Grammy award-winner Kanye West has found success as a rapper, record producer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. Now, thanks to a new endorsement deal with Adidas, West could become a lot richer--possibly reaching billionaire status, sources told TMZ.
On Wednesday, the German sportswear giant announced plans to continue its partnership with West through launch of 'adidas x KANYE WEST,' a collection of footwear, apparel and accessories. The deal was first inked in 2014 for a reported $10 million. Adidas reps say the line will be its own business entity--with various retail stores across the country and a team of "Yeezy" staffers operating from Adidas' Portland headquarters.
Though terms of the deal weren't disclosed, it is said to be the biggest partnership between a sports brand and a non-athlete to date, inasmuch as the brand spans both lifestyle and sports products, and includes apparel for all genders.
"These past two years, Adidas and YEEZY have given a glimpse into our future," said West. "This partnership illustrates that anyone with a dream can dream without limitations."
So far, Adidas has released two popular shoes with the rapper: the Yeezy Boost 750, and Yeezy Boost 350--both designed by West himself. Though the company wouldn't disclose sales figures, the 750s (gray suede limited edition high-tops) are still selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market. The retail price was set at $350. Since the shoes were introduced last year, Adidas' share of the $1 billion secondary market jumped from one percent to 30 percent, according to StockX, a sneaker market tracker.
"With 'adidas + KANYE WEST,' we are exploring new territories by opening up the sports world to Kanye's creativity. This is what Adidas has always been about--empowering creators to create the new," said Adidas CMO Eric Liedtke.
Playing catch-up to industry leader Nike
The move could help Adidas to catch up to Nike, the sportswear giant with the biggest U.S. market share. Addidas generates $19 billion in annual sales, compared to Nike's whopping $30 billion.
Meanwhile, Nike's recently announced lifetime endorsement deal with LeBron James could pay out to more than $1 billion for James by the time he's 64. The new 'addidas x KANYE WEST' collection is thought to be in competition with James' footwear.
West's level of involvement in the creative process is still unclear, but it's safe to assume he holds a fair amount of control. Back in 2013, the rapper terminated an earlier partnership with Nike, citing a lack of authority over his wares. In an interview with Sirius XM, West commented:
"And by the way, Mark Parker [CEO of Nike], yes I will still accept an investment in DONDA. I've got some more ideas that don't involve shoes. But if you guys are investing in the arts, y'all wanna invest in a school in Brazil, y'all wanna go to Africa, I am standing up and I'm telling you, I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare, in the flesh. Walt Disney. Nike. Google. Now who's gonna be the Medici Family and stand up and let me create more? Or do you wanna marginalize me until I'm out of my moment?"
Betting on a multi-billion dollar market
In earlier years, it was unheard of for a sports company to partner with a non-athlete. Today, 'athleisure,' or casual sportswear, has become an estimated $97 billion dollar market, and more brands are signing on musicians, actors and actresses to create product lines. Singer Carrie Underwood, for instance, launched a collection of clothing with Dick's Sporting Goods, while actress Kate Hudson has started her own Spandex collection, called Fabletics.
For West, however, the deal seems to have both personal and monetary value. The rapper says he played a number of sports in high school, including football, basketball and tennis, and insisted that singing and performing are also inherently athletic activities, in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. Thus, why he wants to design sportswear that's for artists as much as for athletes. (As part of the deal, West added that he hopes to get his sneakers on NBA and NFL players' feet.)
"I'm not just a musician singing in front of a mic, we are running, jumping, we're getting hurt," West told the Journal. "We're in the same arenas that the ballplayers are in."