This promises to be the beginning of another famous cricketing rivalry. Reebok India has written to sports management firms protesting against its brand ambassadors sporting rival Nike’s logos on their trousers.
The clash has been in the making ever since Nike became the Indian cricket team’s official licensee for apparel merchandise with a bid of Rs 197 crore. Reebok had bid Rs 120 crore.
Sources close to Collage Sports—which manages Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, among others—said it had received a letter from Reebok India asking how Gambhir, on contract with Reebok, could brandish the Nike logo.
Similar letters have gone out to other firms that manage other members of the Indian cricket team, including captain Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agarkar. Dhoni, Pathan and Laxman also have the Reebok logo on their bats.
Reebok does not seem to mind its ambassadors sporting the Nike logo on the non-leading arm of their shirts.
What it does mind is players sporting the rival logo on trousers, on which the company believes the contract is not clear. Once the team returns from Pakistan, Reebok is likely to thrash out the issue with the cricket board.
Reebok India Managing Director SS Prem declined to comment on the issue but a company insider said: “It is unfortunate that they have to wear trousers with the Nike swoosh. The regulations need to be checked.”
Nike, on the other hand, sees this as an opportunity. “Our intention is to be the leading brand in cricket,” said Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India. He does not think Reebok should have any objection to the Nike logo on the players’ trousers.
Sponsorship battles between Nike and Reebok are not new. In the most famous one, during the 1992 Olympics, Nike endorsers were part of the US basketball team and refused to wear the official Olympic jerseys bearing the Reebok logo on the medal podium.