On the 8TH December 2017, British World Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua, officially opened the Under-Armour Amsterdam store with a bang. Donned in boxing gloves, Joshua’s two right hooks were all it took to shatter the store’s front windows, commissioning it for business. Joshua currently has multi-year deal with the sportswear giant, Under Armour, attributing his increased performance to their equipment. Anthony Joshua joins the plethora of Black, African and Caribbeans whose celebrity status is increasingly used as an influenced marketing strategy.
Big names such as Rihanna, Tyson Beckford, Oluchi Onweagba, Tiger Woods, Big Sean and Serena Williams, to name a few, have been named the face of top brands as they appeal to a wider and often more diverse market. Many of these broke history serving as the first Black brand ambassadors for sport, music, fashion and cosmetics giants. Such endorsement deals signal a shift in social attitudes towards persons of colour emphasising the fact that not only does representation and diversity matter, it also sells. However, many feel that these top brands’ emphasis on diversity is artificial: a response to popular trends and, in many situations, having come late.
Fashion and beauty giants Dior and Lancôme named Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o in 2015 and 2014, respectively, as their first Black spokes people. With both companies having existed for over sixty-nine years at the time of these endorsement deals, the reactions were mixed. Some lauded these deals while others expressed their disappointment at how long it took.
Michael Jordan’s skill and tenacity in basketball not only made him one of the sports’ greats but paved way for the creation and success of his athletic shoe and clothing line produced by Nike, the sportswear giant. The Jordan brand stemmed from a pair of Nike sneakers, Air Jordan I, custom produced for Michael in 1984 and released to the public late that year. Michael Jordan’s silhouette served as a muse for the brand’s logo. It’s success in the 1984 market resulted in steady growth of the brand from solely basketball shoes into the wider streetwear market. Jordans gained popularity specifically among the African-American community and the youth in general.
Michael Jordan, Nike and the Jordan brand have been called on to address the relationship between Jordans and the dysfunctional consumerism resulting in violence, irresponsible spending and delinquency, especially in the African-American community. The Jordan brand has become iconic, a social statement due to the sneaker’s design and high price. Releases of newer or modified editions of the shoes in shopping malls and chain stores often saw ensuing melee with a police presence needed to restore order.
For instance, the 2011 release of Air Jordan XIs saw mini riots, irresponsible spending and multiple arrests as crowds surged into stores. This sort of apparel-related violence often mars other shopping experiences such as Black Friday and can be said to be part of a wider materialism issue plaguing capitalist states. Brand-giants and retailers have been called to speak on these issues for the sake of social responsibility. With the endorsement of more African, Caribbean and Black top names, the issue of ethical consumption begs to be addressed.