Each month, men and women wake up early around the world as they try to get their hands on the sneaker industry’s most exclusive shoes. The long lines sold out sneaker sites, and active shoe trades prove the sneaker culture is here to stay. No longer does it matter what you’re wearing because sneakers have made their way out of the gym, onto the streets and into the aesthetics of everyday life. Sneakers have exceeded culture beyond just the athletic domains, but the focus on having the latest and greatest is at the base of sneaker culture.
For more than a decade, Nike and Adidas have been the major forces driving the sneaker world. As you look left and right, Nike’s legendary Swoosh always appears to be in plain sight. Decades before, Puma became the first brand to pay a player to wear a signature shoe when it signed former New York Knick, Walt “Clyde” Frazier to a deal in the 1970s.
Until a few years ago, athletes were the main stars of footwear. However, when it comes to making something sneaker fans will actually line up for, it’s now all about the musicians and designers. With artists such as Rihanna and Meek Mill, Puma has become the most influential sneaker company in Hip-Hop. As Yassine Saidi, the global senior head of lifestyle at PUMA states, “entertainers and artists are the new athletes.” Of course, any gifted basketball or football player will still get their own signature shoe, but musicians have become a part of the culture because they make the culture.
Undoubtedly, Puma is expanding the elements of the sneaker culture. Within the last few weeks, Puma announced the signing of DeAndre Ayton, the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft along with Marvin Bagley II and Zhaire Smith to a multi-year endorsement deal. The trio represents the first NBA endorsement deals for the brand in two decades. In addition, Puma has officially marked their return to basketball by signing iconic rapper Jay-Z as the official Creative Director of Puma Basketball. According to Adam Petrick, the global director of marketing for Puma, Jay-Z felt it was something he had to be a part of. Jay-Z’s sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, began their relationship with Puma over the past few years. Several of the agency's clients in the NFL, MLB, WNBA, and NBA have already signed endorsement deals with the brand.
“It's clear that we're looking at basketball through the lens of culture, and thinking about the fashion of basketball, the music of basketball -- all the aspects of the culture around basketball, all the aspects of the culture around basketball as much as the on-court presence that we will have," Petrick said.
Amid the relaunch of its basketball program, Puma is proving their impact on the sneaker culture cannot be ignored. With Jay-Z’s new mark on the brand, he will help the sportswear brand re-establish itself in the NBA and maintain Puma's legacy as of epicenter of Hip-Hop's emergence.
By Bri Taylor