Four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles has signed up with Gap Inc’s Athleta brand for a new apparel partnership, ending a nearly six-year contract with Nike Inc.
Biles, the most decorated gymnast in world championship history at age 24, said in an Instagram post on Friday she wanted to partner with a brand that shares her “passion for helping girls grow and own their unlimited potential.”
“They are committed to diversity and inclusion, which was very important for me to see in a partner,” he said.
The move is a blow to Nike, which for years tried with uneven success to expand into the lucrative women’s sportswear market, launching yoga, plus-size and maternity lines.
“What Nike has sold the least, or at least monetized the least, in the past is women’s clothing,” said Michael Faherty, Adidas portfolio manager and Nike investor Seilern Investment Management. “You just have to look at Lululemon to see the excellent growth they have been able to generate in the women’s fashion space.”
While competing with Lululemon and Under Armor, Nike has spent millions cultivating relationships with Biles and other top athletes, such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. These deals have helped Nike’s womenswear sales growth outpace its other brands over the past eight quarters.
“We will continue to defend and celebrate all athletes,” Nike said in a statement, confirming that his contract with Biles has ended and wishing him “the best.”
Athleta, founded in 1998 as a brand for female athletes, said it plans to jointly create a sportswear line with Biles and design other exclusive products.
The brand has also pledged to support Biles’ Tokyo post-Olympics gymnastics tour that she plans to stage herself, rather than the usual tour endorsed by the USA Gymnastics governing body. according to the Wall Street Journal.
She is not the first Nike sponsored athlete to join Athleta. In 2019, six-time Olympic champion Allyson Felix signed on to the Gap-owned brand after writing an op-ed in the New York Times in which she said she was facing potential pay cuts from sponsors, including Nike, for having children. The move was subsequently co-signed by 2012 London heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill.
Nike later pledged not to financially penalize pregnant athletes. The company has also made a name for itself by taking a stand on social issues, fighting racial injustice, and showing solidarity with some protesting athletes.
Biles, who has won every major team and individual general competition she has participated in since her senior debut in 2013, is the favorite to become the first woman to repeat as an overall Olympic champion since 1968.
The 19-time world champion will also take a second chance to become the first American woman in any sport to win five golds in a single Olympiad, a feat she came within a momentary slip of accomplishing at the Rio de Janeiro Games five years ago. .
While the Tokyo Games were long expected to be the last competitive meeting of his career, Biles has left the door open for a third Olympic appearance in Paris 2024, when he would be 27 years old.
“Honestly, right now my main focus is [the Tokyo Olympics], and after the tour we’ve organized, “Biles said earlier this month. “Then after I’m not so sure, because Cecile and Laurent are from Paris and they have blamed me for at least being a specialist and coming back [for 2024].
“But the main goal is the 2021 Olympics, the tour, and then we’ll have to see.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism