In 2014, Under Armour had the foresight to sign Aaron Judge to an endorsement deal while the current New York Yankees star was still in the minor leagues.
Last July, The Baltimore Sun reported that the Baltimore-based apparel and footwear company was negotiating a long-term extension with Judge, who went on to hit a rookie-record 52 home runs in 2017 and was named American League Rookie of the Year.
But the sides never closed the deal.
And now Judge, in spring training with the Yankees in Tampa, Fla., has been wearing Adidas.
Under Armour said its dealings with Judge are private. The company had no comment.
What we know is that Judge is no longer under contract with Under Armour. He has been wearing Adidas cleats and Adidas batting gloves during spring training.
Asked if Judge had signed a contract with Adidas, a spokeswoman for the company replied: “We don’t have any news to share.”
Adidas is a German-based brand that has been steadily increasing its sales in North America. Its MLB roster includes Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.
There was no response to inquiries made to PSI Sports Management, the agency representing Judge.
The Evening Sun
Signing players to endorsement contracts is akin to picking stocks — it’s best to get them early for good value. The initial such baseball contracts often span just a few years.
Judge may be baseball’s most prominent rising player. Under Armour – which counts Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw among its endorsers – initially signed Judge as it made inroads with the MLB.
In 2019, Under Armour will begin producing uniforms for MLB. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has called the deal "a massive statement for our company."
Majestic Athletic makes the uniforms now, although players are free to wear Under Armour cleats, batting gloves, catchers’ gear or compression sleeves.
Sports marketing analyst Jonathan Jensen expressed mixed feelings about the value Under Armour would have received by signing Judge to a long-term extension.
“Every MLB player will be wearing Under Armour when they step on the field starting next year,” said Jensen, a professor of sports marketing at the University of North Carolina.
“While an agreement with someone like Judge would help to leverage that investment,” he said, there are “many other players who they can invest in and get better bang for their buck. Unfortunately, baseball players really don't move the needle like they once did.”