Words by: Kixie
It has become a common occurrence to see the term “Brand Ambassador” on profiles with high social media follower counts. But, what exactly is a Brand Ambassador? A Brand Ambassador is a person who is hired by an organization or company to represent a brand. Typically, this involves increasing awareness of the brand in a relatable way that, ultimately, drives sales. Studies show millennials are more likely to show their purchases to their friends and write online reviews so, in order to reach that key demographic, you need to find a brand ambassador who appeals directly to them. Kendall Jenner has been named the newest brand ambassador for sportswear giant Adidas, and, from a purely business perspective, it seems like a solid move. Kendall Jenner, who also claimed a top spot on the annual “Very Important Endorser List” from curated engagement tool Celebrity Intelligence online. That said, I definitely understand why the brand would want Ms. Jenner on their roster. But, that begs the question: just because she’s good for business, does that in turn mean she’s the right fit for one of our favorite brands?
Kendall Jenner is often seen wearing Adidas during her downtime and has made a habit of pairing her sneakers with higher end fashion pieces - which also means she’s in good company. In fact, her best friend, Gigi Hadid has expressed her love for the Three Stripes. Even with her own Reebok affiliation, Gigi has consistently been seen in her classic “Stan Smiths” and custom “Hadidas” jacket. And, unless you live under a rock, you know that Kendall’s brother in law (one Kanye West, mind you) has had unparalleled success creating his Adidas + Kanye West collaborative line of apparel and footwear. In my personal opinion, his sneakers utilized, at the time of their initial release, the brand’s newest and best technology - “Boost” - to create a lifestyle sneaker that the world has gone “Hypebeast”over. Kanye has had several successful past sneakers with other brands (cough Swoosh cough) and his fashion influence spans both suburban and urban America, much like his music, which appeals to Pop and Hip Hop fans worldwide. He defines, in its true essence, a successful collaborator and Brand Ambassador.
With such a strong male force like Kanye in the front lines for Adidas, can Kendall Jenner accomplish the same in the Women’s market? Who is Kendall Jenner relating to in this particular role? Who is her following? Does she have a vision for the brand? There is no denying that she is:
1.) the natural beauty of the famed Kardashian clan and;
2.) lives an amazingly luxurious lifestyle that young people are enamored by.
But, the questions still stack and remain, largely, unanswered save a few. While the IG-trendy and Insta-fashionistas look to Ms. Jenner to confirm their personal style and model their blog posts, her influence alone isn’t propelling a slew of fashion-loving ladies to rock their own sneakers. They’re already doing it on their own. This past February 2017, we witnessed front rows of fashion world “A-listers” wearing Adidas sneakers to NYC Fashion Week. Which, if you think about it, is amazing (and free) exposure for the brand to various “trendsetters.” So, Fashion Week vs. model Brand Ambassador? “Oh, marketing to the same demographic?” My thoughts exactly.
In recent years, Adidas has marketed themselves in a very hard and strategic manner. Targeting the elite, trendy and chic demographic, lifestyle is the name of the game for adidas. They’ve also poured resources into a number of urban collaborations with the likes of Pharrell, A$AP Rocky, Pusha T and Rita Ora. This, if you know your history, isn’t anything new for the German-based company. Historically, the brand has run multiple ad campaigns targeting different lifestyles and consumer markets. While slanging tennis classics to suburban socialites, adidas simultaneously courted the hip-hop community in it’s infancy. In the late 1980’s Run D.M.C dropped “My Adidas” and seamlessly merged the German sportswear brand into Hip-Hop culture forever. That relationship is one of the cornerstones of adidias’ success to this day. But, in today’s market, where is the focus on the root demographic that made the brand a lifestyle? Better yet, where is adidas taking the urban woman?
When partnerships, like Kendall Jenner’s adidas signing, happen I often ask myself “Where are the urban female icons who embody this brand?” To be bold and honest, I don’t see the brand marketing to your everyday project girl bumping her Jay Z in her Beats headphones, taking the train to work, and going to school at night. I don’t see the brand being relatable to urban women in their marketing. And, thus, falling off from a significant portion of the market that solidified their place in our collections.
Adidas founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler always believed in brand endorsements, slipping Jesse Owens $50 in an envelope to be seen in the three stripes at the 1936 Olympic games. So, while Kendall Jenner is no Jesse Owens, it’s hard for me to believe that Adi would frown on adding someone to the roster that could increase the lifespan of his beloved namesake.
Ultimately, adding Kendall Jenner is good for the overall longevity and visibility of the brand. Do I see her eating, breathing, and embodying Adidas as a necessary component to her everyday life? No. She’s getting a check. But, I do believe she can achieve the definition and goal of a brand ambassador - adding herself quite strategically to adidas’ already impressive roster. I do, however, have a hard time accepting Kendall as the purveyor of Adidas’ female voice.
"While a good business move, the recipe for sales doesn’t always have to be popularity + social media following - that, honestly, is just getting boring."
As a brand that outfits the WNBA, adidas has a great and organic opportunity to create a women's basketball sneaker for amazing players to feed the city girls who pound the concrete in basketball sneakers. I’d like to see Adidas take the leap to move forward in the women’s market by not only placing focus on fashionistas in pearls and shell toes. Perhaps, the next female brand ambassador can be an athlete they create original product for, one that can both build the following and establish a new voice in the culture. While a good business move, the recipe for sales doesn’t always have to be popularity + social media following - that, honestly, is just getting boring.