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What Kanye's feud with Adidas means for the shoe brand

The divisive rap artist has ratcheted up his criticism of his brand partner, but can Adidas afford to lose him?
Credit: photo by thaddaeus mcadams

PORTLAND, Ore. — 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. 

For more on the dispute, visit the Portland Business Journal.

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