In the 20 years since Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) first burst on the scene, it has left a trail of disrupted companies and industries in its wake. Video rental chains were the first casualty, followed by the linear television model, DVD sales, and the entire cable TV industry, disrupted by cord-cutting. There is even some evidence to suggest that the movie theater industry is falling victim to the paradigm-shifting change in consumers' viewing habits.

When considering current competition for the streaming giant, the companies most commonly mentioned would be Hulu and e-commerce leader, Inc. with its Prime video. Among those generally not mentioned, though, is athletic apparel company adidas (NASDAQOTH:ADDYY)

A man kneeling tying his shoelaces

How does Netflix compete with shoes? Image source: Getty Images.

Unlikely competitor

Investors in the athletic shoemaker might logically consider Nike (NYSE:NKE) and even Under Armour to be their main competitors, but one adidas executive has a broader view.

In a recent interview, adidas' global creative director, Paul Gaudio, revealed that he counts Netflix among the company's competitive threats:

Anybody that competes for the attention of a young person [is an adidas rival]. Netflix, Instagram: They're all out there competing for share of wallet. A kid only has so much money to spend. 

He went on to point out that potential customers are not necessarily considering just other shoes when contemplating a purchase, but a wide range of other options.

Not the first time

This isn't the first time a company from an unlikely industry has pointed to Netflix as a competitive threat. Late last year Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) blamed the video pioneer for falling sales at restaurants. Responding to an analyst question regarding headwinds facing the industry, CEO Gene Lee said:

When I look at the industry today, I think there's more competition for discretionary dollars than there has been in the past. ... [R]estaurant sales are competing with ... what I would call new necessities today, whether smartphones, whether your cable bill, your Netflix bill.

As my colleague Rich Duprey pointed out at the time, "he wasn't saying the streaming service itself was to blame, but rather as part of a mix of distractions consuming customer attention, it was a contributing factor."

Nike's loss is adidas' gain

Investing firm Piper Jaffray recently released its Taking Stock With Teens Fall 2017 survey, which provided some interesting insights into teen trends.

One of the more striking changes was the ascendance of adidas and the decline of Nike in teen mindshare for athletic apparel. While Nike still holds a commanding lead at 23%, that's down from 29% six months ago. Adidas more than doubled its mindshare from 2% to 4%. 

When asked to identify their preferred footwear brand, 46% of teens cited Nike compared to only 11% for adidas. That seemingly dominant position is eroding, however. In the prior survey, Nike's lead was 51% compared to only 6% for adidas. Nearly all of Nike's loss was adidas' gain.

A matter of perspective

While it may seem unconventional for a shoemaker to count internet television among the competition, taking the broader view may be serving adidas well. By expanding its focus to anything "that competes for the attention of a young person," the company may have gained a competitive edge.

In its most recent quarter, Nike reported revenue that was flat year over year, while net income fell 24%. During the same quarter, adidas grew revenue 12%, while its net income jumped 35% over the prior-year quarter.

It certainly bears watching whether adidas will continue to increase its share at the cost of its larger rival. While one quarter doesn't a trend make, taking a wider view seems to be serving adidas well.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix and has the following options: long January 2019 $15 calls on Under Armour (A Shares) and long January 2018 $45 calls on Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Nike, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.