Nike Poaches Top Design Talent from Under Armour

After losing three top designers to adidas two years ago, Nike has reportedly poached one of Under Armour’s top designers. According to sneaker blog, Nice Kicks, Dave Dombrow, who is Under Armour’s senior vice president of design, has landed at the Portland-based sportswear giant. Dombrow is, after all, one of the individuals responsible for helping Under Armour – a primarily apparel-based brand – gain traction in the sneaker market in recent years, namely by way of a number of the brand’s major footwear projects, mostly notably the Stephen Curry collection.

While Dombrow is reportedly barred from working for a competitor until 2017, due to an iron clad non-compete agreement with Under Armour, this is still a win for Nike, according to sources. By poaching Under Armour’s star designer, Nike could simultaneously slow Under Armour’s momentum (it has been growing rapidly in recent years) and gain new design talent, particularly in the basketball arena. (Curry footwear, for which Dombrow is responsible, has helped propel both Under Armour’s revenue and brand, particularly as the Golden State Warriors aim to beat the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ record for 72 wins in a single regular NBA season).

The move – while not abnormal, as we saw with the three Nike designers who were poached by adidas – does suggest that Nike is feeling the competitive heat from Under Armour, which holds the number two spot in the U.S. sportswear market, right after Nike. According to Jefferies analyst Edward Plank, “In what’s become an increasingly competitive category, securing top talent away from a competitor is a big tactical win for Nike, in our view, particularly given the traction UA’s footwear business has gotten over the last couple of years.”

As of now, there is no word on whether Nike will attempt to buy out Dombrow’s non-compete with Under Armour or whether he will merely wait out the year in some other capacity. More to come …