Should he stay or should he go? Critics are split on what adidas should do with creative collaborator Kanye West following an ongoing (and increasingly eye-roll-worthy and at times, downright offensive) Twitter rant, including assertions that slavery was a “choice,” in which West is using controversy to help him regain relevance in the mind of the mass market ahead of an array of impending projects including two new albums.
The camps are decidedly divided. “Adidas Doesn't Need Kanye West” is what Bloomberg analyst Andrea Felsted declared on Thursday on the heels of a call between adidas AG CEO Kasper Rorsted and journalists. During that call, Rorsted said that adidas – which as the media has pointed out, has not apologized on behalf of West – does “not support” West’s comments on slavery. He also confirmed that West’s Yeezy collaboration has made little – if any – direct contribution to adidas revenues.
Per Felsted, adidas could benefit from a break from West. “There’s a shelf life on how long a celebrity’s credibility can last, something that West is testing to destruction with his Twitter feed,” she states. “Rorsted might be better off,” for instance, if it opted to “redirect the West expenditure toward more cutting edge collaborations for its Reebok brand.”
The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman, on the other hand, says that adidas is getting exactly what it signed up for when it enlisted West in 2013. Writing on Friday, Friedman states, “adidas knew what it was getting into. The brand hired him because of his ability to draw attention and incite emotions, not in spite of it. It wasn’t, let’s be honest (and whatever he may claim) because he’s such a genius sneaker designer."
“Controversy and loose-cannon-ism, speaking off the cuff and without a filter (or seemingly any real forethought), has always been part of the Kanye West brand,” Friedman aptly notes. “Part of his appeal and extraordinary hubris and the magnet draw that is a combination of great talent and the constant threat of a train wreck.”
But not only did adidas get exactly what it paid for, Friedman argues that “it would be hypocritical if adidas were to drop him now, especially at a time when another out-of-control Tweeter is setting the national agenda. Dropping him might in the end do more damage to the company’s reputation than if it gives into public pressure.”