Nike shares saw a bump last week after the company beat expectations on its fourth-quarter earnings report and also announced it would begin selling merchandise on Amazon for the first time.
But the talk of the sneaker world is still Adidas. And sneaker collectors and obsessives insist that the biggest reason is Kanye West.
The German sportswear giant has made major market-share gains in the last year in US athletic footwear.
From May 2016 to May 2017, according to data from research firm NPD Group, Adidas’s US sneaker share nearly doubled, from 6.3% to 11.3%. In the same 12 months, Nike’s share dipped slightly, as did Jordan Brand’s.
So, a question arises: is it all thanks to Kanye?
Adidas first signed a design partnership with West in 2014, stealing him away from Nike. In February 2015, it released its first Kanye-designed sneaker, the Yeezy Boost 750, retailing at $350. It put out only 9,000 pairs. Since then, it has only ever released Yeezy shoes in extremely limited supply.
Because of that, there’s no real sense of sales numbers for Adidas Yeezy products. And because of that (and other arguments), one of the most prominent sneaker industry analysts says that West hasn’t done much at all to boost Adidas.
Matt Powell of NPD Group surely appears more in the media, and is more vocal on Twitter, than any of the other analysts that closely cover Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and the other major publicly-traded sports apparel companies. And Powell has been unequivocal about West and Adidas: no impact. “They paid $10 million for nothing,” he tweeted in December.
That’s heresy to the sneakerheads who are certain that the return of Adidas is thanks to what they call the “Kanye Effect” or “Yeezy Effect.” Josh Luber, founder of the sneaker resale site StockX, told High Snobiety, “It is the success of the Adidas partnership with Kanye West that is contributing to this positive story.” Alan Vinogradov, who runs the New York City sneaker convention SneakerCon, says that in the past, almost every attendee at SneakerCon wore Air Jordans. Last year, instead, he noticed more Adidas sneakers than ever. He ascribes it to West. Footwear News has written that the Yeezy line “has boosted the resale market,” and the TV network Fuse ran a digital miniseries on the Kanye Effect.
Powell’s reasons for denying the Kanye Effect are mainly: there’s extremely limited supply, so there’s no sales data to directly suggest West’s role in the Adidas comeback; and Adidas did not begin to seriously claw back US market share until late 2015, when West had already been with the brand for nearly two years.