Jim Grice and Jim Scherr of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Adam Helfant and John Slusher of Nike Inc. at a press conference in New York Thursday.

NEW YORK — Nike Inc. announced that it has signed on as an official sponsor and licensee of the 2006 and 2008 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, confirming reports circulating this week.<br><br>Under the terms of the deal, announced Thursday at a...

NEW YORK — Nike Inc. announced that it has signed on as an official sponsor and licensee of the 2006 and 2008 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, confirming reports circulating this week.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Under the terms of the deal, announced Thursday at a press conference here, Nike will outfit U.S. athletes with podium uniforms worn during medal ceremonies and also provide athletic wear and performance apparel for athletes from about half of the 45 U.S. national governing bodies — the agencies that govern rules for most American sports.

Nike’s designation as an official team sponsor also gives the company broad licensing rights for apparel, footwear and headwear. It can also use U.S. Olympic marks and graphics in its advertising and marketing. As reported, Nike is taking over the sponsorship from Adidas America, whose agreement runs through 2004.

At the press conference, executives from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Nike shared details of the arrangement, which will begin in January 2005, and run through the 2006 and 2008 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and Beijing, respectively, according to Jim Scherr, the USOC’s chief executive.

Adam Helfant, Nike’s vice president of U.S. sports marketing, said the fit is a natural one for the apparel and footwear giant.

“Nike is a company built on supporting athletes at all levels, especially the Olympic level,” he said. “This deal also gives us the opportunity to have access to athletes and get their insight into new product development.”

Company executives declined to give any financial information about the arrangement. While Nike already has partnerships with eight of the 45 national governing bodies, including U.S. Rowing, U.S. Snowboarding and USA Track & Field, and its brand is currently endorsed by Olympic athletes including Marion Jones, Mia Hamm and Serena Williams, this is the first time it has been an official sponsor of the USOC. Nike also currently has official sponsorships for Olympic teams in Australia and Kenya.

John Slusher, Nike’s director of league relations for global sports marketing, said Nike expects Olympic licensed merchandise will be a “significant portion” of its licensing business for the period between 2005 and 2008. Nike officials also said the company may use some of its other footwear brands, including Converse and Cole Haan, to outfit some of the Olympic events.

Helfant said Nike began talking with the USOC during the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002, and it took a few years before the deal came to fruition. After some controversies in recent years, the USOC has been through a number of changes in management. Scherr, a former Olympic wrestler, became chief executive of the USOC last March.

The USOC also has an apparel sponsorship arrangement with Roots Canada, under which that company provides apparel for activities around the Olympic Village and for the official parade.

Scherr also noted that it was “a nice side benefit” that Nike, an American firm, was a sponsor of the USOC, since neither Adidas or Roots Canada is headquartered in the U.S.

“Nike is not only a U.S. company, but in the spirit of the Olympics, it is a global company,” he said.