Nike pulled off a huge coup in 2010 when it wrangled the apparel rights for the NFL from Reebok. At a cost of $1.1 billion, Nike will produce uniforms for all 32 of the league's teams for five years, depriving Reebok, now a division of Adidas, of some $250 million in annual revenue. And though plenty of fans were excited to see the uniforms once they were wrung through the "Nike design centrifuge," the new duds have met with decidedly mixed reviews. Are they a bust?
Move on, there's nothing to see here: With the exception of the Seattle Seahawks' outfits, the uniforms "look exactly the same or almost the same," says Paul Lukas at ESPN. "Nike can't just walk in and make design changes without a team's permission," and most are reluctant to sign off on anything "wacky." And the new look for the Seahawks, which features splash of "neon green," will probably only appeal to those who "view football as a video game played by comic book superheroes in costumes." For all the hype, the "NFL still looks like the NFL."
"Nike's NFL unis only slightly different"
Nike's conservative approach is a good thing: Nike's light touch is a pleasant surprise, given that the company's flashy college football uniforms have turned the sport into "the male auxiliary of Project Runway," says Gwen Knapp at The San Francisco Chronicle. Do we really want to see our players decked out in flashy "ninja costumes"? Of course not. Teams are better off remaining "instantly identifiable to their longtime fans."
"Nike's new NFL jerseys show few visible changes"
But there's more to the uniforms than meets the eye: While the aesthetics are getting all the attention, "the new technology that Nike's employing for jerseys is a big deal as well," says Will Brinson at CBS. "Nike made serious changes to the uniforms," from lighter shoulder padding to increased thigh protection. The fabric has additional "hydrophobic qualities" to prevent uniforms from getting heavy with precipitation, and even the socks got an upgrade, from the mere "tubes" Reebok was peddling. Remember, Nike didn't make these uniforms just for the fans, but for "the guys who are actually playing the football on Sundays."
"Nike NFL uniforms biggest impact is in unseen details and technology"