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Sporting goods and athletic shoe expert Matt Powell recently shared his thoughts via Forbes on whether or not he believes the recent collaborations between adidas and Kanye West/Pharrell will aid in the brand’s overall sales in the industry. Powell first explains the concept behind limited releases (eluding to why West’s Yeezys have been successful), and how often the pairs available are typically limited to less than 5,000. “Because these shoes are limited in availability, they are often in high demand and can claim high multiples in re-sale price on the Internet. Because these limited shoes are in high demand, there is often a mistaken assumption that they could or would sell well in commercial quantities.”

Now, let’s look at the past:

A decade ago, Reebok tried to commercialize their relationships with artists Jay Z and 50 Cent, two very important artists of the time.  I was in the Villa store on N. Broad in Philly for the first S. Carter drop (Shawn Carter is Jay Z’s real name).  The shoes sold out very quickly.  The atmosphere was electric.

Reebok decided to try to build on that small success, by making many more pairs and opening up to a much broader distribution.  The next, slightly larger, delivery did very well, so Reebok ramped up production even more.  At the same time they made the G-Unit shoe for 50 Cent, again trying to commercialize the relationship.

Both mass market efforts failed miserably. There simply was not enough of a market for the amount of pairs manufactured.  Markdowns were taken, orders cancelled and the bulk of the shoes were liquidated through off price retailers. No further shoes were released and the relationships ended.

Kanye West and Pharrell Williams are both highly regarded music artists and cultural icons, just as Jay Z and 50 Cent were. This is where the question arises: will the recent collaborations aid in the overall sales of adidas?

Brands who try to commercialize limited edition products do so at their own peril. If history repeats itself the adidas/West and Williams collaborations will not be commercially successful.

Although it’s a rather bold statement, I can’t say that I disagree with the facts of the argument.

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