Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images Drake

Aside from the constant speculation on LeBron James, the biggest buzz in sports about a superstar possibly changing teams doesn't involve an athlete.

This distinction belongs to Drake.

The rapper/uber sports fan is generating all sorts of social-media buzz that he will leave Nike's Jordan Brand as photos of him in Adidas gear continue to circulate. Drake posted some shots of himself in Adidas pants on Instagram, and he was spotted at a concert wearing Adidas sneakers.

Drake has been with Jordan Brand since 2013. He helped design various OVO editions of Air Jordan shoes.

But one key factor in Adidas' resurgence in the North American market since 2015 has been its partnership with entertainers. Kanye West, who left Nike in 2013, and Pharrell Williams are as famous as any athlete with an Adidas deal.


 

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Perhaps Drake is just toying with everyone -- or trying to put the squeeze on Nike for a sweeter deal. For example, after photos of him in Adidas pants made the rounds, he showed up at the Raptors-Celtics game in Toronto with a pair of Nike Air Max 1s on his feet. But the next night at Majid Jordan's concert in Toronto he wore Kanye's Adidas Yeezy 500 Blush. The ensuing avalanche of social media, reacting to each sighting, demonstrates his impact.

Adidas' strategy to mine the intersection of sports and hip-hop was on display at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles this year. The company rented a one-block venue that, in addition to selling shoes and apparel, featured basketball courts, food stands, design studios and musical performances -- including one from Kanye.

Drake

Adding Drake to its lineup would be consistent with that approach. Is it going to happen? That's a question that Adidas North America president Mark King should expect Friday when he appears at Arizona State's Global Sport Institute summit in Phoenix.

"I do want to hear from him who is the next entertainer that they'll engage with," says Kenneth L. Shropshire, the institute's CEO who will have one-on-one conversation with King to kick off the inaugural summit.

Even if King opts against dropping such news at the event, identifying and addressing trends is part of the mission for Global Sport Institute, which launched last year. In addition to the sitdown with King, the summit will tackle topics including eSports, breakthroughs in genetic research, youth development through sports and the shifting landscape of sports media.

"The big thing about the Global Sport Institute that's supposed to be different is that it's information you can use," Shropshire says.

The institute will have its own editorial platform, Global Sports Matter, to distribute its content with an emphasis on delivering in a form that is digestible and enjoyable for fans.

For example, a study may reveal that damage to the brain in the form of CTE is about more than taking blows to the head. Research suggests that some people may have a gene with a disposition that makes them more vulnerable to CTE than someone who does not.

What's the practical application of this information for the broader audience?

"When people think about the gene part of what we're going to be talking about, people think about future athletes and 'can you breed the super-athlete?' Shropshire says. "But also, maybe genes can also tell you what sports you should participate in because you have a disposition to some kind of injury, whether it's ACL or CTE, whatever it might be."