For the first time as a professional, former world No. 1 golfer Dustin Johnson won’t be wearing an Adidas logo on his shirt this season, the apparel company told ESPN on Tuesday.
Johnson, who captured LIV Golf’s inaugural individual championship and led his 4Aces GC to a team title, is ending his 15-year sponsorship deal with Adidas Golf to focus on building the 4Aces brand, a source told ESPN. The source described the split as an “amicable separation.”
“We’ve mutually agreed to part ways with long-time Adidas athlete, Dustin Johnson,” Adidas Golf president Jeff Lienhart said in a statement to ESPN. “For more than 15 years, Dustin has been a great ambassador for the Adidas brand. We’ve had a front-row seat to see him win multiple major championships, ascend to the No. 1 ranking and cement himself as one of the best golfers in history — all while wearing the 3-Stripes. We wish Dustin nothing but success moving forward.”
An Adidas spokesperson also confirmed to ESPN that the company has ended its long relationship with 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who is captain of the Fireballs GC team in the LIV Golf League. Adidas chose not to renew Garcia’s deal, the spokesperson said.
Johnson, 38, is an equity owner and captain of the 4Aces GC. To build the team’s brand identity and franchise value, according to the sources, Johnson believes wearing the team’s logo on his shirt is important.
“As good as the relationship with Adidas has been, it just didn’t fit in his plans,” one of the sources said. “A major part of starting a team is establishing a brand identity and building that brand. The primary asset is the shirt.”
The source said a major part of the LIV Golf League’s sponsorship model includes selling space for logos on shirts, similar to what NASCAR and Formula 1 do on their cars and the Premier League does with its kits.
“They want the entire shirt,” the source said. “DJ needed a clean break to start his team. He’s grateful to Adidas for letting him out of the deal.”
The source said Johnson planned to continue wearing Adidas shoes even though he won’t be compensated by the company. The sources said Johnson’s relationship with TaylorMade remains unchanged.
Johnson signed an apparel sponsorship deal with Adidas shortly after he turned pro in 2007. He signed another long-term deal with the German-based company in 2016; financial details weren’t disclosed at the time.
“Adidas Golf is more than a sponsor,” Johnson said in a statement released by the company in September 2016. “They’ve been with me since the start of my career; we’ve collaborated, created and celebrated together. I’m grateful for the support Adidas Golf has given me and look forward to seeing what we can do together moving forward.”
In February 2022, Adidas celebrated Johnson and his father-in-law, Hockey Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky, with a limited-edition version of its Tour360 22 shoes.
Johnson, a two-time major champion, won 24 times on the PGA Tour before signing a deal with LIV Golf, which reportedly guaranteed him as much as $150 million. He won LIV Golf’s tournament outside Boston in September and earned another $35.6 million in purses and bonuses in the circuit’s inaugural season.
Royal Bank of Canada, one of Johnson’s sponsors, ended its relationship with him after he moved to LIV Golf, which is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and fronted by two-time Open winner Greg Norman. RBC sponsors PGA Tour events in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and in Canada.
In August, Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted called the emergence of LIV Golf part of the “normal evolution” of golf and said the company wanted to “remain a sponsor of the individual.”
“We think it is a normal evolution that is going on, and eventually it is the bodies who need to decide what they do,” Rorsted told CNBC. “We have the same conversation when you look upon the Champions League or the World Cup with UEFA or FIFA. We have a very strong point of view of the players, and in essence, we want to make certain that we partner with the best player — we think that is how easy that is.”
LIV Golf’s second season begins at Mayakoba in Mexico on Friday.