Newcastle signs deal with Adidas


Sportswear giant to give cash to sports teams

A new partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle University Students’ Union and Adidas is set to be the first ever collaboration between a UK institution and the global sports brand.

The two-year deal will provide funding for improving coaching and support for the Athletic Union, part of the Students’ Union.

Laura Mason, Athletic Union Officer, said: “This partnership is a fantastic opportunity to support, improve and extend the sporting achievements of those hard-working students who balance their studies with an amazing commitment to representing Newcastle University in their sport.”

The main benefit to the Students’ Union from this deal will be finance which feeds directly into the funding of University sport in equipment and facilities.

Mason explained: “This partnership with Adidas is a step-up in terms of the amount of funding that will be available to students from next academic year and signifies a more strategic focus for sport at Newcastle.”

The partnership will give sports teams the ability to order and design their own kits to their own specifications on a new website. There will be a 40% discount for students ordering kit from Adidas, and for the wider student body there will be a 20% discount on items purchased from

There will also be a 5% royalty payment to the Students’ Union, based on the amount of Adidas merchandise sold.

As part of the deal, two of the University’s most talented athletes will also be selected at the beginning of the next academic year to receive scholarships and sportswear. There will also be opportunities for Adidas brand ambassadors, who will receive a further discount on sportswear.

“With this partnership there are significant financial benefits in terms of sponsorship money for clubs and new sports scholarship bursaries, but also significant discount on Adidas sportswear exclusively for all Newcastle students. There are employability benefits in terms of placements in the Adidas group with part-time brand ambassador roles available on campus,” said Mason.

“Adidas are a higher profile brand and will be a good quality, optional kit supplier for Team Newcastle and Intra Mural teams, plus there are opportunities for Adidas to bring big name sporting stars to campus for unique events (such as Olympic gold medalists that they also sponsor).

“Feedback from clubs has been very positive so I hope Newcastle University students will feel fantastic in the clothing from Adidas and enjoy the many benefits this partnership will bring.”

One of the biggest concerns for the Students’ Union is staying within the top 10 of the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) league, and there are hopes that the deal with Adidas will help cement this success for further years.

Some students have raised concerns about the ethical profile of Adidas, with social media pages criticising the human rights standards of the company. The student network People and Planet have stated that: “Given the negative publicity that the company has been facing over this issue, it appears that Adidas is turning to more secretive methods to keep its profit margins high.”

In a statement from the Adidas Group, they said: “The Adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labor practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company. Importantly, the Adidas Group is confident that we are adhering to and, in fact, exceeding standards our stakeholders expect from us on these matters.”

“Today, as we have since the early 1990s, the company takes an active role to promote and enforce workplace standards, based on International Labor Organization’s core labor rights conventions, which protect and improve worker experiences.

More specific concerns involve the dealings between Adidas and PT Kizone, an Indonesian factory that was closed in 2010.

Adidas responded: “The central fact remains that the PT Kizone factory was unethically closed and abandoned by its owner, not by the Adidas Group, and this occurred more than six months after we placed our last order with them.

“Although the Adidas Group had no business relationship with PT Kizone at the time of its closure, we do care deeply about the situation facing the former PT Kizone workers and their families and have taken steps to assist these workers.

“We have directly given $525,000 in humanitarian aid to the former workers and their families, provided job placement services and advocated for the workers, dedicating more resources to the former workers than any other brand.”

On the ethical issues surrounding Adidas, Laura Mason stated: “Due diligence has been done as part of the process to arrive at this deal and the Students’ Union is happy with the ethical standards Adidas adheres to. Some publicised concerns regarding the ethical nature of this partnership have been unfounded and factually inaccurate. I would ask that people make up their own minds using information available on the Adidas sustainability website.”

Simon Gerry, Chief Executive of the Students’ Union, further addressed these issues: “There are specific [ethical] reasons that people came up with, so we took the issues to Adidas to question them before the contract was signed. The ethical issues were brought up, we have looked into them, and we are happy with the responses given.

“We feel reassured that having sat in front of the Olympic committee to explain how Adidas works, there are a set of ethical standards that they work to.”

A clause has also been written into the contract with the Union about the ethical standards they will stick to during the partnership.

Motions have been brought to Student Council in the past, critiquing the ethical profiles of corporations such as Nestlé and Starbucks.

Criticism has also come from the alleged concealment of the deal, as Adidas asked all students present at the meeting on February 7 to keep the deal secret.

One student said they felt the University were “being disingenuous. Why would they not want those who have heard about the deal tonight to tell anyone?”

Simon Gerry told The Courier that the secrecy that some students have accused is due to the marketing strategy of Adidas, who want to keep the main launch until September 2013.

He said, “It’s all about Adidas’ marketing and how they want to build it.

“If we’re not transparent now and tell people what’s happening, then people will just guess the rest.”

The deal was finalised and signed on April 11, after two years of discussions.

93 sport-participating students were asked initially whether a deal with a corporation would benefit them, and the results were positive.

Focus groups of students were then set up to discuss a potential partnership, and 532 students from stages 1 and 2 responded to a survey about a collaboration with a sportswear brand.


  1. It turns out that concerns over adidas’ human rights record were well founded. Just days after Newcastle announced the deal with adidas, adidas agreed to pay former Indonesian workers $1.8 million in legally-owed redundancy pay, after two years of denying responsibility for their former workers. Clearly, adidas cannot be trusted on their word alone- telling people to ‘make up their own mind’ using the adidas sustainability website is completely paradoxical.

    Also, the fact that adidas sat in front of the Olympic committee is no guarantee of their ethical credentials. A report by War on Want found that, in the run up to the Olympics, adidas were consistently underpaying workers making their clothes, and sourcing from factories where workers’ rights abuses were rampant. This is a company with a history of workers’ rights abuses and exploitation of workers: we clearly can’t take their word for it when they say they are ‘ethical’, and certainly shouldn’t use it as a basis for entering into a deal with them.

    The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1000 workers, is a clear indication that garment brands cannot be trusted to monitor the factories which they source from. We need an independent monitoring organisation, free from corporate influence, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected. The Worker Rights Consortium is one such organisation. The WRC is a global monitoring body, conducting investigations into factories making clothes for universities. Newcastle Uni should join the WRC- that way, students can truly ‘make up their own minds’ on whether or not adidas are an ‘ethical’ clothing company, on the basis of independent, accurate reports.