Technology and social media have ushered in an era where professional athletes are more marketable than ever before. The ability to curate one’s brand while simultaneously reaching millions of fans is nothing short of remarkable!
Major sports shoe retailers such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour routinely reward some of basketball’s most decorated athletes with lucrative sneaker deals. On the flipside, NFL players rarely benefit from endorsements of this magnitude.
The apparent lack of branding is primarily due to the NFL’s Partnership and Endorsement Policy. However, the argument has been made that perhaps, football-related products don’t exactly fly off the shelves.
Throughout the years, our football heroes have slowly begun infiltrating the footwear industry. In 2019, only a select handful of NFL players boast signature sneaker/cleat contracts.
Below we’ve compiled a list of today’s most relevant footwear offerings from current gridiron greats!
1. Cam Newton: UA C1N MC
There’s no denying that at one point in his career, Cam Newton was the most dominant force in the National Football League. (In prior seasons) His athletic prowess and infectious bravado have helped the Carolina Panthers remain a threat in the almighty, NFC South.
As a rookie, Cam’s style of play and fun-filled nature distinguished him as a marketing GOLD MINE. Shortly after he arrived in 2011, Cam signed with sportswear giant, Under Armour. Two years later, his first signature cleat would officially hit stores. Dubbed the Cam Highlight, this initial offering lacked that unprecedented flair he’d become known for.
Fast-forwarding to nearly 100 outrageous post-game outfits later, his first signature SNEAKER was born. The C1N was one of the most stylish yet functional athletic sneakers of 2017. Some reference the sneaker as a marker for when Cam began to embrace his fashionista status fully, thus evolving into an icon.
Had injury not plagued his 2019 season, Newton would’ve been laced in the UA C1N MC during the team’s recent trip to London. These cleats are available at Under Armour retailers for $160 in 3 distinct colorways. Could this be the last silhouette of his NFL Career?
2. Odell Beckham Jr: AIR MAX 720 & Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3 Uptempo Cleat
It should come as no surprise that OBJ is featured in this breakdown. As one of the most eccentric receivers in the National Football League, Odell is unmistakably a trendsetter. He is routinely spotted in fashion and sneaker blogs, wearing the latest in designer clothing. On any given day, he can be found rubbing shoulders with other high-profile celebs, such as Drake.
Nike acknowledged OBJ’s stardom and resigned him in 2017 under one of the biggest Nike shoe deals ever for an NFL player. Since the ink has dried, he’s taken full advantage of his partnership with the” Swoosh.” His first signature cleat, the Untouchable Pro 3 OBJ Uptempo, hit retailers this time last year.
Inspired by the Nike Air More Uptempo, these cleats feature OBJ branding at the midfoot, heel, and liner. Although this isn’t his latest cleat creation to bless retailers, OBJ has been hesitant to leave the Untouchable Pro 3 OBJ Uptempo alone. This season he’s been debuting unreleased colorways, despite the 2019 release of the OBJ x Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3.
Having released this July, this silhouette takes a more luxurious approach to football cleats. Gold detailing is found throughout the upper, contrasting well with red stitching. His signature branding is found at the toe box and insole. For those who aren’t’ in the market for cleats, Last November, an OBJ rendition of Nike’s classic Air Force 1, hit shelves.
The sneaker’s unorthodox design and unique color scheme accurately depicted OBJ’s vision. Similarly, the Nike Air Max 720 OBJ is available now at select Nike retailers. This futuristic sneaker comes equipped with detachable OBJ patches and supplemental laces. Will any of Odell Beckham Jr’s footwear offerings make their way to your collection?
3. Russel Wilson: Nike Alpha Menace Elite II / Nike Metcon Sport Russel Wilson
Russell Wilson is the model for excellence when it comes to the QB position. On and off the field, Wilson has proven himself to be a generational icon. The 6x Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion continues to electrify defenses with his sensational ability to move the chains. Just two years after the Seahawks defeated the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, Wison signed a hefty deal with Nike.
Nike Alpha Menace Elite II
Although not his signature cleat, the Nike Alpha Menace Elite became a part of his gameday attire. This pair was carefully crafted for versatile, explosive, and multidirectional players such as Russel Wilson. An extremely limited batch of the Nike Alpha Menace Elite PE would release in Seahawks colors back in March of 2017. A larger, more general release, which included more typical colorways released shortly after.
Today Wilson, laces up the Nike Alpha Menace Elite II, which officially released last April. Additionally, Saquon Barkley is an integral part of this silhouette’s marketing campaign. Similar to Wilson, Barkley is an unconventional player who poses a threat to defenses across the league. The Nike Alpha Menace Elite II is available at select Nike retailers in a multitude of colorways.
Although he doesn’t have a signature pair of cleats, Wilson is no stranger to the sneaker market. Last year, Nike dropped the Nike Dangeruss Wilson 1. Contrary to many sneaker critics’ expectations, the sneaker is just as savvy as the name suggests.
The Nike Dangeruss Wison 1 can be worn from the gym, directly to the red carpet. Back in 2018, this is exactly what the superstar athlete elected to do. He was spotted wearing this low profile trainer alongside his wife, Ciara, at the ESPY Awards.
Nike Metcon Sport Russel Wilson
For $130, you could’ve owned a sneaker built for any occasion. Today, the Nike Metcon Sport Russel Wilson boasts similar implications. For only $110, Nike offers a sneaker that’s suitable for heavy lifting, agility drills, or even casual wear! The growing trend of NFL-inspired training sneakers has taken the footwear industry by storm.
4. Patrick Mahomes: Adidas Freak Ultra / Adidas AM4 Showtime Mahomes
Would this list even seem valid if the reigning MVP of the National Football League wasn’t featured? Although just in his 3rd year, Mahomes has established himself as a true field general. Everything from his incredible accuracy to his sheer desire to win leads us to believe he’s a potential Hall of Famer.
Adidas Freak Ultra
Apparently, sports analysts and fans aren’t the only ones with this sentiment. Mahomes joined the Adidas family when he entered the league back in 2017. Just one year later, he became a starter and went on to shred defenses and create endless highlight reels. Similar to Russel Wison, Mahomes doesn’t have a signature pair of cleats. Instead, he endorses the Adidas Freak Ultra.
Equipped with Primeknit and Boost Technology, this pair offers maximum flexibility with optimal cushioning. Simply put, Patrick Mahomes is an exciting athlete to watch. He does things on the field that, until recently, were unheard of! Last year’s performance may not have earned him a trip to the Super Bowl, but it did warrant a signature sneaker from the “three stripes.”
Adidas AM4 Showtime Mahomes
The Adidas AM4 Showtime Mahomes released September 23rd at Select Adidas retailers for $180. Mahomes’ iteration of Adidas’ most modern runner includes subtle details and branding. Black MVP text can be found draped over the forefoot. Hints of gold offset the upper and contrast well with his signature at the heel cup.
Sure he may not wear these to practice, but they have an undisputable gym/lifestyle appeal. On the other hand, let’s not rule out the possibility of Mahomes having signature cleats. The kid’s JUST GETTING STARTED!
5. JJ Watt: Reebok JJ III
When it’s all set and done, JJ Watt will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive ends ever to play the game. He’s a monster on the field and a role model in his community. With that being said, why doesn’t he have a stronger presence in the footwear industry?
To answer the question, this has a lot to do with Nike’s Exclusivity deal. Nike’s contract with the NFL prevents on-field branding from rival brands. Having signed with Reebok, JJ is unable to showcase the Reebok logo legally. While this sounds bizarre, he’s actually one of many athletes confined by the exclusivity rule.
Going unbranded seems trivial until nobody acknowledges that you’re tied to a major sportswear brand! Performance-wise we haven’t’ known Watt to have any gameday footwear issues. Unfortunately, we don’t have further details on his cleat preferences either! We did, however, think his most current signature sneaker is worth a mention.
The Reebok JJ III is now available in 3 colorways at select retailers. This versatile trainer performs well on a professional and casual level. It was designed to withstand the toughest workouts while remaining an everyday option.
By the way, feel free to browse his Instagram account to catch behind the scenes glimpses of his workouts. In each video, you’ll find Watt draped head to toe in Reebok gear! How else would we know he’s a Reebok athlete?
6. Antonio Brown: Nike Tech Trainer Antonio Brown
The Antonio Brown drama was one of the most ludicrous series of events in NFL history. Ironically, the whole situation ended as abruptly as it started. You’d be lying if you claimed to have foreseen his career-ending in this fashion.
With so much left to give to the sport, it’s unfortunate that his story has been concluded. Before his legacy came to a screeching halt, AB was a proud Nike athlete. He’d sport the latest in Nike apparel on and off the field. Typical to most athletes on this list, he has his own signature sneaker.
The Nike Tech Trainer Antonio Brown released February 5th for $100. Truthfully, the sneaker is every bit as unusual as the Superstar receiver has proven to be. The colorful floral pattern on the upper is contrasted with a gum outsole. The stretch-woven bootie provides a snug fit that adapts to any foot shape. Flex grooves on the outsole provide superior traction while allowing a more natural range of motion.
Its extremely unlikely to catch AB in any Nike advertisements, considering they dropped him last month amid sexual assault allegations. It’s hard to say whether his indefinite absence from the game makes the Nike Tech Trainer Antonio Brown more or less sought after. Is it too soon for them to be assigned historic value? Only time will tell!
What’s your favorite player endorsed footwear? Leave a comment below…
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Cover Photo Credit: Nike