Oh My Yeezy

In 2017, if you were to walk into any given public area, filled with people, and asked the simple question of “Do you know who Kanye West is?”, you’d not only get a majority vote of ‘yes’ but you’d also get a wave of different responses with regards to opinions of him. Kanye, (also known as Mr. West, Pablo, Yeezus, Yeezy, Ye, KanYeezy, The Louis Vuitton Don, and the list goes on…) has an eclectic reputation that he has built up for himself over the years. Nevertheless, everyone is familiar with him one way or another.

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Now, the husband of Kim Kardashian, father to North West and Saint West, rapper and performer by day, turned fashion designer by night (with some mental breakdowns mid-afternoon), has not only given us a complete fashion line of earth colored, partially tattered or destroyed garments but also a great example of how to utilize your social following to create hype around the most coveted sneakers of all time.

Adidas x Kanye – Yeezy Boost 350


A little background, these bad boys are part of a limited edition collaboration of apparel and footwear that Adidas contracted and allowed Kanye to have complete creative freedom to design. Some say this collab was an attempt to boost sales, as Adidas was falling behind in US sales against its competitors, Nike, whom they had steadily been losing ground to, and their newer rival, Under Armour. The firm’s revenues had been dropping beginning in the year 2011, deciding that the superstar’s reputation would bring some traction. At a whopping $10 million price tag (for Adidas), Kanye designed some of the coolest, most comfortable yet incredibly hard to find and completely overpriced sneakers I’ve ever seen; they range from $300 up to $1,500 for trainers. The sneakers run on a limited release sales model – the limited quantity makes for extra limited time when so many people want them. That is, however, the million-dollar question: why does everyone really want this insanely expensive grey or black sneaker?

Because you gotta have them!

These sneakers became a sensation basically because you can’t have them, and you have everyone from the Kardashians to Jay-Z and even Anna Wintour raving about them.

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Mr. West is in the Buildin’

The limited quantity model approach was one taken so as to create immense hype around the launch and subsequently the demand for the sneaker. However, there were no billboards or magazine spreads announcing the launch – it was all via social. Everyone knew about the collaboration and was already excited, because as much as he is a personality (bad connotations intended), he is an extremely popular celebrity with and immense community of fans and therefore the potential to promote the endorsement came by word of mouth. It becomes especially noteworthy when A-listers like Chrissy Teigan, Zoe Kravitz, Kim K, Kylie Jenner, Tyga and many others are acting as influencers. Not only was hype created, but with Kanye himself, in addition to all these celebrities, acting as a brand ambassador, an aura of exclusivity was built around the shoe. Moreover, the product was always in the media’s eye because these popular and frequently photographed individuals would sport the shoe and Kanye would utilize his social feeds to release previews of the line; coming from someone with 18.6 million followers, that is a lot of coverage. Upon release, the sneakers sold out in about 12 minutes (on average between Adidas stores worldwide and individual retailers).

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“Yo Adidas, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but..”

So what returns did Adidas see from their business venture? Traditionally, Adidas’ endorser structure is looked at through the lens of a fashion tech startup (with a substantial amount of funding). While the celebrity has creative freedom, they leverage data from the secondary markets to manipulate and create marketplace hype with strategic release timing and quantities. The end goal of this is to increase their relevancy in the sneaker culture market while driving 95% sales.

To achieve their goal, they build a relationship with the celebrity much like that of the music industry; there is a 360-degree deal structure where the artist has skin in the game, so to speak. They provide the artist with a support system to fulfill their creative desires, to leverage passion and ultimately a product that they care about enough to carry the brand as an ambassador. Secondly, by creating a dialogue on social media through the celebrity endorser there is a lot more traction as well as a greater ability to take creative risks (data-driven ones, of course) without really damaging brand image. Leaking images through the celebrity’s handles allows for higher potential reach than if Adidas did it themselves. Similarly, Kanye was given creative freedom on all fronts, including presentation. His fashion show launches of the last 5 Yeezy seasons are all technologically driven, using 360-cameras and other featured technologies to present the products innovatively. These initiatives have translated to the sneakers selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, in addition to the subsequent increase in Adidas’ market share by about 3000% in the last year.

It all seems crazy to me, as does Kanye, however, the guy has the creative knack for getting people to buy things, no matter how beige everything is.



P.S. Yes, Kendall and her dad(?) are wearing the same dress….awkward


  1. Great post. I remember hearing about these shoes when they came out, and couldn’t believe how expensive they were. This is a great example of public relations, and leveraging the social media aspect where people follow you, and you become a brand ambassador. As you mentioned, Adidas benefited a lot from this, especially when its sales were declining. I wonder if they will be doing another launch like this some time soon, and whether competitors like Nike or Under Armour will think of doing the same.

    1. CarbNatalie · ·

      Yea I definitely was curious about the same thing yet couldn’t find too much information on it. They made it seem like this was their strategy for every collaboration, which if it is it seems highly successful. I guess only time will tell!

  2. Mind blowing to me. Great post! Kanye has created an empire that has grown larger than anyone could have imagined. Looking back at some of his old albums and hearing one at least once every weekend I go out is a testament to his musical talent. The way he has leveraged his fame to pivot his career into fashion has been interesting to watch. I think you’re dead on, he created scarcity around his products, and build enormous social media hype. Having Yeezies became a fashion statement, a sign of wealth and exclusivity all in one. He has said before that his ultimate goal is to make Yeezies wide-spread and available for all, but I doubt that. It undermines the value of all the pairs he sold before. It will be interesting to see what his next move is. With everyone watching, it seems that Kanye has truly been a guru in the fashion industry.

  3. ItsUlker · ·

    Great post! I remember that before Adidas Kanye used to work with Nike and released a series of successful shoes as well. When he switched to Adidas, one of the reasons behind it was allegedly the scarcity with which Nike were releasing his shoes, leading to inflated prices – and look at what is happening now. It is true that Adidas gave Kanye a much bigger creative freedom and the ability to go beyond footwear, and it has paid off for Adidas as well. However, I am not entirely sure if the shoes selling out is entirely due to Kanye’s fame, or again due to limited releases by Adidas. As much as I like Kanye (and I’ve been a big fan since his very first album), when the shoes came out, the particular shape and style weren’t really “in” (but they have been since copied by many other brands, including Adidas itself), and many “sneakerheads” called them ugly, which again makes me think they wouldn’t be so popular as to sell out in 5 minutes. Regardless, great job on outlining how a brand leveraged Social Media and an influencer’s following in order to release one of the most successful shoes of the decade!

  4. viquezj · ·

    It’s interesting how social media has given so much power and influence to particular individuals. The shoes themselves wouldn’t have been so popular if they were not “Yeezyz” designed by Kanye West. The noise around the brand, and Kanye’s popularity is what ultimately encourages thousands of fans to get in line to buy their own pair. I honestly don’t understand why people would pay for overpriced tennis shoes, but it is amazing the results that personal branding in social media can achieve. This success will probable encourage other brands to partner up with famous singers/actors/models to represent a brand and use their names on social to improve sales.

  5. Every time I hear about Kanye’s fashion endeavors I laugh a little bit both because of how outrageous it is but also because of how successful some projects were. I didn’t really understand how these incredibly expensive sneakers sold, but when you are Kanye West and have a limited edition product, it’s almost impossible to fail.

    Adidas’ strategy to boost sales through popular culture has really worked out for them. They have really cemented themselves as an important player in the “athleisure” category. The partnership with West helped to kick this strategy off in the right direction. It will be interesting to see if this partnership continues for the long haul. Great post!

  6. Nice post. Maybe focus a bit more on the digital business aspects next time, but I confess that whenever the Kardashians are invovled that there’s always a social media / self promotional tie in of some sort.

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