Nike is big winner in Alabama-Clemson rematch

Under Armour CEO: We're 'in the fight' with Nike
Under Armour CEO: We're 'in the fight' with Nike

There is one guaranteed winner in Monday night's college football championship rematch between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers: Nike.

Both programs have multi-year apparel deals with Nike. Alabama's is an eight-year, $30 million deal that runs out in 2018. Clemson's agreement with Nike, also for eight years, is worth $23 million and lasts until 2022.

Nike, of course, has lots of deals with colleges, professional teams and athletes with a reputation for winning.

Like the football teams, Nike stock is off to a hot start this year.

It wasn't so great last year -- Nike's (NKE) stock was the biggest Dow dog and one of only three in the index to fall in 2016, plunging nearly 20%. (Coca-Cola (KO) and Disney (DIS) were the other laggards.)

Concerns about sluggish demand in the United States and increased competition from Adidas (ADDDF) and Under Armour (UA) weighed on Nike.

Related: Clemson is covered -- win or lose

Nike is already up about 5% after reporting better-than-expected earnings at the end of last month.

Investors are particularly excited about Nike's growth in China. It's helping offset some of the weakness in its home market. Nike reported sales growth of 17% in China during its most recent quarter.

The strength in China is one key reason why analysts are expecting that Nike's overall earnings will grow about 12% a year, on average, for the next few years.

Nike kicked off 2017 with good endorsement news as well, announcing it had signed the world's top-ranked male golfer, Jason Day, to a shoes and apparel deal. (Nike exited the golf club and equipment business in August though.)

Related: Alabama's Crimson Tide is rolling in green

Signing Day might help alleviate some concerns about the fact that both Adidas and Under Armour have also been attracting top endorsers over the past few years.

Golf star Jordan Spieth and basketball's Steph Curry are in Under Armour's camp. Adidas has NBA star (and bearded wonder) James Harden as well as National League MVP Kris Bryant of the World Series winner Chicago Cubs.

But Nike still has arguably the two world's most marketable sports stars on the planet on its roster -- LeBron James of the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and some former minor league baseball player named Michael Jordan. Ha!

In fact, Jordan -- despite not playing professional hoops since 2003 (he's now the owner of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets) -- is still a bigger salesman for sneakers than LeBron.

Related: Ticket prices soar for Alabama-Clemson championship game

Nike mentioned Jordan 16 times during its last earnings conference call. LeBron got only four references.

So if Nike can continue to sell tons of Jordan and LeBron sneakers and T-shirts to kids in China (as well as Chicago, Charlotte and Cleveland) then the stock's winning streak in 2017 may only just be beginning.

It doesn't hurt that the 'Bama-Clemson championship is essentially a 3-hour ad for Nike too. Swoosh!

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