Another Collaborator Leaves Nike for a Deal with Adidas
By Tara Petak
Jerry Lorenzo, the designer of the iconic Fear of God label, announced a partnership to head up the Adidas’ basketball division in late December 2020. This deal means many things for the designer - but perhaps the most note-worthy is the end of his relationship with Nike.
collage image by Ellissa Starr
If athleisure is the heart of the sneaker business, then collaborations are the soul. For years, the sneaker industry has thrived while partnering with musicians, athletes, and designers alike to build their brand image and produce killer styles, all while providing the collaborators a creative outlet to produce merchandise that is truly their own. Clearly, these relationships are mutually beneficial for both athletic giants, like Nike and Adidas, as well as the top collaborators.
So, what happens when there is a disruption of creative balance in these relationships? One could argue the collaborators need to reevaluate the partnership, which may lead to them joining another brand’s team. Others may say that the big brands have some bad blood, as quite a few collaborators have left Nike for some unbeatable deals with Adidas. Is the German-based company gaining a bad rap in the industry by poaching some of Nike’s top designers? Or are collaborators simply negotiating the right to their own creative liberties?
What led to Jerry Lorenzo’s abrupt move from Nike to Adidas? With his move to Adidas, Lorenzo will have a much broader impact on the brand as head of the Three Stripes’ basketball division, according to Footwear News. In fact, this new venture will allow him to complete the trifecta and create the third pillar of the Fear of God label: Fear of God Athletics. His designs with Adidas will create attire for basketball players on the court, while Fear of God has typically only lent their designs to outfit players off the court.
While this move may be a step-up for Lorenzo, this is not the first time Adidas has poached a collaborator from Nike. Back in 2015, Adidas signed a deal with the then-Super Bowl-MVP, Aaron Rodgers, to assist with product development and take a lead in the marketing campaign. And around the same time according to USA Today, Adidas also inked a $200 M deal with basketball star James Harden, which gave him liberties to create signature collections as well as a role in marketing and branding. Harden also left Nike when he accepted the Adidas deal. Similarly, Sean Wotherspoon went from Nike to Adidas in 2019 abruptly after a smashing success of the Air Max 97/1.
Lorenzo was linked to Nike starting in 2018, where he and his Fear of God label lent themselves to a number of sneaker collaborations, such as the Nike Air Fear of God 1.
But perhaps the most notable designer that made the move from Nike to Adidas was the creator of Yeezy himself, Kanye West. Reuters reports that when Kanye resigned from Nike in favor of Adidas, the designer gained more creative freedom and royalties, which he was lacking from his previous employer. While Nike reserved these benefits for professional athletes, Adidas offered the rapper more input into the creative process. Following this deal, he has kept 100% ownership of the Yeezy label.
While both athletic apparel brands continue to hold success in the market, numerous collaborators have left Nike in favor of Adidas. Each of these designers gained a better monetary deal as well as more creative rights in the process. Whether Adidas is searching for more input from collaborators or is purposefully taking advantage of Nike’s weaknesses remains unanswered. One thing is for sure: the sneaker industry does not forget. Sneakerheads will be on the lookout for future deals, which will likely continue to play into Adidas image in the industry.