Unlike what you’d think, the concept of collaborations in the sneaker industry goes way back. Even before Nike signed Michael Jordan.
We actually have Converse to thank for kicking this trend off in 1923, when they signed Basketball player Chuck Taylor. And since the whole concept of sneakers is based on comfort and performance it made sense that more brands would sign Athletes to market their sneakers. But with consumers attention and interests continuously shifting, reaching music and art, the sneaker industry had to keep up. And that’s how the music industry found its way into the sneakers game.
How Do Collaborations Work?
Collaboration, as the name implies, is the act of 2 entities, people, or even brands, joining efforts to create. The outcome usually depends on the type of collab. So in our case, collaborations in the sneaker industry result in creating sneakers. Which are often exclusive and highly-desired.
These days, every major sneaker brand has a roster of high-profile celebrities like athletes and musicians who try to push their millions of social media followers down the sales funnel.
Making Money is a Secondary Goal.
Except in the case of Adidas Yeezy sneakers or Jordans, sneaker collaborations often cost the brands more money than they bring in.
A good example is the Concepts X Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Lobster’. Concepts VP of creative operations Deon Point have stated before that the Lobsters ultimately cost Concepts more than they generated in sales. And this cost increments rapidly the more marketing efforts brands put in. In addition, most of these collaborative sneakers are very limited, meaning even if they sell out to the last pair, the profit made will not cover the costs.
But that’s not an issue since making money is a secondary goal in collaborations and co-branded sneakers. So what’s the real point of spending so much time, money, and effort?
So, Why The Fuss?
Brands go to great lengths to make sure every potential customer knows about them and their products. From renting billboards to creating television campaigns there hasn’t been a marketing strategy safe from the use, and sometimes even abuse of big brands. This includes brands from the sneaker industry.
The main reason for brands to collaborate with other names is to increase their exposure. This other name can sometimes have a different audience or a larger consumer base. So collaborations help them get to a higher number of potential clients. And we have previously seen brands such as Puma and Reebok making a comeback thanks to collaborations with names like Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar.
Artists and musicians’ influence on the culture is growing more impactful, especially on youth’s style choices. And while athletes limited sneakers are more about performance, artists can go crazier and more creative with their designs. This has lead to sneakers inspired by the music industry becoming more “Cool”. Which is what most youths are seeking to add to their wardrobe.
So, slowly but steadily sneaker brands opened up for big names, with very large follower counts, from the music industry. And by that reached out to audiences they wouldn’t have if they collaborated only with athletes.
Rihanna X Puma: A Case Study!
In late 2014, Puma, the German sportswear company, appointed Rihanna as creative director of their women’s collections. And while this move is not new, and we have seen brands signing many musicians, very little collabs were as successful as Fenty Puma.
In terms of sales and profit, in April 2017, Puma’s CEO Björn Gulden reported that the brand experienced a 92% increase in income during Q1 of that year. This percentage was just the beginning for Puma, as the profit and sales continued to increase to finally yield a climb of €200 in the brand’s share price. All that was after Bad Gal Riri got assigned this new role. And though it’s hard to tell whether or not all this success came from the new collab, it seemed like Rihanna had the power to drive sales instantaneously.
Top Sneakers x Music Industry Collaborations
You might be wondering if cross-industry collaborations are so powerful, why don’t we see more of them?
Well, there has been a visible increase in celebrity endorsements in the past couple of years.
But collabs aren’t so simple. And, not all stars command as much attention as Rihanna or Kanye West. If a brand doesn’t get it right, the partnership would be a complete waste of time and resources.
Sneaker industry collaborations are more of long-term marketing strategies to help expand the audience and elevate the hype level over sneakers. So brands are cautious and very selective in terms of who joins their rosters. That is why there’s only a handful of really powerful partnerships worthy of mentioning.
If we were to dissect the sneaker reselling industry, we would realize that an easy 90% of sneakers worth flipping are co-branded. From Adidas Yeezys to Pharrell’s HUs and Nike’s Off-whites the 1$ Billion dollar industry is built on hyped sneaker collabs and will only last as long as they do. And thanks to the increasing hype of these sneakers, we practically live this world of sneaker bots, sneaker copping, cookgroups, and proxies. A world where powerful sneaker bots like AIO Bot rule, and help sneakerheads build their reselling empires. Click below to learn more about AIO Bot.
If any brand knows the value and power of music and artists on the new generation of sneakerheads, it’s Adidas. That is why Adidas has inked contracts with some of the biggest names from the music industry. And these partnerships are not your average collaborations, where the artist would just sign the sneaker and be gone. Adidas’ partnership with the music industry is more of a marriage of ideas, art, and passion.
Artists like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams get to design their co-branded sneakers and pour their hearts in them. For Adidas, it’s more about being genuine and original. And recently, Adidas managed to sign the Queen of the music industry herself. So, soon enough, we’ll be getting Adidas sneakers and athletic wear designed by Beyonce.
The #1 sneaker brand scores on the levels of technology, innovation, design, and athletic endorsement. But the Swoosh brand has clearly a lot more to learn from its arch-enemy, Adidas.
For decades, Nike was known for its major athletic endorsement deals. The most iconic, of course, is that with Michael Jordan in 1984, which eventually resulted in creating Jordan Brand. Another major partnership that Nike landed was that with the King, Lebron James. Actually, the list of Nike X NBA collabs doesn’t end. But how’s Nike’s work going with the music industry?
Well, the scenery looked pretty monochromatic, until Nike signed Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott. The rappers were Nike’s biggest step into the music industry, in a move to mind the gap between the Swoosh and music fans.
And what Nike lacks in numbers, it makes up for in hype. In 2018 and 2019 Travis Scott’s Nike sneakers were among the best sneakers in the game. Leading to an extravagant aftermarket value of $2000+ for the Friends & Family Air Jordan 4 Cactus Jack.
Puma has taken a slightly different approach to partnerships with the music industry. Signing major female artists like former Insta queen Selena Gomez and before her Rihanna. Both stars rank among the top 25 most-followed accounts on Instagram with 154M and 73.6M followers respectively.
By joining forces with women as impactful as Selena and Rihanna, it’s safe to say that Puma has the heart of most female sneakerheads in this industry. Then Puma won the rest of the female demographic over by signing BTS. South Korea’s biggest K-pop group.
Reebok’s list of music industry endorsements goes way back to 2003.
Back then, collaborations were limited to athletes, and the idea of entertainers getting their own sneakers was fresh. And although Run DMC did a have an Adidas line then, but it was Jay-Z’s deal with Reebok that blazed the way for the sneaker industry as we know it now.
Jay-Z’s deal proved that you didn’t have to be able to slam dunk to sell shoes. It only takes a stylish celebrity with tons of creativity, followers, and influence to drive them to stores to buy his kicks. Jay-Z’s Reeboks were just the beginning. And this deal led to 50 Cent and G-Unit getting their own Reeboks too.
So how far did the sneaker game reach?
In addition to sports and entertainment, the sneaker industry is well-rooted in politics. Adidas was originally founded right after WWI ended, in a small German war-torn town. But the relationship between politics and sneakers didn’t end there. Controversial artists like Kanye West and highly influential ones like Jay-Z and Beyonce have a lot to say in politics. And everything they say can and will reflect on the sales, and hype of their sneakers.
We all remember the times Kanye went honest about his political preferences, and how that had a bigger impact on Yeezys than any rules of economics. Other artists like Pharrell Williams take it to sneakers to empower humans, share values, and even honor cultures.
How Long Will Music Rule The Sneaker Industry?
According to numbers from the sneaker and streetwear marketplace, Stadium Goods, Kanye West & Pharrell Williams sell 80% more sneakers than Paul George, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry together.
But does this mean that music collabs are winning over athletic partnerships?
In a 2015 article, Complex magazine explained why athletes will always be more valuable to sneaker brands than artists. A good proof of that at the time was the 754% increase in Under Armour sales right after they signed with Steph Curry.
As for now, it seems that athletes still have the upper hand in the sneaker game. Especially with names like Michael Jordan and Lebron James resonating so loudly every season. And with artists collaborations being so limited, there’s only so much money they can make. So, unless Kanye’s Yeezys or Travis Scotts’ designs fill out the shelves, sneakers holding athletes names will be worth more for their brands.
Apart from the sneaker culture, the streetwear industry also invests majorly in collabs. And Supreme could be the best example on how to monetize such collabs. Working with brands like Nike, Swarovski, and Louis Vuitton Supreme managed to stand strong in this competitive world of streetwear.