Adidas Becomes Official Outfitter for Rabil’s Lacrosse League

(Bloomberg) -- Adidas AG has been named the official shoe and apparel supplier of the Premier Lacrosse League, bringing some big-name backing to the Paul Rabil venture that’s scheduled to begin play in June.

Neither the company nor the league would disclose financial terms of the multiyear agreement, though Rabil and his brother, Michael, the PLL’s co-founder and chief executive officer, called the apparel deal the biggest in pro lacrosse history.

Adidas Becomes Official Outfitter for Rabil’s Lacrosse League

Besides outfitting the players, coaches and staff, Adidas also will buy commercial time during PLL broadcasts from NBC Sports, which has a revenue-sharing agreement with the league. Adidas will finance original programming as well, and put on events at its flagship stores in New York and Santa Monica, California.

“We have what we believe is the No. 1 sports apparel brand in the world now deciding to focus attention and energy to the sport of lacrosse,” Michael Rabil said. “It’s not just Paul and me and NBC saying pay attention. It’s Adidas saying you should pay attention.”

Alibaba’s Tsai

The lacrosse world is certainly paying attention to the PLL, whose investors include the Raine Group and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. billionaire Joe Tsai, a player of the sport when he was at Yale University. Athletes in the six-team PLL will be full-time employees and receive health benefits, performance incentives and an undisclosed equity stake in the league.

Unlike traditional U.S. sports leagues, which tie teams to cities, the PLL will use a tour-based model. Clubs will travel to a particular place at the same time and play a series of games during a weekend. In addition to the uniforms, Adidas will provide cleats, sideline apparel and training shoes for the league.

Adidas’s athletic endorsers include Houston Rockets star James Harden and PLL player Myles Jones, who is a former All-American at Duke University. The company has also partnered with celebrities, including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and, most recently, Beyonce.

The upstart lacrosse league fits well with Adidas’s emphasis on what it calls “creators” -- athletes and influencers who challenge the status quo -- said Dan Near, senior director of the brand’s lacrosse business. The company has run “Calling All Creators” ad campaigns and recently unveiled its new reward program, called the Creators Club.

Digital Focus

“The PLL Is embracing digital in a way that we’ve never seen before from a sports league,” Near said. “Rather than speaking to players and fans, the PLL is rallying an inclusive and passionate community with tremendously high engagement. We are approaching this groundbreaking partnership through the lens of assembling a family of creators.”

With lacrosse, Adidas also gets a growing and affluent demographic. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, lacrosse participation has jumped 35 percent over the past six years. More than half of the sport’s participants come from a household with an income above $75,000.

Paul Rabil is one of the most visible athletes on social media, using the platform to promote himself, the league and the sport. He has said the PLL would be the first U.S. sports league to give players access to league assets that they can use across their personal platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. That could include on-field images of the players and highlights of their performance during games, giving partners like Adidas an opportunity to better showcase not only the players but their personalities.

“Adidas invests heavily in lifestyle,” Michael Rabil said. “They get behind artists and entrepreneurs who align with their own mission. There is a big lifestyle component to lacrosse that hasn’t necessarily been told.”

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