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Adidas feat. Beyoncé: A Look at Iconic Partnerships through the Years

Beyoncé and Adidas have just joined forces to relaunch the singer's popular athleisure line, Ivy Park. With over 126 million Instagram followers and a net worth of about $355 million, Beyonce's patronage is sure to reap massive rewards for the European shoe company. Let's put Adidas x Beyoncé into some context by taking a look at some of the most famous celebrity partnerships throughout history.

1760s - Wedgwood uses royal endorsements to promote pottery

The origin of celebrity endorsements can be traced as far back as the 1760s, when  Josiah Wedgwood, founder of Wedgwood pottery, acquired royal endorsements to give his pottery status beyond its actual worth and usefulness.

1875-1900s - Cigarette company endorsements

Cigarette companies used collectible trade cards with photos of celebrities on them, enticing customers to try and obtain the complete collection.

The most notable stars of these trade cards were baseball players, included in each pack. The most famous partnerships included renowned baseball players Cy Young with Piedmont cigarettes and Ty Cobb with Mecca cigarettes. The tradition remained popular for decades, and is still in use today– although no longer affiliated with cigarettes.

1934 - Wheaties partners with Lou Gehrig

On the heels of the popularity of baseball cards came the rise of athlete endorsements of products. Most notably, Wheaties put its slogan “Breakfast of Champions” to the test and began to partner with famous athlete after famous athlete.

In 1934, they found their first sponsor in  Lou Gehrig, preceding Bruce Jenner (1977), Babe Ruth (1992), Michael Jordan (1998), Muhammad Ali (1999), Peyton Manning (2004), and recently Shaun White (2010).

The Wheaties brand deal has become a mark of success for generations of athletes, as well as a major benefit  for champions of the Olympic games who don’t profit financially from the International Olympic Committee for competing or winning a medal. Through the years, Wheaties has also demonstrated a commitment to reflecting  changes in the sports industry in areas ranging from from individual sport popularity to gender difference to diversity.

1965 - Coppertone partners with Annette Funicello

1965 marks the beginning of the popularity of color TV, and thus the popularity of TV personalities. As a result, companies began to reach out to notable stars to try and associate the their popularity with the company’s product.

Coppertone released a suntan lotion advertisement in 1965 that featured actress and singer Annette Funicello, one of the original members of the Mouseketeers from Disney’s television show “The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” While this particular  partnership itself may not be the most iconic, the trend of TV personality endorsements remains highly influential today.

1980s - Nike partners with Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s immense popularity saw a reinspiration in sports marketing and the takeoff of sports apparel as a means of athlete endorsement.

While Nike took a major risk, betting $5 million over a course of 7 years on the up-and-coming basketball star, their decision clearly payed off as his social status skyrocketed international popularity for the company. They launched the famous shoe Air Jordan 1, which combatted  the white shoe status quo by opting for a red and black color scheme.

Although the NBA Commissioner at the time fined Jordan each time he wore the colorful shoes on the court, Jordan and Nike only used this as fuel for publicity, forever associating them with outlaw and edge.

2019 - Adidas partners with Beyoncé

Today, Beyoncé has found a new home for her athleisure brand Ivy Park in her deal with Adidas, signing on as a creative partner to help them design a new line of footwear and clothes.

Beyoncé withdrew Ivy Park’s relations from its previous partner, TopShop, after a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords reported allegations against TopShop’s parent company’s chairman, Philip Green, of “serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying which is compulsively continuing.”

Adidas has made sure to not overstep, stating that their  partnership with the star “respects Beyoncé's ownership of her company which continues her journey as one of the first black women to be the sole owner of an athleisure brand.”

Her entrance into the sneaker game is evidence of the rise of its popularity in the fashion world, following previous celebrity-sneaker duos such as Kanye and Adidas, Rihanna and Puma, Questlove and Nike, and Kendrick Lamar and Reebok. The collaboration is perhaps the most significant in recent years, and shows the power that associating fame with a product can have in a modern social market.

In addition to what this says about the market, Beyoncé’s and Adidas’  partnership is an important step towards recognizing women of color in the sports industry. Adidas recently focused its initiative “She Breaks Barriers” on highlighting the lack of equal air time and media coverage in the U.S. for women’s sports.  

“Beyoncé is an iconic creator but also a proven business leader, and together, we have the ability to inspire change and empower the next generation of creators,” said Eric Liedtke, member of the executive board of Adidas.

And Beyoncé’s shared her take on the collaboration in this statement to the press: “This is the partnership of a lifetime for me. Adidas has had tremendous success in pushing creative boundaries. We share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of business.”

Hopefully, this momentous collaboration not only rallies support for further diversity in celebrity endorsements, but emphasizes the importance of social responsibility in marketing campaigns.

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