Stripes and Solid
Georgia Tech, adidas to team up and “refine, elevate” GT brand beginning in July 2018
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
“Up with the white and gold.”
They’re the first words Georgia Tech fans sing to celebrate an athletic achievement.
Yet, despite singing that part of that Frank Roman-penned refrain countless times over the last 98 years, there’s never been a uniquely Georgia Tech Gold of which to sing.
“If we have a ‘Gold Out,’ who knows how many different shades of gold and yellow will show up?” said Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury, with a laugh. “There’s probably 20 or 30 out there.”
That’s going to change beginning on July 1, 2018, thanks to Georgia Tech’s new apparel deal with sportswear giant adidas.
The deal was officially announced Tuesday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion in front of a crowd that included Yellow Jackets baseball head coach Danny Hall, men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner, and women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph, who brought her entire squad. Many other student-athletes, including several men’s and women’s track and field athletes, and men’s tennis star Chris Eubanks also were at the event.
The ceremony marked the official completion of a goal Stansbury had in mind from his first days on the job at Georgia Tech.
“This was definitely at the top of the list. The refinement and the elevation of the Georgia Tech Athletics brand was one of my top priorities,’” he said. “Having an apparel partner is a significant piece of being able to do that. Probably the day after I was announced and well before I ever started my first day we were honed in on what we were going to do and had started conversations with adidas on how we could make this happen.
“We really have looked forward to this opportunity to join with a partner that’s going to help us refine and elevate the Georgia Tech Athletics brand,” he added. “The gold is going to be ‘Ramblin’ Wreck Gold.’ I don’t know what that is, what PMS it is but we are going to figure out what the ‘Ramblin’ Wreck Gold’ is and that’s what we’re going to go with.”
Going forward together with a similar vision for the future is what makes the Georgia Tech-adidas partnership make sense as they enter into this six-year partnership.
“It’s six years on the contract but for me, for the foreseeable future we’re committed to providing the best product, the most innovative and world-class product to the athletes here at Georgia Tech, men and women,” said adidas Director of NCAA Sports Marketing Jim Murphy. “We look forward to having access to you, to get your insights, to get your data. It allows us the ability to storytell in this marketplace and bring the most innovative products to your athletes.
“Our brand has a lot of exciting things coming up in the future here in the Atlanta area, whether it’s through our SPEEDFACTORY, our P3 athlete assessment that we’ve partnered up with,” he added. “There are a lot of opportunities here that we can kind of use this platform to integrate ourselves into the marketplace and a lot of the things that we have going on as a brand. Just sitting down with Todd and his team, it became very clear that we both had a common goal and that goal was to kind of turn the traditional college relationship on its head and imagine what it would be like for how a sportswear brand and a college can interact with each other.”
The signing of Georgia Tech adds to adidas’ base in the ACC, as it’s recently signed ACC schools Miami, Louisville and North Carolina State and other Power 5’s Arizona State (Pac-12), Mississippi State, Texas A&M (SEC) and Rutgers (Big Ten).
The deal marks the end of Georgia Tech’s deal with Russell Athletic, Tech’s athletic provider since 1992 and the end of their 10-year deal signed in 2008. He insisted that the parting was amicable but also one that was overdue in changing with the times — Tech was the last Power 5 school still with Russell.
“We definitely wanted to be respectful of our joint history,” he said. “Obviously, their corporate strategy had changed along the way and so this was basically a mutual process but it was important that we did it the right way.”
Moving to adidas will unify Georgia Tech’s 17 athletic teams. That uniform uniformity and the surplus gear is a big deal, especially in recruiting.
“Being with adidas provides our coaches with something that they’ve never had and, of course, your apparel partner in recruiting is critical,” said Stansbury. “So I think we were able to balance, maybe losing a little bit of that individual license on creativity for the ability probably to get into some homes you haven’t been able to get into before. It’s real and so I’m really happy for our coaches to finally have that bullet in their (arsenal).”
Pastner is excited to have the power of the adidas brand behind him as he and his staff go out on the recruiting trail.
“Oh, adidas is powerful. It’s Coca Cola. It’s Delta,” he said. “It’s been around for a long time and it’s a global name. I love the fact that they’re innovative and they’re thinking outside the box and they really want to attack the Atlanta market, which is great for us. To be associated with a global empire in the grassroots world of (basketball), it’s such a strong name it’s really powerful for us and we’re very fortunate.”
Joseph, who has already brought in a top-10 recruiting class, similarly expects a bounce.
“Obviously, we appreciate everything Russell has meant to Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Athletics but to have this opportunity to move forward with a program and a brand like adidas is huge for Georgia Tech and our Athletics Program,” she said. “Todd said it best when he talked about the innovation of adidas. We’re on the outside looking in most of the time when it comes to these major shoe brands and the fact that we’re in the middle of it with a brand like adidas is just huge for Georgia Tech.”
Hall already knows what adidas brings to the table, as his team was equipped by them starting in 2017. He believes his colleagues are due for a very pleasant future.
“It’s all been great,” he said. “When we first got approached about possibly going into their footwear, the other big piece of the thing for a baseball team is the bat. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical,” said Hall, who said all trepidation was short-lived after his son, Colin, and a couple of coaches tested their bat. “One of the things that (Murphy) was talking about was them being innovative and trying to set the market. I got the chance a week ago, to be out at a baseball summit in Portland. To see the engineers that they have dedicated to making that bat as good as it can be within the specifications of the NCAA solidified my idea more. The service, product, the impact they’ll have on recruiting, I think it’s going to be a difference-maker. I’m excited that that’s who ended up getting the business.”
With a marketing team that will be solely dedicated to Georgia Tech, Stansbury is excited about having a wide variety of gear immediately accessible. It’s become a big-money venture, which he credits to his former rival school and Nike.
“I think what happened at the University of Oregon started to change everything,” he said. “When Phil Knight made that strategic play, then all of a sudden the uniforms became a much bigger part of the recruiting, what the kids were looking for. If you have your student-athletes, you have your recruits on campus, you actually have to have all your unis out so that they can see them, feel them, touch them, put the gloves on. That’s just part of the recruiting process and that’s, obviously, a part of our recruiting process that probably was maybe a little bit lacking for us to be able to do that because we did not have a head-to-toe partner.”
Getting gear into kids’ hands and getting them wearing it is a major tool in getting kids to come to Tech.
“I think it’s a factor. I don’t know that it’s a deciding factor but it certainly can’t hurt,” said football coach Paul Johnson. “(Kids) want to have more stuff to wear to class and around the school and maybe to give a shirt to their brother. The more they get, the happier they’re going to be, for sure.”
That same enthusiasm holds true for students that are already committed to attending Tech, their parents, and, of course, alumni. The possibility of fans being able to gear up in an unprecedented manner also is exciting and a part of elevating the brand.
“The other advantage that going with adidas provides us is having access to their distribution network,” said Stansbury. “One of the things we hear all the time is, ‘I’d love to wear your stuff. I just can’t FIND it.’ Unless you go to the bookstore. So being able to expand where you can actually even GET our stuff is going to be a significant improvement to where we are.”
The partnership looks like a win-win for Georgia Tech and adidas.
“I think that’s what makes me most excited about the partnership,” said Murphy. “The fact that these two great brands can do some special things in this marketplace.”
“That was all part of the process,” said Stansbury. “Finding a partner that shared (increasing branding) as a priority and that would provide the creative and the bandwidth to work with our team to make sure that we refined the brand, that we elevated the brand. To work jointly to make sure that Georgia Tech, when you see that GT, you see that one color of gold that we will name ‘Tech Gold,’ you knew exactly who you’re watching and what they stand for.”