Underneath the logo: BYU contract with Nike delivers recruits in addition to apparel
Photo by Steve Walters/BYU
Editor's note: This is part five of a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts impact programs in the state of Utah. Start at part one: What collegiate apparel sponsorships mean to BYU, Utah and USU.
Former BYU offensive lineman Jake Kuresa was recruited out of high school by nearly every major college football program in the West and plenty more in the East. His initial offer list included 30 major schools.
As a result, he saw how various schools use different recruiting tactics to bring athletes into their respective programs. A major factor in the process — for both schools and athletes — is the gear you’ll be wearing.
“Schools parade their gear on your trip and promote it like crazy. Oregon takes the cake for sure. They make you believe you are breathing Nike oxygen and walking on Nike grass,” Kuresa said.
“The 17-year-old mind is easily influenced, and the hold that name brands have on kids is stronger than most people realize. Athletes are very particular about what they wear, especially on their feet. Considering the stress you put on your shoes in comparison to the average person you get really picky,” he said.
The brand matters
BYU is a Nike school and has been since Lavell Edwards co-piloted a strong relationship with the apparel goliath in the mid-90s.
And that relationship with the brand influenced Kuresa. In talking of the recruiting process, he said that he and his parents addressed program staff, graduation rate, environment and location. Although he shies from it now, he admits as a teenager, the brand of the school’s apparel mattered.
“People don’t get it, but you practice every day and play sports every day for over a decade. My basketball shoes were Nike, my baseball cleats had always been Nike, and my football cleats, and workout shoes — all Nike. It was Nike socks every day since I was 8 or 9. Jordan shirts, Nike shirts, Nike jackets, everything Nike.
“So I told my pops I'm only tripping to Nike schools,” he said.
Such is the battle schools like BYU face when they enter into these crucial contracts with apparel companies.
A vital brand partner
BYU is happy with its contract with Nike, although fans and media know very little about the deal and what it brings to the school. As a private institution, BYU is under no obligation to share details of its legal agreements and rarely does.
“The Nike relationship is very important to BYU and plays a vital role in the branding of our athletic program. We have been partners for a very long time and are proud to be an elite Nike school with a long-term contract,” BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle said. “BYU takes pride in partnering with some of the most recognized global corporations and considers Nike to be the premier sports marketing company in the world.”
BYU’s consideration of Nike as "King of the Hill" in athletics apparel is congruent with Kuresa’s sentiment. BYU is in the company of more than three-quarters of universities with Football Bowl Subdivision programs. As a Nike elite school, BYU has access to the newest and best the company offers.
Though BYU declined to answer questions regarding the nature of their contract with Nike and the benefits it brings, there are similar public schools whose contracts might offer insight into the kind of deal BYU has.
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