Why Michigan's switch back to Nike matters so much.
|Lon Horwedel, Detroit News|
But we do. We care a lot.
To an outsider, its insane to see thousands of fans lined up outside of a store hours before they open, just to get first dibs on a t-shirt or a hat. I mean, its not like this stuff was being given away or anything. And in reality, compared to Michigan's former official supplier adidas, the Nike and Jumpman branded gear is more expensive.
But that's not the point.
We care because, in this age of brand allegiance and which team uses which supplier and does this this look better than that and if Ohio State has cool Nike gear than I want Michigan to have better Nike gear...it matters.
It matters because Michigan was a Nike school years ago (one of the first, actually) during a time when things were going pretty well. We won a national title in Nike gear. I still have my Nike jersey (#37 Jarrett Irons) and my Nike block-M hat that I wore to those games in 1997 and damn those were some good times.
By Michigan ditching adidas and resigning with Nike, it has added another piece to the "Michigan is back" puzzle that began to be reassembled when Dave Brandon was fired and Jim Hackett stepped in in 2014. Since then, Michigan has been putting that puzzle back together piece by piece.
And plus, let's just admit it, adidas was just not a good look or fit for Michigan. I know from a financial standpoint it made sense to make the switch back in 2008, but a HUGE factor that Bill Martin did not take into consideration was that adidas is not on the same level as Nike in terms of brand value or fan appeal. Their stuff is just different. Some people liked it, but most hated it.
Sure, there were some cool things adidas did, but overall, Michigan took a hit by going with a second-class apparel company. Had Michigan never been with Nike in the first place, it might've been a different story...but they had. Michigan helped build the Nike brand in college sports.
And let's not discount that fact that 2008 was also when Michigan began the great Rich Rod experiment and the program was driven into the ground. Surely, from a fan point of view, adidas will always be associated with the worst era of Michigan football maybe ever.
From that perspective, adidas never stood a chance.
Players love the association with Nike and Jordan. They know Nike is the best and that's what they want to wear. If players look good and feel confident, that can only help their performance. That same feeling rubs off onto the fans who see those players wearing Nike gear on TV or in the stadium.
Time will ultimately tell if Michigan's switch back to Nike, and the exclusive Jordan "Jumpman" brand, will bring good fortune back to Ann Arbor. But like I said, its another piece of the puzzle.
Michigan's association with Nike puts the struggles of the Rich Rod and Brady Hoke era further in the rear-view mirror. That in an of itself is a huge step for a program ready to forget the recent past and move forward.
Will it help bring more wins and championships back to Ann Arbor? As crazy as it sounds, I actually think it might.