Around the world there are people whose fearless self-expression and nonconformist attitudes turn heads and set trends. They’re style pioneers, making a statement with their fashion, their art and their words. They are classics.
A strategic alliance can take a mediocre product and give it immediate cache/credibility with a target market. This is why entertainers and athletes hawk everything from car insurance to credit cards. Sportswear is not any different. Signature shoes and apparel lines have been a standard since the moment Sonny Vaccaro paid a little known coach at a small university to have his team wear Nike basketball shoes. That little known coach was Jim Valvano. The game hasn’t been the same in regard to endorsements. The problem was we live in a much different time than the onset of the sneaker wars in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. A lot has changed. Social media and digital devices drive the connection to athletes and entertainers. Kids are more likely to follow their favorite stars on IG than on TRL, and athletes can move the needle in footwear sales, but when Rihanna sells more shoes than Usain Bolt for Puma it becomes obvious why brands are fighting to sign as many ‘stars’ as they can.
Here is the problem… The classic footwear that is driving footwear sales right now, doesn’t require any marketing. Reebok’s parent company adidas, won the last year and half on the strength of a shoe that hasn’t really seen a marketing campaign at all. They supported the newfound energy behind the Superstar and Stan Smith with a very strategic marketing campaign and introduction to the NMD brand. Reebok is looking to replicate the growth of their parent company this season by adding a lot of star power… but they’ve gone that route before and while it worked on a small scale, it did not sustain.
With 50 Cent and Jay-Z Reebok saw considerable success in the late 90s as the the casual shoes created by both rappers sold considerably well in small runs. As 50 Cent attempted to cross his G-Unit footwear from Reebok over into sport, it flopped. When the S Dot Carters were produced in mass quantities, it flopped. Reebok only Allen Iverson and Jadakiss as a connection to the coveted teen/hip-hop market. That wasn’t enough to sustain the brand and eventually adidas bought Reebok.
While this narrative feels like ancient history it all happened in the mid 2000s. A decade is a long time in the sneaker business, but this is the issue again within the last three years. Reebok signed Rick Ross as the face of the brand’s Classics. Rick Ross was often seen wearing other brands and eventually embarrassed the brand enough that they had to drop him. Reebok then landed the biggest rapper of this generation in Kendrick Lamar. The outcome? Kendrick signed with Nike and is dropping a series of Cortez kicks leading up the the Grammy Awards.
Now Reebok arrives to this year. Last year they signed IG star Emily Skye who didn’t move the needle. They made up for it at the end of the year with the signing of Victoria Beckham which was a signing that was very good in my opinion. Now they have made a move to regain momentum with their “Always Classic” campaign featuring a list of young celebs that have been signed to the brand and a few artists,
“It’s now and it’s also something that will hopefully inspire the future,” says Hadid.
They are promoting via IG. This will bring immediate brand awareness which makes sense. However, if you landed two of the biggest rappers in the business and both failed at reigniting interest what will be different this time? There is deceptive power in the use of influencers. Marketing people are looking for an easy fix and in doing so they target fame as opposed to legacy. Reebok kicked Nike’s ass in the 80s with the shoes they are featuring. There is where the story is. I know I see marketing in a completely different way, but I’m hardly ever wrong when I analyze a campaign and this campaign is flawed. Certain people have the power to convert a kid from IG. Simply amassing a number of people with a large following does not lead to sales and sustaining interest. Endearing people takes a combination of the right methods (E.N.D.E.A.R.S©.)
In 1984 Nike once created a campaign that was so influential that the Olympics sponsor was completely erased and Nike was able to craft their entire business around that campaign. Converse was the sponsor. Nike plastered the city with murals and billboards. Their athletes were everywhere in Nike gear. The Olympics of 84 became the beacon of the future as Athletics West and Nike completely overshadowed the bigger Converse. Outside of The Weapon campaign featuring Magic and Bird, Converse slowly faded away until the last image of Converse was a dunking Grandmama. Nike bought Converse.
Reebok has in its arsenal a vital, powerful story, and the brand is forgoing a narrative that is truly retro and modern that will sustain. It’s unfortunate that only those who remember what Reebok did to Nike are being reminded. Reebok forced Nike to the edge of bankruptcy leading to layoffs. It all happened because of a fitness trend led by women. I know it’s important to have celebs… but sometimes it’s more important to educate the people, which will win the people.