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Local high schools have always tried to stretch their budgets, but lately they have begun taking a cue from big-name college programs by signing contracts with brand-name apparel companies to help increase their buying power by thousands of dollars.
Although the University of Miami was the first college athletic department to sign with Nike in 1987, that practice is the norm now as apparel deals have turned into revenue streams for the vast majority of college athletic programs.
While high schools don't get revenue-generating deals like their college counterparts, they do get discounts on apparel that area officials say greatly help them outfit their nearly 20 varsity teams per school.
Six athletic departments in Anderson County have signed deals exclusively with either Nike or Adidas. Both apparel companies declined multiple email and telephone requests for interviews for this report.
Pendleton, Palmetto and T.L. Hanna are with Adidas, while Crescent, Belton-Honea Path and Westside have deals with Nike. Both Westside and Hanna recently re-signed with their respective companies.
Westside athletic director Rayvan Teague said a major benefit being with Nike is the discount the school gets when buying uniforms.
According to the contract between Nike and Westside, the department receives at no cost $25,000 in products over a 36-month period from Nike and BSNSports. Westside also gets a discount on products, ranging from 8 to 35 percent. BSNSports is a factory-direct equipment company that supplies apparel, specifically Nike.
During the first year, Teague said, the majority of girls sports received new uniforms, with the majority of boys sports the following year. In the third year, Teague said the remaining boys and girls sports received new uniforms.
"The $15,000 we get (for that year) is credited to our Nike purchases. We spend more than $15,000 on uniforms per year, though," he said. "We design, we organize and look at the price on the uniforms."
Teague broke it down further in a hypothetical example.
"Let's say for a year I was buying baseball, wrestling, boys soccer and boys track. For those four teams, the bill would be $26,000. The first $15,000 would be written off as comped, and I'd be paying $11,000 for uniforms for that year."
According to the contract, Westside has to have all of its teams in Nike uniforms within three years. Teams are on cycles to get new uniforms every three years.
Adidas also offers signed schools discounts, though it is set up as a percentage of spending rather than a dollar amount. The discount ranges from 35 percent to 40 percent, according to the contract signed with Hanna.
While that is similar to the discount schools get without being signed with Adidas, Hanna, as well as other schools signed, receives a percent rebate from purchases, the contract reads.
"Hanna will receive 10 percent in (a) promo account from Adidas on all Adidas sales," the contract states. The money from the rebate then goes into a company account the school can use to buy more products from the online store, said John Cann, Hanna's athletic director.
The rebate, Cann says, allows the department to "more efficiently" spend its dollars.
The discounts range from footwear and uniforms, to apparel and "hard goods," such as balls and bats.
Bill Dillard, owner of Dillard Sporting Goods in Anderson which sells Adidas, said the deals also benefit apparel companies in helping get their brand out and visible, as well as ensuring money goes to them.
Dillard Sporting Goods sells Adidas apparel and is a contact between schools and Adidas.
As with Nike schools, those with Adidas must wear apparel from the company. According to the contract, schools cannot enter into other contracts with third parties without the consent of the apparel company.
"Come Friday night, they want you head to toe in their stuff," Dillard said.
The impact of having associations with the apparel companies help more than the budget, Teague and Cann said. The contracts also help branding for the athletic departments.
That branding includes having official colors for the uniforms that are matched by banners and game day accessories. The branding also works for the apparel company: Both contracts require the company logos be displayed prominently on uniforms and signage.
Both Electric City athletic directors said getting their branding in line and conducting their departments like a college program goes back to an initiative from District 5 superintendent Tom Wilson.
"We are going to do things first class," Cann said. "Mr. Wilson demands that; our administration demands it, and I demand it. If I had to cut corners and not be first class, I probably would not be here."
Teague said developing an identity was a key factor in signing four years ago with Nike when he and football coach Scott Earley arrived at the school.
That identity meant bringing gray back into the school's color scheme and getting the right shade of maroon.
"We have been able to keep our branding across (teams) the same. There are lots of shades of maroon and gray, and we have tried to make our colors uniform across the board, as well as our symbols and logos," he said.
Cann said Hanna faced a similar issue before it signed with Adidas.
"When we got here four years ago, no one could tell me what the school color was," Cann said. "Some would say yellow, some old gold, some Vegas gold; no one could tell you. We have refined and said our colors are Vegas gold, black and white.
"We are going to stick to those basic colors, and it has helped us," he said.
Crescent is the most recent department to sign, going with Nike late last year. Athletic director Jeff Craft cited building a brand as a way to build school pride as a reason his department signed.
"Every athletic director wants to build a culture, and we think this will help our (student-athletes) create that identity," Craft said. "We are also excited about creating consistency with our uniforms.
"The kids love the swoosh."
Both Cann and Teague said the branding goes back to building and cultivating a feeder system down to the middle schools and recreational leagues, which can attract athletes to come out and play for their school.
More quality athletes on a team can lead to better performances on the field, hopefully equaling higher gate revenue numbers to better fund the programs and the athletic department.
In the end, it is all cyclical, Teague said.
"The majority of our budget is raised through gate receipts," he said. "The product you put out there, and the success you have, determines how much you have to spend.
"Everything we spend goes right back into the kids and the program."
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