Nike has agreed to support UCLA student-athlete development programs, offer two summer internships each year to UCLA students and annually host selected students from the school for an educational experience at company headquarters.
Officially licensed UCLA gear with the Jordan Brand and Nike logos is expected to go on sale to the public in the fall of 2021.
“This is a historic day,” Jarmond said. “We’ve never been with Nike, never been with Jordan Brand, and this is about where UCLA athletics is going and this is a statement to our brand and that’s the energy and excitement and momentum that we have.”
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