By KJ Kearney / @h1gher
A long time ago, when I was blogging about streetwear and streetwear marketing concepts, I wrote a post that basically said that up-and-coming brands should avoid celebrity co-signs like the plague. I had a myriad of reasons, but my main one was because I believed it was a dangerous proposition to leverage the popularity of your brand with something so fleeting (and out of your control) as someone else’s fame. And I want to preference my following thoughts by letting you know, up front, that I still agree with this concept 100%.
Some brands are just too big to succumb to the failures of a celebrity co-sign. And with the current heightened state of sneaker culture these days, I think it’s safe to say that athletic footwear and apparel companies are in that “too big to fail” boat.
That’s not to say these companies can't die. No (mmm, well, maybe few) organization is untouchable — word to Blockbuster. But the reason why Nike/Brand Jordan can survive the signing of a Drake or why it’s a good idea for adidas to give Kanye West $10 million is because these organizations are not dependent on these co-signs like your average clothing startup; they are leveraging these entertainers fame and following.
Two totally different things.
Speaking specifically of Nike and adidas, one of the top reasons why these ventures are going to work out for them is because this is just another form of revenue and exposure for them — not the primary way they butter their bread (ya hear that new t-shirt brand?). These companies have years of history, years of tradition and billions of dollars in the bank because they are already really good at doing what they do. Some examples off the top of my head:
Selling sneakers, athletic apparel and athletic gear: Duh. THIS is their bread and butter.
Team sales: From outfitting your run-of-the-mill high school to supplying the entire University of InsertNameHere, they’re riding 'round and getting it. And if you haven’t seen what one of those contracts can fetch ... bruh …
League contracts: Nike is outfitting the ENTIRE NFL while adidas has the ENTIRE NBA on lock. Make sure you look at those numbers so you can properly re-evaluate your life.
And like I said, that’s just the first few things that came to mind. My point in this whole “Is this a good idea?” debate is that it doesn’t really matter. At all.
Nike did a sneaker with Eminem. Shit, it did a couple shoes with Kanye. What makes you think a shoe for or designed by Drake would do any worse? Besides, Brand Jordan hasn’t even announced the extent of its agreement so for all we know Drizzy could just be getting a bunch of OVO PEs (player exclusives) and free clothes.
As for the adidas venture with Kanye, we do know he’s getting $10 million (not sure if it’s up front or over the life of contract BUT WHO CARES HE’S GETTING $10 MILLION), we do know he’s getting royalties (a la any athlete that has a signature shoe and/or apparel deal) and that he will be releasing collections. And yeah, Kanye runs out sometimes, but at the end of the day, he’s a creative genius. And when paired with adidas’ experience in creating and distributing sub-lines (Y-3, Stella McCartney, NEO just to name a few) this is probably a better look for Mr. West than you originally thought.
Truth is this is a good look for all parties involved: Nike and adidas get to leverage the popularity of two truly global icons, and Kanye and maybe Drake get to expand their personal brands and line their pockets with some extra mozzarella.
The only people who are going to lose sleep about these are the same sneaker-head purist that get butt hurt and cry foul every time Nike re-releases a Jordan Signature with “inferior materials” — while swiping their credit cards at their local sneaker boutique.
If it works, everyone will get exactly what they want out the process. If it fails, said conglomerates will drop these dudes like a bad bag of dope, erase your memory of these partnerships by retro-ing some Holy Grail status sneaker, and wait until the NEXT Drake or Kanye comes around 20 years from now. Because if there is one thing I’m sure of, not matter what happens as it concerns these specific partnerships, Nike and adidas will be here.
Wonder if I can say the same for your t-shirt brand.