There was a huge fear last week that Nike was going to “lose” the Olympics whenFortune reported that there was stiff competition from rival sportswear brands Adidas and Under Armour at the 2016 Rio games. It’s been a tough time recently for Nike—who's still the biggest sportswear brand in the world—as it’s seen growth come to a halt. This would make the Rio Olympics a place where not only athletes competed against each other to win gold, but also where sportswear labels would see who reigns supreme. With all of that talk, Nike was still able to show its dominance in the world of sports.
Here are the facts: The USA won the Olympics with a total of 121 medals (46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze), and the vast majority of U.S. Olympians were either personally sponsored by Nike or wore the brand’s sneakers when winning their medals. 44 athletes who were sponsored by Nike personally or had their team sponsored by Nike without personal sportswear sponsors won gold medals. For example, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas are both Nike athletes, although they wore Under Armour uniforms during their gymnastics routines. This was followed up by 11 silver and and 24 bronze medals. Nike benefited greatly from being the official sponsor of the Track and Field team, although some of the Olympians who won medals were sponsored by brands such as Adidas, Under Armour, and New Balance. The U.S. dominated men’s and women’s basketball, with both of the teams winning gold. All but two of the players on the men’s team were wearing Nike or Jordan Brand sneakers and all of the women’s players had Nikes on their feet. The brand even made its presence known in more niche sports such as fencing, weightlifting, and even archery. On top of that, athletes wore Nike gear from head to toe when they were on the podium—Under Armour’s Michael Phelps even wore a pair of Nike track pants on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a huge win for the brand.
Under Armour, on the other hand, had athletes who won nine gold medals, mostly thanks to Michael Phelps who won five himself. The brand, as previously stated, was the official sponsor of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics teams, but three of the five athletes on the Women’s side were either sponsored by Nike or Reebok. Under Armour also had athletes who competed in boxing, with Clareesa Shields winning a gold medal. But one of the biggest moments for the company was Natasha Hastings being part of the women’s 4 x 400 relay race. Her three teammates—Allyson Felix, Courtney Okolo, and Phyllis Francis—are all Nike athletes, but Hastings was seen with a pair of gold Under Armour track spikes around her neck as the four runners had the American flag draped over their backs. Even though Under Armour didn’t come out on top, the Olympics were a huge win for the sportswear brand, which has seen itself steadily grow since having the likes of Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton on its roster. And Under Armour needed it, too: Its speedskating uniforms at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi had a design flaw, which caused the athletes to perform horribly. Don’t be surprised if Under Armour attempts to further expand its influence in Olympics to come.
Adidas has been growing at a rapid rate, thanks to sneakers such as the Ultra Boost, NMD, and sneakers designed by celebrities such as Kanye West, Pharrell, and Pusha T. But the Olympics, at least on the American side of things, wasn’t that big for Adidas. The brand only had four U.S. athletes who won gold medals, although the German Olympic team won silver in soccer, and the Adidas-sponsored British squad won golds in gymnastics. Perhaps the most exciting thing Adidas did during the Olympics was the unveiling of a black version of its 3-D printed Futurecraft shoe that had everyone talking.
The three major sportswear companies in the U.S. weren’t the only ones who grabbed medals, though. ASICS, Mizuno, Skechers, Sperry, Reebok, and ANTA all had athletes who wore or endorsed their product during the games. But these minor players couldn’t take anything away from what Nike accomplished during the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s always fancied itself as a brand that focuses on innovation in athletics, and this was the statement it needed to make.