March 11, 2019 / 4:14 PM / 5 months ago

Soccer-Nike launches 14 national kits in women's World Cup push

March 11 (Reuters) - Nike Inc launched soccer strips on Monday for 14 national teams ahead of this year's Women's World Cup in France and said it had signed a three-year promotion deal with UEFA Women's Football, part of its growing focus on women's sport.

The United States, Canada, France, England and Australia were among the teams whose kits were released at an event in Paris, graced by 28 of the world's top women footballers.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na also attended.

The Women's World Cup will be held from June 7 to July 7.

"We're seeing incredible momentum in women's sports right now," Nike official Amy Montagne told Reuters ahead of the launch. "We see this as the next chapter to support, celebrate and elevate female athletes."

The company declined to give any details of the financial terms of the deal with European governing body UEFA, or the value of the individual national kit sponsorship deals.

Both, however, are the latest sign of the growing financial power of women's sport for sports goods makers like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

In the second quarter of the 2019 financial year, women's footwear and apparel alone counted for nearly a quarter of Nike's total revenue and it has said the women's footwear and apparel market is now 1.5 times bigger than that for men.

Wall Street brokerage Bernstein calculates women's sporting gear pulled in $7 billion for Nike last year.

Nike's announcement of a partnership with UEFA comes three months after Visa signed a seven-year deal with European soccer's governing body to sponsor the women's game at all levels.

It also comes at a time when UEFA plans to increase its funding for women's soccer development projects across Europe by 50 percent from 2020.

Global governing body FIFA, which has made women's football a top priority, last year said it would look to double the number of female players to 60 million by 2026.

It also said it would raise the prize money for this year's World Cup from $15 million to $30 million.

Nike said it would also invest at the grassroots level to encourage more female athletes.

"We believe this summer can be another turning point for the growth of women's football," Nike's chief executive Mark Parker said in a statement. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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