— adidas (@adidas) May 17, 2015
Adidas has been struggling to stay on top of the game. That was until Kanye and his Yeezus sneaker boots showed up. Then all of a sudden, Adidas was hot again.
In February, Kanye had a fashion show for his collection, “Kanye West x Adidas Originals Yeezy Season 1.” The audience was packed with celebrities, from Jay Z and Beyonce to a bunch of Kardashians and Vogue’s Anna Wintour. People were tweeting about the shoes and the show. Then Kanye went off and performed for the NBA All Star weekend festivities. So complete was the Kanye/Adidas takeover, it prompted this response from a company brand chief Eric Liedtke, “We had no right beating Nike on that. But we’re getting our shit together, that’s why.”
According to Fortune, the results from Adidas’ latest quarter showed a 17 percent increase, a great result compared to the doldrums of more recent quarters. It’s a $16 billion company that gets 39 percent of the international soccer market. It’s Originals brand is doing well.
However, according to the magazine, the problem Adidas has is Nike. More specifically, Nike’s dominance of overall sports sales and particularly, sales in the US. Even in soccer, Nike is encroaching on Adidas’ territory.
Because the most prominent playing field literally is the playing field, Fortune warns that Adidas shouldn’t rely on Kanye to turn the company’s numbers around in a significant long-term way. The company had bet a big chunk of its future on NBA players Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, only to see the former get injured over and over again and the later become deeply disliked.
For Americans, Adidas is more clearly associated with hip hop than sports, going all the way back to the roots of the music with Run DMC. And a celebrity name doesn’t hurt. (Pharrell also had a partnership with the company that has helped.)
Fortune says the problem is that a musician is not going to do for the brand what a sports connection can. That’s where the money is. True. But from a branding point of view, the speed bump in the Kanye connection is the Kanye brand.
Kanye West is brash, fabulous (admit it… we’re all fans) and controversial. One minute, he’s charging through a fountain in Armenia giving a free concert in the middle of the night. The next minute, he’s getting awkwardly bleeped into silence by the censors overseeing the Billboard Music Awards. A moment after that, he’s dad of the year, hanging with baby North and Kim K.
His shoes and his fashion show very much showcased Kanye’s brand, but it didn’t really hew to the Adidas brand and traditions. Adidas, in many ways, can easily get overshadowed by its own partner.
At $350-plus a pop, there’s only a certain customer that’s going to purchase a pair of Yeezy shoes. So if Adidas is looking for the kind of growth that’s going to propel them past the fitness apparel competition, Kanye probably isn’t the person to do that. If they want to be more fashionable, more edgy, then Yeezy is a great choice.
We don’t know too much about sports (besides tennis), but a couple of good suggestions might be Carmelo Anthony or maybe JR Smith? They seem to combine fashion and sport in a way that Adidas can appreciate.