Rap icon Kanye West’s displeasure with his apparel partner Adidas has reached a fever pitch, with him posting dozens of times on Instagram about it — only to swiftly delete them — over the last few weeks.
The prolific Grammy Award-winner joined Adidas in 2013 after having similar qualms with his former brand partner and Adidas’ arch rival, Nike.
From accusing Adidas of making decisions about his Yeezy line without his permission to outright saying it stole designs from him, West has been clear that he wants out of his Adidas contract before it’s up in 2026 unless they allow him to have more control over the Yeezy products it produces.
West is a polarizing figure but still wields influence in the industry. Many of his fans have vowed to boycott Adidas, and so has fellow rapper Diddy. And even though Adidas makes more products than just Yeeyzs, sales for the sneaker line reached nearly $1.7 billion in annual revenue in 2020 while Adidas’ total annual sales that year were $19.7 billion.
Jared Goldstein, a lawyer and author of the book “Sneaker Law,” said this situation could be potentially dangerous for Adidas’ image, and depending on what happens, could impact its sales too.
“If you have a monumental figure like Kanye West saying all these things about your brand, what’s going to happen with the next athlete, next designer or the next artist that comes along that Adidas wants to do a deal with?” Goldstein said. “Also, from a consumer standpoint, you’re going to maybe boycott the brand or buy less of their products.”
West has been adamant about leaving Adidas before his contract is up, and Goldstein said he can see the situation going two ways. Either West goes independent with his shoes or makes nice with Adidas.
Both options are viable and have their advantages, Goldstein said. If he chooses to stay, Adidas would be able to give West’s brand more support. But going independent could give him total control over his vision, which is what he seems to want. (He hasn’t explicitly said what he wants from Adidas, but many sneakerheads agree it is control.)
Though it would be detrimental to the Adidas brand to lose West, Goldstein said, Adidas still owns the intellectual property rights to the shoe silhouettes. It could continue to produce new colorways for the same designs without West. But with how “ride or die” his fanbase is, he said, it is hard to predict how well shoes that have no involvement from West would sell.
“If this fizzled out and they decided to part ways amicably, I can totally see his fan base is not buying anymore Yeezy products,” he said.
Adidas declined to comment on Kanye West’s comments on the brand.