Can the adidas AE 1 Avoid the same Fate as the adidas NMD?

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Sneaker enthusiasts will argue that 2014 was the year Ye turned adidas into a player. Runners will say the UltraBoost was the engine in adidas’ rise in popularity. I’ve written that adidas’ timely drop of the NMD grey the company forward. Every theory is a part of the whole. adidas changed leadership, sold off underperforming categories like TaylorMade Golf, there is never one moment which turns the direction of a brand and thinking one moment changed the fortunes of the brand is a failure to understand how businesses work.

Revisiting a Discussion: Will The adidas NMD Lose Resale Like The Nike Roshe Run? May 2017 | Updated 2019

When the NMD released it became a buoy, but the preceding factor was the interest in a general release sneaker named the ZX Flux. Nike’s early 2010s success with Roshe Run opened the door for the arrival of casual over performance. Roshe’s rise led to basketball’s slide and over the last ten years performance basketball hasn’t really made waves. Nike changed this with the release of the GT Cut, but that flew under the radar. Every basketball sneaker after the GT Cut, which had a heavy Kobe low-top vibe, was influenced by the design aesthetic causing Nike Basketball to tick up.

adidas Basketball never caught a wave. Over the years, the best performing basketball sneaker from adidas was the Harden Vol. 1. The undiscussed aspect of how well the Harden 1 performed was Zion Williamson:

Why Zion Williamson May Be the Best Endorser of the Adidas Harden Vol. 1

Nike releases so many shoes they will eventually land on a formula. adidas Basketball could never recapture the momentum of the Harden 1 until now. The adidas AE 1 could be the lightning needed to take adidas from underperforming to the kuala interesting company in sneaker culture, note I didn’t say the leading company… That’s a different thing. When the AE 1 was introduced I wrote these words:

AE is a highlight reel. The apparel/Chapter Collections from adidas are damn near streetwear on a Fear of God level, and the shoe looks fantastic. adidas has an opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle but they have to go beyond design and create a regional strategy for North America catering to team sales and grassroots promotion of athletes from pick-up to high school. It will be a difficult task, but maybe, just maybe the AE1 is up to the task. Beyond Design | Anthony Edwards First Signature with adidas Basketball – JmksportStore-USA

I explained in the post digital viewership around basketball offers an opportunity for brands to capitalize on the way athlete influence works in a social media driven society. The people who watch hoops, kids and adults, don’t watch in real time like they used to when they were captive to cable. They definitely don’t watch the Minnesota Timberwolves because the team isn’t shown on television as much as more prominent signature athlete teams. By comparison with other signature athletes on nationally televised games:

  • Anthony Edwards – adidas – 10 games
  • Steph Curry – Under Armour – 29 games
  • LeBron James – Nike – 28 games
  • LaMelo Ball – Puma – 4 games
  • Kyrie Irving – Anta – 28 games
  • Jimmy Butler – Li Ning – 24 games
  • Juluis Randle – Skechers – 25 games
  • Jayson Tatum – Jordan Brand – 24 games
  • Kawhi Leonard – New Balance – 20 games
  • Isaac Okoro – HOLO – 17 games

On March 18th, 2024, Anthony Edwards took off for a Blake Griffin-esque dunk on the Utah Jazz. According to the Sports Business Journal the average viewership of an NBA game is 1.62 million viewers per game. When combined with the digital viewership of the Anthony Edwards moment across several channels it becomes clear that the combination of marketing and branding for adidas with Anthony Edwards when he creates a defining moment is explosive and the Utah game was not nationally televised. After 2 days “The Dunk” has been viewed on YouTube channels:

  • NBA 192,000
  • Bleacher Report 82,000
  • ESPN 265,000
  • adidas originals camo trefoil tee in white plains
  • ChazNBA 564,000
  • Total: 1,205,000

Digital viewership, although shorter in viewing time, contributes to branding and marketing (by views) at the same rate as a live television event, but does this mean the AE 1 is cars to become the NMD?

Can the AE 1 Avoid the same Fate as the adidas NMD?

It should be stated that the NMD remains one of adidas’ best-selling sneakers. The fate here is how the sneaker became adidas lite fit 2.0 matte petrol blue after gaining incredible popularity. If the AE 1 sells a fraction of the NMD it will be an extraordinary success.

In the post I shared above on the decline of the NMD there are sales numbers on the model and details on why the shoe eventually became a perpetually marked down at retail style. Where did adidas go wrong with NMD?

  1. raised the price
  2. changed the materials
  3. change the style from V1, to V2, XR1 and created takedown models and higher priced models
  4. added too many distribution channels
  5. created too many colors
  6. went to the well on high performing models after releasing too many variations
  7. decided too late to make it a brand
  8. then underinvested in that brand after funneling all brand power to YZY

At this moment, the adidas AE 1 is at heights no adidas Basketball sneaker has ever been and the energy is on par with YZY, but already adidas has rolled out too many colors. It’s understandable the brand is listening to social media, because when something is hot, the cliche is to strike. However, there has to be some level of control of the narrative by the brand. At this point, adidas has already made one move similar to the NMD. The brand, in 5 months has delivered a new colorway each month. Using YouTube as a marketing reference, they’ve only made two videos in nine months for Anthony Edwards. There are a lot of social media moments, but adidas hasn’t done any education around the AE 1. They are relying heavily on Ant’s performance when they should also create breakdowns of the performance benefits and design team. The positive about each color is the model is sold out on the adidas site.

The one important factor counter to how they treated the NMD can be found in distribution. Below are searches for the AE 1 on the biggest sneaker retail websites.

The AE 1 has very limited distribution. This has allowed Foot Locker, the only major retail outlet, to sell through their online pairs. The broken sizes are extensive on the site and visits to the mall find the AE 1 only available in spare numbers. This has happened without major visual merchandising and without a way to capture information on those visiting retail to hopefully nab a pair of the coveted kicks. It’s a bit too early to tell if the AE 1 will follow the same path as the NMD, but in my opinion, I love the alignment with Foot Locker. I like that the sneaker can only be bought DTC.

If Anthony Edwards continues to make highlight reel plays, sneaker culture is already doing something it hasn’t done sense the GT Cut 1. They are buying the shoe in 3rd party. The sneaker is selling at an average price above retail on eBay ($153.89 with 748 pair sold since its release). All five colors combined on StockX dwarf the numbers on eBay (in men’s sizing). 7,896 pairs have been sold. The average sold price is above retail at $140.60. In the past adidas has seen 3rd party performance as an indication to increase SRP. The NMD should be a warning for the Three Stripes and for other hoops brands who catch on fire. adidas must be patient in their AE 1 strategy. If at any point any of the issues with the NMD in the list above begin to show up for Ant Man’s sneaker, especially moving on from the model on some pre-determined schedule to make number 2, adidas could kill the AE 1 before it has a chance to become legendary.

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