Can Adidas Make Baseball Cool?

Adidas is hot with sneaker fanatics, and the brand outfits arguably the coolest players in Major League Baseball. But can the label make the sport — which wanes in viewership and popularity compared to basketball and football — a hit in the U.S.? Industry insiders differ in opinion.

“Baseball is really not for the cool kids, for young people today. I’m a massive fan and I’m clearly not [the desired] core consumer for baseball,” said Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports at The NPD Group Inc.

And because the sport isn’t the most beloved sport today, Powell believes even with Adidas’ cool factor, the needle with baseball footwear sales will be hard to move.

According to data provided by The NPD Group Inc., baseball sales rose from $242 million in 2015 to $254.1 million in 2016. But in 2017, sales dropped to $236.8 million, the lowest mark in three years.

Kris Bryant Adidas cleats
Kris Bryant signing Adidas cleats.
CREDIT: Adidas

However, Ankur Amin, co-owner of Long Island, N.Y.-based boutique Renarts, believes Adidas does have what it takes to boost the sport’s popularity. “Baseball can be cool, but it’s got to be positioned the right way,” he said. “There are some great personalities in baseball that are underutilized.”

The starting lineup for the Three Stripes consists of stars such as Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. Both Judge and Bryant were featured in Adidas’ ad released on opening day in March, dubbed “What’s on Your Feet?” The clip highlighted two baseball cleats from Adidas: the 2018 Adizero Afterburner and the 2018 Boost Icon.

And participation in the sport is on the rise. According to the Sport and Fitness Industry Association, the number of people playing baseball in the U.S. has grown each year in the same period of time, from 13.7 million in 2015 to 14.8 million in 2016 and 15.6 million last year.

Aaron Judge Adidas
Aaron Judge in an Adidas ad.
CREDIT: Adidas

Still, Powell is steadfast in his belief that Adidas’ baseball stars won’t bring in tremendous sales. Instead, he thinks the brand is using them solely to get more people looking at its logo.

“Baseball is a relatively low barrier to entry sport, you don’t have to pay baseball players the same kind of money you have to pay basketball players — even the best ones,” Powell said. “They’re making sure their logo is on any time a baseball game is being shown. Whether it’s on highlights or live, they’re getting exposure.”

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