On Kanye West, Drake And Entertainers Getting Co-Signs From Your Favorite Sneaker Brands

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%.

BUT …

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.

4 Replies to “On Kanye West, Drake And Entertainers Getting Co-Signs From Your Favorite Sneaker Brands”

  1. You nailed it when you said that Drake could just be wearing OVO colorways and cashing checks or whatever, but yeah...I'll be intrigued to see if he has the eye or desire to learn design and get entrenched. Also, I'm intrigued to see how Jordan brands him and how he conveys the brand.

    Moreover, for every high power brand/sneaker move like this....there's the WTF moves like what Reebok's tried to do with Rick Ross and ASAP....if the product isn't strong than it doesn't matter who you get to rep it, it's still going to struggle.

    Good read KJ.

    -Ed.

    1. Great point (Nelly, G-Unit, and Sean Carter to that Reebok roster while ya at it).

      And I honestly don't get all the fuss with the Drake signing. Jordan had Darius Miles and Derek Anderson on their squad. He's hotter and more relevant than BOTH of them on his worst day.

  2. The bottom line is neither of these companies have anything to lose any either proposition. Yes I am a big fan of Kanye as well as Drizzy just on the music side of things and neither of these deals will fail but the main discrepancy I see is the fact that Kanye, I feel (opinion) has always, in his ventures with brands and I don't see that changing, had a strong presence in the direction of where it's going (hand in the pot per say or a bit more hands on). Not to say that Drake doesn't but I feel Kanye has a passion for what he puts his name on and perhaps Drake does but I haven't seen it yet. I just feel Kanye appreciates design a bit more or perhaps we just haven't seen that passion from Drake yet, I would say he needs to prove his meddle and not let some shoes get released that are despicable, but does it really matter. How many people are there in this free market?!? Both will sell all day long. It comes down to integrity and what you believe in.

    The best part about this is you hear nothing of Chris Paul one of the most talented and stand up individuals anyone reading this post is likely to come across.

    Names Sell, Numbers Increase, People Appreciate Real, Hard Working Individuals Bottom Line & It Can Never Hurt To Have Your Own Shoe, If You Really Like The Look & Feel Of It & Feel Like It Should Be Released To The General Public.

    Disclaimer: KJ can probably attest to the fact that I respect both of these artists the same. Also, you made me get out my laptop to comment this.

    And what happens if Drake & Kanye say they both aren't happy and make the mega companies succumb to their wants. Pigeon Holed. Glory Of The Free Market For He Who Holds The Trump Cards.

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