Culture

Top Fives: Sneaker Campaigns Curated By Sneaker Freaker's Woody

19 October 2021

Celebrating the art of sneaker advertisements, Sneaker Freaker's Simon "Woody" Wood share his top five ads from "Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising".

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
A monolithic tome celebrating the history and art of sneaker advertisements from the past century, "Soled Out: The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising" sees Sneaker Freaker's Simon "Woody" Wood lead us down the rabbit hole of vintage ads for classic silhouettes and fan favourites.

Throughout the ages, sneaker brands have utilised star-studded campaigns, catchy slogans and cultural references to market their latest models to the masses, capturing the imaginations of sneakerheads, athletes and casual lifestyle consumers alike with memorable moments and eye-catching visuals.

Taking us through the golden era of sneakers, Woody offers a 720-page book published by Phaidon in honour of the art of the sneaker advertisements of the past. A tribute to the plethora of creatives who laid the groundwork for the multi-billion dollar sneaker industry that continues to grow and evolve, "Soled Out" apotheosises the advert and its own individual charm.

Sharing his top five sneaker advertisements, Woody dives deeper each individual campaign - from the iconic "Who Said Man Was Not Meant to Fly" by Air Jordan to ASICS' infamous trash talking campaign, "Just Doing It Doesn't Do It".

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
WHO SAID MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO FLY | AIR JORDAN 1

"The Air Jordan 1 is as official as it gets, which makes it surprising that this is the only ad we’ve seen that celebrates the rookie release from the greatest basketballer of all time. The fact that it doesn’t even show His Airness throws up some intriguing possibilities, but there’s no denying the simplicity and graceful power of a pair of Jays flying thorough the Air and off the page, above a sparse Superman-inspired headline. Some 35 years since it hit the hardwood, the original Air Jordan is still the foundation of Nike’s ruthless domination of the basketball category."

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
NOW THERE'S AN AIR SUSPENSION FOR EVERY SIZE BUDGET | RANGE ROVER X NIKE AIR MAX 93

"American muscle cars and exotic European supercars are intuitively designed to look fast even when they’re standing still, so it’s no surprise the link with sneakers was made explicit in several memorable campaigns. This random contribution to the canon arrived courtesy of Range Rover, who incorporated Nike’s new Air Max runner into the promotion of their top-of-the-line County LWB model. The copy could have come straight from the new Apple Mac Performas whizzing away at Wieden+Kennedy, Nike’s advertising agency, though it did lack a touch of their trademark pizzazz. Phil Knight must have been chuffed with the comparison between his $75 sneakers and the luxurious English off-roader."

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
JUST DOING IT DOESN'T DO IT | ASICS

"The first Air Max ads played on the futuristic ‘Shock’ value of Tinker Hatfield’s groundbreaking design, and the immediate response from Nike’s competitors betrayed how acutely conscious they were of Air technology. ASICS tried to fight back by lampooning Air as being inferior to their own GEL cushioning. They also rolled out an entire series laced with smack-talk like ‘Just Doing It Doesn’t Do It’ and ‘Air VS Air Conditioning’, which features the Nike Windrunner above the ASICS GT-COOL. Today, GEL is still a very big deal at ASICS, but these Nike-baiting ads are a literal legacy of an era when brands were not afraid to call each other out."

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
TWO WAYS TO GO TO COURT | NIKE FRANCHISE

"Aside from a Converse All Star appearing in a Nike print ad, there’s way more going on in ‘Two Ways to Go to Court’ than first meets the eye. The battle between both brands at this time was explosive to put it mildly. As detailed by Phil Knight in his brilliant book Shoe Dog, a nondescript letter he received in the late 1970s was actually a $25 million invoice for import duties, which would have bankrupted his young company. The sneaker business was bareknuckle tough and Knight laid the blame squarely on political machinations instigated by his rivals at Converse. After intense lobbying and a costly legal battle, the case was settled. Fast forward to 2003, when Converse is acquired by Nike for $305 million. Today, Converse turn over $2 billion, making the deal an absolute bargain. Phil Knight has a famously long memory and this surely must have been the ultimate payback!"

Phaidon Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising - 9781838663674
I WANT I CAN | ADIDAS TORSION

"No doubt about it, adidas knocked the ‘I Want I Can’ campaign for Torsion out of the park in 1989. The 10-strong (at least) series features unknown athletes alongside a steely-eyed Grete Waitz, the brilliant Norwegian marathon runner, but what really made these ads pop was the Warhol-esque visual treatment. Curiously, the fine print included a sign-off that was polite and a little downbeat: ‘If you really want it, you can’ was a somewhat limp riposte to the world-famous ‘Just Do It’. The fact that these Torsion ads still look fresh all these years later is a testament to the unique creativity of the unknown design team. Bravo!"

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