The brand announced late last week that the retired athlete, a force on tennis courts in the 1970s and ’80s, will be permanently aligned with the Three Stripes.
While his athletic career was stellar, Smith is widely known for endorsing arguably the brand’s most important sneaker of all time, which bears his name. (The association prompted him to title his 2018 book, “Some People Think I’m a Shoe.”)
The Adidas Stan Smith has all the makings of an undeniable classic: it’s one of the brand’s best selling shoes, it’s affordable to most, it can be dressed up or down and sneaker fans young and old adore the silhouette.
And the brand’s beloved ambassador is aware of the silhouette’s far-reaching impact.
“The shoe is widely bought around the world, and my hope is that it could be looked at as a unifying factor, a commonality of people around the world,” Smith told FN in November 2017. “People are more alike than they are different. If everyone could realize that, ultimately we could get more people to be peaceful toward different cultures, backgrounds, languages.”
However, industry experts believe its impact alone on sneaker culture isn’t why signing Smith to a lifetime deal is important. Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor for The NPD Group Inc., explained brands are seeing value in celebrating the iconic ambassadors that made them relevant.
“We’re starting to see more and more brands looking back at their endorsers from the past and honoring them,” Powell said. “It’s much more about honoring the legacy of what the athlete has brought to the brand.”
Adidas isn’t alone in offering lifetime deals with star athletes. Fila, for example, announced in October that basketball hall of famer Grant Hill would be aligned with the brand for life. And Puma did something similar with NBA great Walt “Clyde” Frazier in June.
What Smith brought to Adidas, according to Powell, is a narrative that still resonates with consumers today.
“He gives them a lot of authenticity and credibility,” Powell said. “There’s an authenticity story here and stories are important today in the sneaker market. You can’t just put a shoe out — you’ve got to have a whole dialogue, if you will, of why this shoe is important and what it means.”
Powell continued, “The shoe has been around for years and it’s still a great shoe, it really is a classic, and it’s never going to go away. It makes perfect sense to utilize him in this way.”
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