Athletes have undoubtedly become less important in promoting footwear and apparel for brands. According to my analysis, this is due to the ease of dropping clothes on artists active on social networks and letting these musicians and social media stars use their platforms to sell the product. The problem is that artists are a more volatile group and the short term gains from aligning with musicians and artists can in some cases damage the brand and limit the development and research of products that can achieve more than potential consumers than fashion. As I said, fashion is capricious.
For adidas, that couldn’t be truer. Kanye West has not stopped attacking the brand in recent months. According to him, his billion-dollar Yeezy brand gives him the right to say and do whatever he wants, which includes wearing Nike products and creating other clothing brands, like GAP, which helps no doubt at a small casual wear market for adidas. It should be noted that adidas has always been heavily involved in the entertainment side of fashion in sportswear, but at the heart of the brand has always been dominance in sports, football in particular.
Their sporting dominance never evolved into other areas. There are no champions for adidas in the NBA. There’s Kareem, but “big men never sold sneakers.” The brand had T-Mac and at one point Kobe, but with Nike’s partnership with Bryant’s family, adidas can’t properly celebrate these championships with Kobe’s product and T-Mac doesn’t have any memorable moments. The Three Stripes have a roster of athletes in the NBA, none have a championship except Candace Parker and as much as she represents and gives the Trefoil a standard is in a sport where Bill Burr comes from giving the game more airtime than any of the league’s talented players. The W doesn’t sell kicks, but it could:
WNBA ain’t ambitious and that’s the problem
Which brings us to the two men pictured below. You know them? I guess that probably wouldn’t be the case. Athletics does not receive the same respect as elsewhere in the world. Here’s the interesting thing though, adidas sponsors two of the fastest and most popular sprinters in the sport, but they haven’t really made a sincere effort to create narratives and introduce the world to these two. What’s amazing is that one of them is an 18-year-old phenom who has done the impossible by breaking records owned by Usain Bolt. Erriyon Knighton skipped college and turned pro in high school and before his prom broke Usain’s record. Noah Lyles is by far the most entertaining showman in sports. At one point during the World Championships, he turned around during a track race and pointed the finger at his opponent and teammate Mark Knighton. Last night in the Diamond league they battled again and Lyles set a competitive record. A search of the adidas news site turns up nothing on either guy.
American runners Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton and Michael Norman sweep the men’s 200m podium at the Diamond League meet in Monaco, as Lyles wins with a record time of 19.46.
With Kanye’s volatility and adidas’ absurdly slow bet on Fear of God and basketball in the United States, the brand has two stars waiting to be molded and turned into advocates for the sport. Knighton vs. Lyles is the rivalry Nike tried to create between Kobe and LeBron. adidas had a golden opportunity to generate a tremendous amount of content and storytelling around their duo, but when so much energy is given to a roster of NBA players who have accomplished very little, the brand has placed itself in a pit with a bipolar artist who verbally and mentally abuses people publicly and does the same with his parent company. You’re reading this and you’ve probably never heard of Lyles and Knighton…it’s on adidas.