Germany's Adidas national team jersey. GETTY IMAGES

Germany will be sporting an unfamiliar look to the world's football fans come 2027, when the national team is due to switch kits from local and long-tenured Adidas to US-based Nike. An "inexplicable" deal, according to Bjorn Gulden, CEO of the brand whose iconic three stripes became a global fashion trend.

Founded in 1949 by Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler after parting ways with his brother Rudolf, who went on to establish his own post-World War II shoe company, Puma, the German sportswear giant has supplied the national team's kit for over 70 years

When news of the move to Nike first broke, criticism from in-house figures like Economy Minister Robert Habeck surfaced. "I can hardly imagine the German jersey without the three stripes. For me, Adidas and black-red-gold always belonged together. A piece of German identity," lamented the local politician, who would have liked to see "a bit more local patriotism" from his football association (DFB).

Official Nike Flight 2024 Match Ball - Getty Images
Official Nike Flight 2024 Match Ball - Getty Images

In an interview with AFP this week, Gulden defended Adidas' decision not to enter into a bidding war with its fierce US rival, insisting that the German sportswear company would continue to pursue major kit deals, including the franchise for France, but only at the right price.

"Nike won with, by all accounts, a huge offer," said Gulden, referring to reports that the US giant will pay around €100 million ($106.5 million) a year into the deal that runs from 2027 to 2034. "If the numbers are right, they are inexplicable for us".

Adidas, which had slumped to its first annual loss in over three decades in 2023, has now been stripped of one - if not its - signature partner in the German national squad. The breakup, just months before the country is set to host the Euro 2024, is less than ideal image-wise. 

The DFB said it understood the emotional reaction to the decision, but argued that it had been made in the interests of the domestic game and grassroots football. "Against this background, the DFB has to make economic decisions," it stated. "Nike made by far the best financial offer in the transparent and non-discriminatory tender process."

Despite the Swoosh brand’s swift coup into Adidas’ own backyard, Gulden put on a brave face when addressing future business opportunities. "We try always to invest where one gets the best advertising impact and can make the highest sales, and we'll continue to do that,” the Norwegian said, lauding the "advertising impact" made by Adidas's partnerships with clubs like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Demand for national kit or federation merchandising is "much lower than it is for clubs", he added.

However, raised eyebrows will not translate into raised bids when seeking other significant kit deals, Gulden warned. "We make offers where we are interested at a price that we believe is the right one," he emphasized.

Rather than escalate bidding wars, the former footballer turned CEO is set on expanding the company’s focus to other sporting disciplines like athletics. The manufacturer is already making footwear to be worn in 41 different events at the upcoming Paris Olympics, he assured.

"As a sports romantic, I want to go back into breadth, into a wider range of sports. For me, it's always about athletics. No matter what one does, be it breakdancing or BMX or football or basketball, one must be able to run or jump high. I am certain, that in four years' time, we'll have products for every type of sport," forecasted Gulden, who worked for Puma when Jamaican record-breaker Usain Bolt reigned supreme in Track&Field.

Oddly enough, it’s American sprinter Noah Lyles, a 100-meter gold-medal hopeful in Paris this summer, who is set to be one of Adidas’ main aces when competing against Nike in actual sporting events.

After reporting underwhelming 2023 sales in the United States, linked to the end of its partnership with rapper Kanye West over allegations of anti-Semitism, Adidas has raised its revenue and profit outlook for 2024 on the back of a better-than-expected first quarter.