Behind Adidas’ Strategy In Signing The NBA’s Top Rookies

Last weekend may have been the most fashionable weekend in New York history.

In the midst of Fashion Week’s (or, is it really fashion month?!) kicking off, the NBA’s top stars descended upon New York City for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. This year, for the first time ever, the NBA incorporated a number of fashion elements into the weekend’s festivities.

One such element is the presentation of the NBA’s first fashion show. Airing Saturday night, the fashion featured eight NBA players taking the runway in a three-round show, featuring boardroom, game day and night out apparel.
The official apparel provider of the NBA, adidas, also found its way onto the runway during All-Star Weekend. Over the weekend, Kanye West hosted the adidas Originals x Kanye West YEEZY SEASON 1 fashion show to mark the launch of his new sneaker with the brand.

Over the last year, adidas has intensified its push to dominate the market share of hip-hop and NBA enthusiasts. The YEEZY SEASON 1 launch marks part of a growing initiative by adidas to secure the biggest names in entertainment and sports to market its brand.

At the start of the NBA season, adidas made waves when the brand announced the signing of four of the top-six rookies drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. Signing the number-one overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, along with Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart marked a successful execution of company strategy for adidas.

“We’ve been targeting this class for a couple of years. As we look at our long-term strategy within basketball, athletes play a critically important part of how we plan to grow our business and brand. It’s the best way to connect with fans and kids. At the end of the day, the kids buying sneakers are the ones looking up to the best players in the game. We’ve always had a focus in partnering with the best athletes in the game, going back to Kareem, Allen Iverson and more recently, Derrick Rose. In this draft class, we saw an opportunity to reinvest in our portfolio of players,” said adidas’ head of basketball, Chris Grancio.

For NBA players, signing with an apparel company provides an opportunity to collaborate on the types and designs of sneakers they’ll wear on the court. As players’ fashion brands off the court continue to grow, with many having their own fashion lines, this is a critical opportunity for apparel companies to present NBA stars. “The relationship becomes more collaborative the more time that we have to work with the players. We are working on some custom player edition products for our rookies for the tail end of the season and the playoffs. We showed them designs and got feedback, so they’ll have input on their first player editions,” Grancio explained.

Launching a player edition sneaker is not only an honor for the player involved, but provides players with a critical opportunity in an age of fashion forward NBA players: Choice. “Guys are different when it comes to how many different pairs of shoes they wear during a season. Ricky Rubio only wants to wear three or four pairs a season. He likes to stay in the same product. We have other guys who will wear a new pair every single night. Guys like Damian Lillard will wear a different model five nights in a row. The guys who are sneakerheads, like Jeremy Lin, are emailing almost daily about the products they see at retail,” Grancio noted.

Sneakerheads who don’t have an NBA contract should cheer on those that do. The more that players like Lin and Lillard push the needle on sneaker style, the more likely it is that fans will see new, fashion forward products arrive in stores. Further, with the competition to sign top-level NBA talent heating up, sneakerheads are also likely to benefit, as apparel brands work to out maneuver each other in terms of creating the most stylish and trendsetting sneakers.

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