My Cardi B x Reebok influencer deal reaction

Yesterday it was announced that Cardi B will be one of the newest artists to represent Reebok and their Aztrek model. I found this odd for several reasons and decided to pen this article that will help serve as part of an evidence-based use case for a service I’ll later offer for evaluating influencer candidates before any time or more importantly, money is invested going through the tedious process.

The Reebok Aztrek

Years ago while contracting at a major automotive label I asked a question no one seemed to be able to answer. I promise you, it was a very simple and harmless question but to me a very logical one all marketers and social media strategists and the like should be asking. The social media team, marketers and strategists at this company were all very excited about a recent influencer signing because they all genuinely liked her and felt she would do wonders for the brand. During one of our meetings, I asked: “Does anyone know what kind of car she drives in real life?” The room went deadly silent. After a few seconds of uncomfortable glances at the director of marketing from members of his staff and other departments, one quiet young lady admitted “No. No, we actually don’t.”


Why influencer marketing sometimes fails is due to a lack of believability. Believability is organic and just that when someone has grown up loving a service or product their entire life, or at least for a large conscious part of it and it’s just as much of a dream for them as it is the brand when they’re presented with an opportunity to be the brands vocal champion and they agree to jump onboard. Believability is when an individual has little to no problem giving up all their current brand footwear affiliations and is easily onboard with wearing only that brands footwear, such as James Harden of the Houston Rockets did when he left Nike and signed with Adidas.

From a Sole Collector interview with James Harden in 2016 – “I gave them to my mom and told her to do whatever with them,” Harden said in an interview with Sole Collector during the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend. “I don’t need them anymore.”

When seen in a pair of Reebok Aztreks will this be enough to move the model? Cardi B has performed in Reebok’s before and has worn Reebok tracksuits but not with enough consistency to cement the believability factor. Will this change with her newly inked deal? For Reebok, I hope so but she’s not the first celebrity influencer to team up with the Reebok brand and if history is any indication of how this may go we shouldn’t expect to see her suddenly in a pair of Aztreks, other Reebok models or Reebok tracksuits wherever she’s spotted.

A few months ago Reebok enlisted the help of Lil Yachty to don the Aztrek model and the internet hardly took notice. More importantly, the shoe didn’t appear to sell out. The believability factor came up across several sneaker blogs and why wouldn’t it? In 2017 during an episode that featured Lil Yachty sneaker shopping with Joe from Complex he was asked whether any brand had approached him to do a collaboration. The only brand that had at that point was Reebok. Based on his reaction and comments, it appears the designers at Reebok took his name “Lil Yachty” too literally and came back to him with a boat shoe. Not a sneaker as he’s consistently seen wearing, but an actual top sider like boat shoe which was weird to the point of having his signature beads on them. It never happened. You can tell in the episode it was and remains a painful memory for him and something he doesn’t want to be associated with or discuss at length. He did, however, profess to be a fan of the brand in that episode.

So what did Lil Yachty end up buying at the end of the episode? All Jordan’s. What is Lil Yachty mainly seen wearing? Nike and New Balance but mainly Nike footwear.

Consumers are so aware now due to the transparency of the internet and social media apps that they no longer believe the moments they’re sold in which an influencer sports a shoe for a shoot or commercial and makes a few statements about the brand. The solution is brand loyalty.

Brand Loyalty. It doesn’t need to be long-term or a Lebron like lifetime endorsement but it does need to be longer than a photo shoot or commercial takes. The brand and influencers need to build a believable image and effort and this will take time. How much time? Well we know from research and psychology that habit forming is somewhere in between 15-25 days so maybe that’s our starting point. Next, we need to figure out a sensible arrangement and talk to influencers about the need for believability not behind their backs or in muffled voices of “I wish she’d wear our brand more”, it needs to be clearly understood terms of the partnership and the artist needs to be onboard 100%, especially if they’re getting good money to do it.

I get it and I applaud Reebok for going after one of the worlds hottest artists BUT…

This isn’t the first time or even close to it that Reebok, like far too many brands these days has formed what could be politely summed up as a questionable alliance with an influencer. Who remembers Future, Rick Ross “Rozay”, Tyga, Camron, Swizzy, Rae Sremmurd, Floyd Mayweather and Gigi Hadid? No one remember them? That’s most likely because they all didn’t last long, was a one-off effort or completely failed to move the needle of the brand’s saleability and awareness to a new demographic that has been and remains open to more than Jordan’s and Timberlands. Interestingly enough, Reebok’s parent company Adidas has taken much of that transitional shift in footwear as have Vans and New Balance.

The one artist that Reebok did sign in the last decade that seemed to move the needle for them was Kendrick Lamar, AKA K Dot. This signing, however, did not last long as he ended up going for the believability of his childhood brand and most likely a much bigger paycheck in signing with footwear giant Nike.

We’ll just have to wait and see if Cardi B can break the past cycle of Reebok collaborators and sponsors that didn’t seem to do much for the brand and give them the boost up they so well deserve but have struggled significantly with over the last decade or so. While I again think it’s an odd partnership, let’s hope for the best and see what consumers think. Research across two blogs before writing this article has shown many haven’t taken the news as a positive for Reebok.

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