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Why Adidas won’t walk away from rapper Kanye West

Adidas partnered with Kanye West in 2013 after poaching him from Nike. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Adidas partnered with Kanye West in 2013 after poaching him from Nike. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Multinational corporation, Adidas last week said that it will continue working with US rapper, Kanye West despite his recent controversial statements.

This could be a marketing strategy for the company as evidence shows that controversy can reignite interest in a product and increase sales.

The rapper has in recent weeks taken to social media platform, Twitter to share his support for unpopular US President Donald Trump and in his latest controversy during an interview with celebrity news website, TMZ, said that slavery was a choice, a statement that sparked online outrage and triggered a petition in which thousands signed asking Adidas to cut ties with him.

Despite this, Adidas, which opened its fourth store last year in Mombasa, Kenya through the Deacons franchise, said that it will continue its partnership with Kanye West although they do not support his comments.

“West is very important to our brand strategy, he has been a fantastic creator, and that is where I am going to leave it. Adidas is a large global company with a very strong presence around the world, and will continue to perform well,” said Kasper Rorsted, Adidas CEO, during an interview with the business news website, Bloomberg TV.

As of 2017, Adidas had a brand value of $7.9 billion and according to Forbes it is the third most valuable sports brand globally and has been engaged in a marketing war with rival Nike for years, which is considered the most valuable company globally.

Adidas partnered with West in 2013 after poaching him from Nike. In 2015, they launched the Yezzy line of branded shoes retailing at approximately $200 and by the end of that year its sales had increased by two billion dollars to reach $16.915 billion in sales compared to 2012, at $14.883 billion before signing the rapper.

Of the sales in 2015, the sales of the Yeezy shoes accounted for approximately Sh44.5 million and were the most popular selling shoes that year beating Air Jordan by Nike, according to Kubashi, a content generation website.

In 2016, they extended the partnership with the creation of a new line called Yeezy that would feature branded shoes, clothes and accessories for men and women designed by the rapper.

In the period between May 2016 to May 2017, Adidas’ sneakers market share increased from 11.3 per cent to 6.3 per cent, according to statistics by US Research Company NPD Group, although it is not clear if it was because of the Yeezy brand.

Against this backdrop, it shows why the brand chose to stick with Kanye West and that his importance in its brand strategy despite the controversy surrounding him.

“Controversy can be good for business as it gets people talking. It sparks an emotional reaction from consumers and from this; the brand becomes top of the mind such that when a particular topic surrounding it is mentioned, the brand will also be cited. In a way it reignites interest in a product and even some will want to give it a try, in the case of Kanye, people who have never heard of him may want to buy his shoes following the petition,” said Kevin Munyao, an entrepreneur.

An example of a company that increased its sales after running a controversial campaign is Protein World, a UK supplements company.

In 2015, it launched a billboard that featured a slim model in a bikini and was written, ‘Are You Beach Ready?’ in an advertisement meant to sell the supplements to those struggling to lose weight.

This sparked mass outrage with critics saying that the campaign was body shaming plus size women and a petition was launched that was that was signed by more than 40,000 people to get them to take down the advertisements.

Yet, in just four days after the backlash, the company reported that its sales had amounted to $1.3m and it had gained 5000 new customers in over 50 countries.

- African Laughter

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