Win Like 2K vs adidas Crazy | Jordan Brand vs adidas: A Tale of Two Marketing Visions

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Originally posted on ARCH-USA


The adidas Crazy Pack derives from Kobe’s time as an adidas rep. The shoes have been recreated to deliver to the next generation a representation in footwear of their unwillingness to be “regular”. adidas has taken a ton of effort to present itself as counterculture and anti-establishment in its campaigns. The overt message has been your future is not mine.

With the Crazy Pack however they have used their ‘influencer’ model to bring rappers 21 Savage, Young Thug (who just this year was a Puma endorser and dude wears dresses) and Playboi Carti to the crowd they expect to rock the latest version of Kobe’s previous kicks.

They’ve taken the almost robotic qualities of the Kobe 1 and updated the materials. Just as they’ve done with the “Crazy 8” which was a part of the “Feet You Wear” campaign for Kobe and Antoine Walker. The Crazy 8 is now constructed with Primeknit. The problem is these shoes weren’t exactly popping when they dropped, so the logic of updating and dropping is kind of confusing. What’s worse is the brand is taking “mumble” rappers who aren’t respected by the generation that originally wore the shoes and they are hoping these influencers will convert buyers to retro basketball shoes of a player who left the Three Stripes for Nike.

In the last year I’ve been adamant about how adidas has been doing an amazing job of marketing and it has contributed to the rise of the brand and a reinvigorated interest in all things adidas.

What am I exactly comparing here?

  1. adidas and Nike are both promoting retro basketball at a time when basketball is down in sales, but retro is up.
  2. Both brands are relying on performance models being repurposed for casual.

There is a natural comparison here. The problem comes when you consider exactly what is being compared and released. Nike is using the Air Jordan 11 during this holiday season. The shoe is timeless, but lately Jordan Brand has been falling flat. Kids don’t really know who MJ is outside of YouTube videos; Nike has been releasing far too much product, and the colorways (like adidas material choices) are not OG which ignores the generation that first wore the shoes.

Nike however has taken a very interesting approach and for the first time I don’t feel like I can write this post:

adidas is also Beating Nike in Advertising | Marketing 

This is a good thing for Nike, although it really isn’t. The Air Jordan 11 is a shoe that will almost sell to people who don’t even have feet. It’s timeless in this “Win Like” construction. The IE version and Low version are not as in demand as the traditional Jordan 11. In other words I’m comparing two things that really aren’t competitive. Jordan was rocking the 11 on the way to championships. Kobe was rocking the Crazy releases in his rookie seasons. He was winning slam dunk contests, but he wasn’t “Kobe”. “Kobe” happened in Nike which makes adidas’ decision to release updated retros assigned to rappers who probably don’t even watch basketball (my guess) feels a bit forced and unlike everything adidas has done this year, less authentic.

Jordan Brand and Nike have taken a different approach and it’s one that I’ve touted as needed for JB to capture the next generation, education. Their marketing strategy serves two purposes:

  1. It uses the NBA 2K video game series as an access point to the next generation who aren’t ballers but are gamers.
  2. It allows Nike to shed light on its relationship with the NBA who has created a professional NBA 2K league. A league where they of course will make the jerseys for the NBA affiliated professional gaming teams.

This brings Jordan from retro to current via a medium that is on trend and directly where the brand needs to be to gain access to a generation that isn’t as attracted to basketball which was the way Jordan and Nike sold shoes for years, but has not worked very well anymore. In Jordan Brand’s promotion on they have focused on two of the professional players in the NBA 2K esports league. These players discuss the features and additions they’d like to see in the game. They also discuss why they chose to create the Air Jordan 11 in the game. The discussion is about 2K with Jordan as the backdrop. It’s obvious, but not in your face. Most important, it’s educational and that’s where Nike and Jordan Brand actually beat adidas at their own game for a change.

For Nike and JB to actually recapture some of the interest in basketball performance and retro, they are going to have to educate. Their new product falls flat, but they can still thrive in retro. adidas on the other hand needs to consider a few things about why they are choosing to bring back a shoe that was worn by a defector and is being promoted by dudes that may be popular but are not really known for their style and when compared to Ye, Pharrell and King Push, aren’t exactly making timeless moves in the industry. It’s an interesting comparison of strategies and Jordan Brand nails this one more than adidas. It’s been awhile since I’ve said that.