NIKE DEALS IN U.S., ABROAD TO AID APPAREL BUSINESS;MARKETER FORGES PACTS TIED TO 10 NBA FRANCHISES, BRAZIL'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM

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Nike is close to announcing it has purchased an apparel license from the National Basketball Association and inked a megabuck sponsorship pact with the Brazilian national soccer team.

The deals will bolster Nike's apparel business and its stature as a global brand.

Nike will get the rights to outfit 10 NBA teams and market uniforms and other team-related products starting in fall of 1997. Starter Corp. also has purchased a license for "authentic apparel" rights and will get nine teams.

10 TEAMS FOR CHAMPION

Champion, whose exclusive rights to market all authentic and replica NBA apparel expires at the close of the '96-97 season, will get 10 teams. Champion also is believed to be retaining its hold on all of the replica business.

Neither Nike nor the NBA would comment on the pending agreement.

Nike's teams are said to include the Chicago Bulls-the NBA's top seller-and the Los Angeles Lakers, which signed marquee Reebok endorser Shaquille O'Neal this summer. Nike will be able to market a swoosh-emblazoned Shaq/Lakers jersey. Reebok International was said to be interested in a similar NBA license, but couldn't come to terms with the league.

Players' uniforms won't carry corporate logos, but warmup and other sideline apparel will.

MAJOR TRANSFORMATION

The deals mark a major transformation of the NBA's apparel licensing businesses, soft at retail for the past year. They allow licensees to offer a more diverse product line and to be more creative in design. Licensees also are committed to significant marketing support.

Separately, Nike is said to have closed a sponsorship deal with the Brazilian soccer team, one of the best and best-known teams in the world. The sponsorship would be one of the richest in all of sports, estimated at $200 million to $250 million over 10 years.

REPLACING UMBRO

Nike would replace prominent soccer marketer Umbro as Brazil's sponsor in the apparel category. Umbro's seven-year pact with Brazil extends through World Cup '98 in France, but Nike is said to be looking to buy out Umbro's contract and take over next year.

Insiders said Nike wants to use its ties to the team to forge "a cultural connection" with Hispanics and soccer fans in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Umbro outbid Nike to retain the rights to Manchester United, one of England's top pro teams, with a six-year deal estimated at $90 million.

Others are also spending big on soccer. Earlier this year, Reebok inked a five-year, $60 million deal to add Argentina to its roster of South American national teams. And in a deal that offers more in brand exposure and credibility, Adidas last week signed on as a sponsor of World Cup '98 for an estimated $40 million.

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