Skip to main content

How the Battle Between Nike and Adidas Played Out in 2018

Nike and Adidas have been rivals for decades, regularly filing lawsuits against each other and competing for market share. However, over the last 20 years, the gap between Nike and Adidas may have widened.

For 2018, Nike is the undisputed leader of sneakers and apparel. But, Adidas has been able to make the race competitive again, recently, with a concerted effort involving a high level of innovation and thought leadership.

Between 2006 and 2010, Nike saw its market capitalization increase from $16.39 billion to $63.45 billion, a combined increase of 387 percent over those years. For comparison, Adidas grew by 61 percent, from $9.03 billion to $14.61 billion, in the same period. Nike was able to land a large number of high profile endorsements in the early millennium, highlighted by the addition of rising superstar and future NBA champion LeBron James to the lineup.

Since then, the status quo has been domination from Nike. However, recent studies have shown that mindshare is increasing for Nike competitors like Adidas and Vans. Adidas is in a prime position to capitalize on that weakness in the sneaker market, thanks to a string of valuable endorsements of its own, including rival NBA superstar James Harden.

Here’s a look at how the ongoing battle played out in 2018.

Market capitalization

The market values Nike at $92.13 billion at publication time, with Adidas sitting at $46.17 billion. The Fortune Global 500 has Nike listed as the 340th most valuable company in the world, Adidas is ranked No. 480 on that list. However, Nike reported a net income drop of 54 percent in 2018 due to the impact of a one-time loss from the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Related Stories

Adidas, on the other hand, has an optimistic outlook for year-end 2018, and has managed to beat expectations for earnings in both Q3 and Q4. In fact, it raised its year-end 2018 profit guidance due to strong performance in the first nine months of the year, raising its estimated earnings-per-share growth from 12-15 percent to 15-19 percent. This was thanks to an overall revenue increase of 10 percent for a total of 5.873 billion euros ($6.69 billion).

Social media share

Shipping service Forward2me published data in July detailing the world’s most Instagrammed sneakers. It showed that Nike had the greatest number of sneakers on Instagram, with 53 percent of the sneakers on Instagram belonging to the apparel company from Oregon.

However, the world’s most Instagrammed sneaker belonged to Adidas. The Adidas NMD was found on 5,709,871 posts around the world. That was more than 1 million more posts than the second-place finalist, and fellow Adidas sneaker, the Yeezy 350. In fact, three of the top five sneakers on Instagram were made by Adidas, with the Adidas Superstar coming in fourth place between the Vans Old Skool in third. Nike gets on the list at fifth-place, thanks to Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star.


Nike may be leading the way in retail innovation, thanks to the brand new 68,000 square foot “store of the future” it built just off Rockefeller Center. Nike’s new flagship features state-of-the-art customization services, fulfillment options and even doubles as a museum to shoe design.

Adidas has its own flagship store nearby, which boasts a full-sized indoor track to aid in shoe-customization and gait measurement, and its own fair share of monuments to the shoe industry. However, due to the newness and innovation of Nike’s flagship, Nike takes this round—at least as far as retail goes.

When it comes to innovation in sneakers, the two continue to duke it out over the knit upper that has dominated popular shoe styles in recent years. For instance, Adidas’ popular NMD has a “Primeknit” upper which was the center of a lawsuit filed by Nike to protect its own “Flyknit” patent. The next big footwear innovation from either company is likely to be the next big footwear lawsuit, as well.


Revenue for Nike was up 6 percent in FY2018, which ended in June, for a total of $36.4 billion. The year also saw a 25 percent increase in digital commerce and a 4 percent increase in comparable store sales, but was overall disappointing when it came to sales in North America.

However, the most recent sales numbers for Nike rebounded, up 10 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2019 for a total of $9.4 billion.

Adidas, which posted its most recent (Q3) earnings on Nov. 7, registered double-digit sales growth for Adidas and Reebok products in North America and the Asia-Pacific region in the quarter. Combined sales in North America increased by 15 percent and by 16 percent in Asia—helped by China, which contributed a 26 percent increase in sales for the third quarter. As of the first nine months of fiscal 2018, ended on November 7th, worldwide sales totaled 16.682 billion euros ($19.023 billion).