US Sport

Why did Simone Biles switch to Athleta from Nike?

Gymnastics' golden girl ended her long-standing relationship with Nike back in April.

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Why did Simone Biles switch to Athleta from Nike?
Ezra Shaw Getty Images

Simone Biles has become one of the most famous Olympians in Team USA and made the move to Athleta on the eve of the Olympics. Athleta is a womenswear company and is owned by the GAP corporation.

Biles said in an Instagram post that she wanted to partner with Athleta because, “they are committed to diversity and inclusion, which was really important for me."

“As I take my next step in my career, it was super important for me to align myself with a partner who supports me, not just as a gymnast or an athlete, but for the individual that I am and the change I want to create,” added Biles.

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Athleta see her as the face of their brand, a role Biles never really had at Nike. Athleta also explained the role Biles will have moving forward. She will be developing her own line of clothing and she'll be given a platform to support other female athletes.

This brand recognition is important for Athleta as they seek to break into the international market.

What it means for Nike

The focus of Biles' reasons for leaving being diversity and equality is a painful sting for Nike. The company has been criticized in the past for its dealings with women. In 2019 the company was forced to defend itself against allegations that pregnant athletes were facing pay cuts for having children while partnering with Nike.

Despite this, the sportswear brand has been the biggest retailer for womenswear for the last two years with a marketing strategy focusing on big names including Serena Williams. To lose such a recognizable and potentially lucrative star like Biles is a big blow for any marketing strategy, let alone Nike.

But Nike are one of the biggest sportswear companies in the world and its unlikely that losing one star will have a big impact on their bottom line.

What now for Simone Biles?

The 19-time world champion is in Tokyo for her second Olympics where she will be hoping to be the first US woman to win five gold medals in a single games.

It is potentially her last Olympics, despite being just 24. At Rio 2016 the oldest US female gymnast was only 22. Retirement comes early for gymnasts due to the intense stress the sport puts on the body.