The purest relationship between footwear and athlete is that between runner and running shoe. There is nothing else to hide behind; no skill, no team players, no blind referee. Just you, your feet, and the ground! For a sneaker brand that has to be the ultimate road test, and the biggest showcase for your product.
Puma recognised this when they signed up outstanding Olympic sprinter, Usain Bolt, for a massive $10 million dollars throughout the remainder of his active running career; and $4 million a year after his retirement from the sport to act as a “Puma ambassador”.
That long term investment in an athlete continues with Bolt’s connection to Puma having already continued for over a decade. Tiger Woods’ link to Nike has also continued throughout the years and through some troubled waters for Woods. His first contract with Nike was signed in 1996 with a five -year deal reputedly for $40 million.
Tiger Woods signed again in 2006, and more recently again in 2013 for a sum which Nike was happy to keep under wraps. Nike justified his payment with reference to his assistance in design, with Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, saying “Look at his shoe -that is something he created with Nike. That’s a workout and a golf shoe in one. That’s an example of them really working together”.
That theme of player as partner with the brand, and that sense of long term connection goes all the way back to the very first endorsement agreements. Back in 1917 Converse signed up one of the basketball superstars of the time, Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor to endorse their sneakers, and in 1932 they put his name to them.
In 1947- an astonishing three decades later- Converse presented the Chuck Taylor All Star- a high-top that Taylor had invented himself. And, after a dip in popularity in the 70s and 80s the Chuck is still an iconic sneaker classic nearly a hundred years after Converse and Taylor first started their partnership.