To be brutally honest, I could care less about what sneakers Kim Kardashian or Kylie and Kendall Jenner have on their feet, but there’s one big fact I can’t deny: They’re among the most influential people in the footwear industry right now. Kim has essentially become Kanye West’s publicist for every new Yeezy release, Kylie has starred in a wildly successful Puma campaign (although she hardly wears the brand), and Kendall just announced that she’s the newest face of Adidas Originals. Their family, in the pop culture realm, has the biggest reach in America right now, and they’re slowly taking over the sneaker world, even if purists look at it with chagrin. But Kendall makes sense for Adidas to sign to a contract.
Kylie’s received a lot of criticism for looking at her partnership with Puma as a paycheck, only showing up in ads for the brand’s workout gear and Suede sneakers, while sporadically wearing the shoes on Instagram in between snaps of herself in Yeezys. And Kim’s connection to Adidas feels more so that she’s supporting her husband in his quest to make Adidas and Yeezy the new Jordan Brand, rather than to label herself as a sneaker connoisseur. Kendall’s endorsement with Adidas seems obvious on the surface. The casual consumer could speculate that Kanye sat down with Jon Wexler, the brand’s director of entertainment marketing, and said, “Hey, we should sign Kendall to a deal,” and it happened. But the brand is saying it goes deeper than that with Kendall’s sponsorship, stating in a press release, “A longtime fan of the brand, Kendall embodies the spirit of adidas Originals as a creative force shaping the world today by challenging the status quo in her very own way. A classic icon, Kendall is a true Original and we welcome her to our family.”
Now I don’t know if Kendall really is a “longtime” fan of Adidas — having aging blue boxes filled with sneakers from the ‘90s EQT line or or an array of City series shoes that she hunted down in Europe — but if you type “Kendall Jenner + Adidas” into Google, there are a lot of photos of her wearing the brand, mainly the Superstars and Stan Smiths. There’s also a picture she posted on Twitter of her wearing an old Adidas T-shirt when she was young. Here’s where it makes a lot of sense: Kendall has modeled for fashion brands Givenchy, Chanel, and Fendi (to name a few), and that’s a space that Adidas is looking to grow a deep connection within. The photos of her wearing a topcoat, dad jeans, and white/green Stan Smiths is every other woman you see in New York City with a foot into style. It’s the modern-day version of the brand outfitting Kate Moss in its Gazelles in the ‘90s. The expectations of Kendall’s deal with Adidas have not been outlined, and whether she’ll simply endorse the brand or get her own sneaker or apparel line has yet to be seen. But one thing’s for certain: She’s going to bring her legion of fans (She has over 81 million Instagram followers and her Adidas announcement video has been viewed almost 2 million times in an hour) onto the Three Stripers.
Kendall’s influence with Adidas isn’t just a one-off example, though. Kylie did the same thing with Puma, too, even if everyone knew the connection was forced and Kanye himself wasn’t happy about the deal. Sneaker nerds are checking Kim and Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram feeds to find out when the next Yeezy Boost is releasing, and their family has turned their reality show into something that gets written about on sneaker blogs. Women’s fashion blogs are writing about the Kardashian-Jenners’ footwear choices and how someone can get the same look. Even mommy bloggers are talking about infant Yeezy Boosts, and people are waiting to see the family’s younger offspring in the miniature versions of Kanye’s newest shoes. If you haven’t noticed, the Kardashians are fowlloed by more people than LeBron James or Michael Jordan (who, like Kanye, doesn’t have social media).
It’s hard a pill for so-called “sneakerheads” to swallow, but it’s a fact that no one can look past right now. Kendall Jenner might not be the most authentic sneaker pitch person at the moment, but she moves the needle for Adidas and gets more eyes on the brand than the next cool guy with an in-depth connection to the sportswear company.
Adidas is still serving those people, too — I freaked out this year over the Noel Gallagher edition shoes from the brand’s Spezial collection — but the future of influencer marketing is these big names, and Kendall is going to help the brand sell a lot of Stripes this year.