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Nicola Mira
Jul 19, 2017
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Hip-hop and rap stars in great demand with sportswear labels

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Jul 19, 2017

Rap and hip-hop stars are increasingly in demand with urban sportswear labels. In the wake of the success of Fenty for Rihanna at Puma and Yeezy by Kanye West for Adidas, other top sportswear names are busy trying to link up with major artists.

A post by Jay-Z for his 4:44 tour, featuring the Puma logo - Jay-Z

Earlier in the year, The Weeknd joined up with Puma, and this summer the transfer market is in full swing - as it is in football - feeding the fans' expectations and fostering speculations about what the major labels are planning.

Puma, for example, continues to riff a hip-hop groove. After its successful partnership with Rihanna, the German brand has now signed up Jay Z, boss of Roc Nation, Rihanna's music label. Puma and the artist-producer will feature together not only in Jay Z's tour for his new album, 4:44, kicking off next October, but in other projects too.

The tour's promotional images already show the Puma logo alongside the US and Canadian flags. Puma has in the meantime confirmed the partnership with Jay Z for the USA, without providing any more details on the scope of their collaboration.

There are also rumours that US rapper-producer A$AP Rocky could link up with Under Armour, hitherto an uber-sporty brand and a challenger to Nike and Adidas. According to an analyst for trading firm Susquehanna, Under Armour, which last year launched a sportswear range designed by Tim Coppens, has reportedly hired the fashionista rapper as the face of its new lifestyle line.

A$AP Rocky could be about to become the new face of Under Armour's lifestyle range - DR

The CEO of Under Armour has recently admitted that his brand lacks the kind of 'cool' factor associated with its main competitors. As a controversial, emerging star on the US rap scene, A$AP Rocky could provide the ingredient missing from Under Armour's sport-focused package. Ever since the start of his music career, A$AP Rocky acquired a reputation in the fashion world by slipping designers' names into his lyrics, and attending several catwalk shows. His influence has already afforded visibility with younger consumers to the likes of Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Hood by Air, and last year Guess made an overture to him.

As brand ambassador for Under Armour, he would join a prestigious posse almost exclusively made up of sporting giants, like Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, Michael Phelps, Andy Murray and Teddy Riner. Last year, the US sport label also recruited actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson who, before making a name for himself in Hollywood, was a wrestling champion.

But will A$AP Rocky be able to bring to the Baltimore-based brand the kind of hype that took Adidas and Nike years to generate? It is a big challenge, and all of the New York rapper's popularity, including his 6.4 million Instagram followers, will be needed to get young urban consumers fired up about Under Armour.

Yet, signing up a hip-hop star does not always work wonders: Reebok's partnership with Alicia Keys was highly visible, but that with Kendrick Lamar is at best discreet. Equally, the collaboration between Jordan and Drake is struggling to find a second wind.

Potential brand ambassadors need not just to have an international reputation, with a large following on social media, and to be in synch with the image of the sportswear brands they associate with, but also to have genuine fashion credentials in order to become appealing.

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