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Thinking Outside the Bubble

One of the things you get as an iphone user is your weekly usage updates. I’m sure there are a number of people like myself who have seen these usage rates increase in the past few months. We’ve spent so much time on social media as a way of communicating with each other while in-person interactions have become so limited. Previously we wrote about the NBA Bubble and how it’s the one of the major sports that’s currently back in the US airing on multiple channels, so the stage is theirs for not only marketing their products, but supporting initiatives their players believe in. As I said before, it’s great to see players discussing these issues at press conferences, wearing gear that shows their support, being part of commercials, etc.

This post is going to give credit where credit is due, and criticism where I think there is a lack of effort. Nike, along with Jordan Brand have done a great job recently with sharing exactly where their donations for social justice have gone and how this money is making a positive impact. Nike formally announced partnerships with NAACP, LDF, and Black Girls Code, with a commitment to donate $40 million over the next 4 years to these and other organizations. Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand have committed to $100 million over the next 10 years. Not only did Nike release information about their donations, they also released a very passionate commercial about how sports brings people together with the tagline “nothing can stop us”. It’s very moving, and I think they did a great job in showcasing how sports brings us together. 

Nike also timed their announcement about Giannis’ new shoe with the social media posts Giannis was sharing. It was the perfect way to generate hype then share the details on when the shoe will be available and at what price. Lebron James was seen wearing his new shoes while walking to the bus and during practice, resulting in a lot of people talking about them online. Lebron himself has posted about his new shoes, and because he is who he is, people are always interested in what he’s doing. Nike doesn’t even have to say anything yet because they are building momentum just by having Lebron as a part of their brand. They know they have the interest, so when they do officially announce the shoe, it will be an easy sell. 

While Nike has a good flow going, I can’t say the same for Under Armour and Adidas. They are not doing enough, and in some cases, they aren’t doing anything at all. UA has recently added three new WNBA rookie athletes to their brand and they failed to mention it on all their social media platformsnike. Bella Alarie is the number 5 overall pick and they didn’t say anything on their Instagram account, not on UA’s main account or their basketball account. Here was an opportunity to show off the UA’s inaugural women’s basketball shoe (HOVR™ Breakthru), and they failed to speak about this important event. A lot of brands simply offer men’s basketball shoes in women’s sizes. UA has a basketball specifically designed for women and they aren’t taking this time to showcase it. Furthermore, Sneaker Speculation, a blog that shares info on upcoming shoes, recently posted about the potential Curry 8s. They were not met with positive reviews on Instagram. UA could take an opportunity to change the narrative by getting Seth Curry to wear them, since his big bro isn’t in the bubble.

Photo by NOTAVANDAL on Unsplash

For a brand like Adidas, a brand that has such a deep history with the black community, they have shown reluctance to say much online. It took Adidas over a month to announce their commitment and have failed to specify exactly where they are donating and how they intend to see progress through their donations. In the All Star game, every player that has a signature shoe typically rocks their new signature shoe or new colorway of their existing shoe. For branded athletes who don’t have a signature shoe, they will usually wear newer models of their brand’s shoes. In the bubble, Adidas should be getting Harden and Dame to rock their new shoes even if it’s just in scrimmage or while walking around in the bubble, similar to what Lebron has been doing. You could get Kyle Lowry to be your shoe ambassador for any new models you have, taking advantage of the fact he’s on the defending championship team and on the 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference. Brandon Ingram wore the new Yeezy Quantums at the 2020 All Star Game, which was a great move, this is what we should see more of now given that the season is back on. 

In a normal year, this would be off season where athletes would be on vacation, and probably showing off some of their upcoming shoes on social media. Now we’re in a unique situation that makes it almost easier to promote new shoes because the NBA has started it’s bubble. Players are getting the spotlight in what normally would be offseason, so even more reason to showcase new shoes and promote upcoming releases. I’m going to create an analogy using automobile makes and models to make my point. Let’s say Adidas is like Toyota. Harden and Dame’s new shoes are like the Corolla and Camry – they are the main models and there’s always a new one every year. Adidas’ other branded athletes are representing some of the other models that may not be advertised as much by the brand, like the Rav4. Curry and Embiid are like My point is, we expect to see these new models every year, and it would be odd if you went to Toyota looking for the 2021 model this fall and they didn’t have anything to show you. This is how I feel about shoe brands not promoting their new shoes.

In other news, it’s been interesting to see how silent New Balance has been over social justice issues and it has not gone unnoticed. They have been very vocal about announcing Kawhi’s new signature shoe, the Omni 1s, doing a great job at promoting his shoes both this year and last. New Balance does not strike you as a basketball brand, or even a cool brand, so the things they have done recently with Kawhi and Jaden Smith have really done a lot to elevate their image. To be frank, UA could learn a thing or two from New Balance when it comes to promoting shoes and their athletes. Where New Balance is failing is when it comes to speaking up about social justice issues. Since New Balance is a relatively new brand and haven’t built up that cultural significance, they had an opportunity to show they care by stepping up and speaking on what’s happening. It seems like they are scared to do so, but if that’s the case maybe you shouldn’t be getting into basketball in the first place. I would like to see them have a voice and speak up in support of their athlete. 

In conclusion, my main issue is I want to see brands be better about speaking up, holding themselves accountable to what they say, and be better about using the bubble to market new shoes. Nike is the only brand right now that’s doing this successfully. UA, don’t go silent, continue to speak up on your platform for social justice. As part of the NBA restart partnership, UA needs to understand how vitally important it is to be in touch with what’s going, and it’s become a major problem for their brand and image. On top of this, they are not doing enough for their signature athletes. Get Joel Embiid his shoes, talk about his shoes, get Seth to wear Steph’s new shoes so they can still be seen in the bubble. Adidas, same thing goes for you. Harden should be rocking his Harden 5s and Dame should be in his Dame 7s. New Balance, doing well with the shoes, but they need to do more to show they are part of the basketball community. In closing, with the level of play we’ve seen at the NBA restart, and with numerous players speaking out about social justice, it’s vitally important we see brands loudly and consistently support their athletes and adapt to the changing nature of the game and industry. 

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