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Sneakered: Adidas, Yeezy & Kanye

Sneakered: Adidas, Yeezy & Kanye


The deal between Kanye West and Adidas was no ordinary celebrity endorsement. Now under renewed scrutiny after West’s outrageous behaviour, how can one rapper’s departure cause such chaos at a multinational sportswear brand?

Why This Story?

Kanye West’s deal with adidas has come under renewed scrutiny following press reports of the star’s outrageous behaviour whilst he worked with the German sportswear brand – accused of antisemitism, showing staff porn during meetings and humiliating individuals during meetings. It was extreme. But so was investor response to adidas ending the deal – it predicted it would lose £623 million as a result, its share price plummeted, and ratings agency S&P raised the risk adidas might default on debt.

Celebrity product endorsement has been part of business since the 1800s – since the 1760s if royal approval counts – but rarely have partnerships flamed out in such spectacular fashion. Adidas is 75 years old and worth around £30 billion. Kanye’s Yeezy brand was part of its portfolio for just eight years. How can one rapper’s departure cause such chaos at a multinational sports apparel behemoth? And what caused Kanye to spin out so violently?

For all of hip hop’s braggadocio, stars like Jay Z, Dr Dre and Sean Coombs know when to talk trash on tracks and when to do canny deals in the boardroom. What happened between Kanye and adidas was no ordinary celebrity endorsement. This is a story about the exploitation of black talent, the sanctification of celebrity over young employee’s workplace safety and spectacular disregard for mental health issues. It’s got power, fame, money, politics and some shoes you’d get mugged for wearing. It is, in other words, a story that encapsulates the carelessness of modern greed.