For my entire life, Nike has been number one when it comes to sneakers. In the hearts and minds of sneaker enthusiasts, among streetwear circles and in terms of pure sales , there was no substitute for Nike. Recently Adidas has made in-roads on Nike’s dominance in the sportswear market. In the fiscal second quarter Adidas sales jumped 23% from a year ago. Beyond just the numbers there’s a real feeling that Nike is falling off in it’s product offerings while Adidas is gaining momentum with successive releases. Since the release of the first Yeezy 750 sneaker in February 2015, Adidas has gained massive popularity with it’s Adidas Originals line, in particular with Ultra Boosts and NMDs. It’s clear that Adidas has made plenty of great design and marketing designs in the past two years. However part of their growth has also come through Nike’s failure to adapt to current market demands. Being at the top for too long can naturally cause some level of complacency, I will break down some of what the areas where Nike is falling behind below.
No New Hits
One of Nike’s largest problems in the past couple years has been a lack of new designs that have caught on with the public. There have been very few releases that were popular to both an enthusiast and mainstream level audience that were not retros or a collaboration. The last sneaker to really gain a foothold I would say was the flyknit racer and flyknit lunar series. While Nike does have the best archive in the sneaker world, the retros of the future rely on Nike producing sneakers that are culturally relevant today.
Reward your early adopters
Nike has had some really great sneakers come out under various collaborations or through the ongoing HTM program. Models such as the Magista and Mercurial were made in awesome clean colorways and were highly sought after. Soon after their original release however, NIke basically knocked off their own catalogue by releasing similar shoes in inferior colorways and greater numbers. This has the dual effect of not only alienating their most early adopters, but also tarnishing their own brand as they have more products out in the market that aren’t well executed ideas.
On that point, there are just too many bad colorways of classic shoes that Nike should be preserving and treating with more respect. It seems that many designs are clearly the result of a marketing initiative rather than careful design. The Air Max line and certain Jordans have been the bread and butter of Nike’s range for years. Doing too many colorways in these classic styles can taint the brand instead of adding to it.
Nike is number one when it comes to the culture of sports. However right now music and fashion have a larger hold on the imagination and trends amongst consumers and especially teenagers and youth. Adidas has clearly embraced this trend by working with everyone from Pusha T to Pharrell. However Nike has strayed away from fully embracing rap artists directly. While Nike has had success collaborating with the likes of Errolson Hugh and Jun Takahashi, they should further invest in allowing fashion and music creatives to challenge the NIke product range and what the brand stands for. The aesthetic of the brand seems too confined at the moment to some idea of what’s tasteful and meaningful to Nike’s history. This also extends to the in-store experience itself as Nike is likely to play some instrumental 90’s rap instead of what’s relevant to music this year.
A lot of the sneaker game currently is dictated by hype and the resell market. Nike has done a bit to try to make it harder for bots, but the fact remains that certain releases are almost impossible to get easily. Nike should continue its’ battle to make sure that the average customer actually has access to the sneakers they want. That being said Nike also should be self-aware of what release might not be connecting with the public and not try to over-promote those. Even worse than too much hype is trying to manufacture it when it’s just not there. In this age of constant information there’s no way for brands to trick consumers into buying products they don’t value.
At the end of the day Nike is one of my favorite brands of all time and they are still on-top of the market for now. While heavy competition from Adidas and Under Armor is a definite threat, Nike should acknowledge the strides made by their competitors and continue to push the envelope on their designs instead of hanging back and being conservative with their product launches.