Kanye West and Adidas have finally unveiled the results of their creative collaboration: a line of men’s and women’s apparel, with plenty of footwear. Despite introducing the collection yesterday (Feb. 12) with a positive message about perseverance and creativity, Yeezy’s subtext was a middle finger raised in Nike’s direction.
Since West left Nike to join Adidas in 2013, the rapper hasn’t shied from publicly venting his issues with the sneaker giant. Just after the split, he charged Nike with refusing to give him royalties so he could provide for his family, and in January he told Ellen DeGeneres he felt “suffocated” working with the label.
Last week, as the hype blew up around the reveal of his new sneakers, the Yeezy 750 Boost, he called out Nike again. ”Execs saying, ‘Nike ain’t scared of Kanye West…'” he shouted to the crowd during his performance at Big Sean’s Grammy weekend concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Then he asked, “Should Nike be scared of Kanye West?” (video)
The crowd said yes. But apologies, Yeezy: The real answer is no. Nike so completely dominates the sportswear market that Adidas, with or without a Yeezy boost, is nowhere near catching up.
While Kanye is doing both clothing and footwear with Adidas, it’s the latter that will help the brand most. His sneakers are what fans line up for and spend big money on. And that’s exactly where Nike’s supremacy is undisputed.
The gap between Nike and Adidas is even greater when you zero in on the US, by far the world’s largest sportswear market at more than three times the value of China’s, the second largest market.
It gets even worse for Kanye and Adidas when you consider that, in North America, performance sneakers—meaning the kind designed for playing actual sports in—significantly outsell sports-inspired sneakers, including fashion sneakers such as the Yeezy 750 Boost. Sneakers that people actually use for running and basketball are Nike’s forte.
Kanye’s forays into menswear have been undeniably popular, and no doubt every product he puts his name on will sell. But the gap between Nike and Adidas is too big for any one person to make up—even a person as big as Kanye West.