In a move that’s not exactly a shock, but nonetheless eye-opening, Nike confirmed this week that they are going forward with plans to introduce signature releases for Russell Westbrook and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis signed a deal with Nike earlier in the fall and Westbrook has long been signed to Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand. For all of Westbrook’s style, his lifestyle Jordan signatures never resonated. They never matched his personality or style of play on the court nor his ambitious taste off of it. They were caught in the middle and fans never did respond even after several releases.
For Antetokounmpo, this marks yet another NBA player with a signature shoe for Nike. With LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Kevin Durant already under the umbrella it’s a wonder if there’s room for more. Even though NBA ratings are reportedly up as much as 18 percent from last season, that hasn’t translated to sneaker sales.
Basketball sneakers have lost market share to lifestyle brands for the last couple of years even when prices are similar. LeBron and Kyrie have the best selling shoes and that’s with James’ shoes regularly hitting the $160 – $180 dollar price point. Irving’s shoes are prices a bit lower in the $125 dollar (Irving also has an even lower priced shoe coming out soon) range, but there are many lifestyle releases at that number and much higher.
Meaning the decline in basketball shoe sales has something more attached to it than just price. Lifestyle sneakers are more versatile, can be worn at professional settings and provide a slimmer silhouette. They’re also usually lighter, although basketball shoes have increasingly dropped in weight over the last several years.
Westbrook has plenty of brand equity and as the reigning MVP, is one of the faces of the league. It seems at least feasible that his signature line will do alright, especially if they avoid some of the missteps that happened at Jordan Brand. Giannis is another case altogether. While basketball fans love him for his unorthodox style, he does play in Milwaukee. Yes it’s true that location doesn’t matter as much as it used to, but it matters a bit when that city is a Midwest outpost with no national buzz. Yes, the team is solid, but ask yourself how many Bucks fans you’ve met outside of Wisconsin and you’ll start to understand Nike’s challenge. Giannis isn’t close to being a star commercially and building his brand will have to start from the ground up. It will certainly be interesting to see where Nike decides to go and if the releases will positively impact the market