It was center stage at the 2008 Grammy Awards that Kanye West stole the show in the sneaker world, wearing for the first time the Nike shoes he would later disclose in an interview were to be known as the “Air Yeezy.” Photos surfaced of a number of colorways and samples for more than a year until the highly anticipated release in Spring of 2009.
The internally-controversial move by athletic-sportswear brand Nike to create a signature sneaker for an artist was something disruptive by even their own measure. Not since the release of the Nike Air Jordan in 1985 had there been so much noise and anticipation for a product line by the brand amongst sneaker consumers.
The 2009 campaign of three Yeezy releases built tremendous steam with each drop. As the country was pulling itself out of a recession and many sneaker boutiques were struggling just to keep their doors open, the Yeezy was bringing in a new group of customers and sparked a new level of interest in casual footwear.
From the graph below, you can see that with each release of the Air Yeezy, so too did the interest in the line increase. The initial press release caused the first major surge in late March, followed by peak search volume for “Air Yeezy” for the weeks of each release that year in April, May, and June.
Air Yeezy search volume (Apr 2008-June 2009)
Following the successful run of the Nike Air Yeezy in 2009, it became a common joke between ourselves and the people who ran the @NikeSportswear twitter account through direct messages that a sequel would cause havoc. Speculation ran for quite some time, but at last, there were sightings and a confirmed word from Nike that there would be a second edition to the Nike Air Yeezy line – the Nike Air Yeezy II.
Nike Air Yeezy II
Just like with the first Nike Air Yeezy, momentum built and peaked at the time of release in 2012. This time around there was even greater popularity in Google searches by consumers, to a search volume of 181% of the peak of the highest point in 2009. In other words, nearly twice as many searches were conducted for “Air Yeezy” at the time of the release of the Nike Air Yeezy II. The search volume for the term is charted below from April 2008 to June 2012.
Air Yeezy search volume (Apr 2008-June 2012)
Fans of Kanye West received a double dose of Yeezys with the Nike Air Yeezy II coming in two colors simultaneously, but there was a third colorway that released in 2014 that released with no warning, no notice, no release date announcement, and still caused a surge in searches in Google.
Air Yeezy search volume (Apr 2008 – Feb 2014)
There are several factors that must be considered when analyzing the popularity of the Yeezy line when looking at the 2014 “Red October” release. It was well documented by this time that Kanye West was leaving Nike for Adidas. With this imminent move taking place, many consumers stopped searching for a Nike Air Yeezy and instead for a Yeezy product associated with Adidas. Also, as mentioned earlier, the release of the “Red October” Nike Air Yeezy II was done on a calm Sunday afternoon without any prior notice or press release ramping up to the launch, like prior releases of the Nike Air Yeezy line.
Sway Calloway and Kanye West
When Adidas signed Kanye West, it started a new wave of interest in his brand. Comments were made in interviews on radio shows (How, Sway?!) and on stage at performances about the break between Nike and Kanye, along with his reasons for joining with Adidas. But beyond the talk, banter, and shade thrown, the numbers don’t lie that Kanye’s Yeezy brand is more popular now with Adidas than any time he was with Nike.
Yeezy search volume (Apr 2008 – Nov 2015)
Kanye’s Yeezy brand is more popular now with Adidas than any time he was with Nike.
There are many factors that must be considered as to why searches are so high for the line. For starters, finding the shoes is a much tougher task than before, with less lead time from announcement to release. Adidas has done a phenomenal job at keeping control of the conversation and leaks of information compared to his time with Nike. Also, with such tight distribution of the line, consumers are left to hunt and chase more for the Yeezy line than with other brands that have expected and anticipated points of distribution. Lastly, Kanye West has more star power behind his brand today, than he ever had while with Nike.
The cultural influence of the Kardashian family is real and should not be overlooked. One can’t deny how much extra exposure to a new market and demographic the family provides. A simple Instagram photo from Kim Kardashian will reach almost twice as many followers (51.9M) as it possibly could with the corporate Nike account (28.6M). With many other stars, celebrities, and artists in the Yeezy camp showing the shoes, never have Yeezy products been so visible on social media.
Despite the talk of how small the sales are of the Yeezy line in comparison to other brands, the consumer demand and interest cannot be denied. Yeezy is at the highest level he has ever achieved and if this momentum continues, the line will pass some major heavy-weights in the sneaker and sportswear business.
“Yeezy” vs. “Jordans” in Google search volume since 2008. Did Yeezy JUST jump the Jumpman? This chart says yes. pic.twitter.com/CsTaRqJ7XD
— Nice Kicks (@nicekicks) November 14, 2015
Stay tuned to Nice Kicks for reports in the coming days as we compare the significance of Kanye’s Yeezy line to other big brands in the footwear space.