adidas, you got a Messi problem.
Take a quick look at the adidas Exhibit Pack and you’ll notice one big difference. Instead of advertising his own specific colourway, Messi is instead spotted with a regular Nemeziz colourway.
After a long struggle, it seems like adidas has (finally) dropped the idea of a Messi specific boot, or at least transitioned it to a more limited run. Unlike what Cristiano Ronaldo has done for Nike and the Mercurial series, Lionel Messi seems to be unable to replicate his on field success for adidas off it. You don’t even need to look at the stats for that – just ask any 10-18 year old if they’d rather wear Ronaldo’s boots or Messi’s boots and you have your answer.
What’s Wrong With The Messi Boots?
Starting with the obvious, the Messi Boots just haven’t been that good from a performance standpoint. The Messi 15.1 had a ridiculous ‘cage’ around the boot that only made the boot bulky. The Messi 16.1 was slightly better, but never felt special or ground-breaking and was easily overshadowed by the superb X16+ PureChaos.
Despite transitioning to personalised colourways after the launch of the adidas Nemeziz 17.1, the general sentiment remained. The idea of an ‘agility’ boot had many overlaps with the X series, which muddled the identity of the boot. Once the hype of the TorsionTape system went away, the Nemeziz silo was doomed, and so was the Messi Nemeziz boots. While I don’t have the official numbers, the fact that the Nemeziz silo is often on sale while the X series rarely has any sizes left allows for educated guesses.
Further compounding this is the fact that Messi rarely wears the boots he advertises. As far back as 2008, Messi was already spotted wearing the adidas F30, instead of the F50+. This continued throughout his time with the F50 adizero where he’d add stitching patterns or soleplate changes.
It was especially problematic with the Nemeziz 18.1, where he had a customised burrito tongue instead of the one-piece upper found on retail models. In one fell swoop Messi killed the hype of the torsion tape one-piece upper and the Nemeziz concept.
The biggest obstacle the Messi brand faces, is Messi himself. Notoriously low-key and introverted, Messi doesn’t grab attention or headlines as naturally as Ronaldo does. And neither does he want to.
Most of the headlines Messi generates are usually related to on-pitch performance and not some party, or a new dance move on his Insta-Story. A great role model for all young athletes out there, but an obstacle to generating hype or buzz from a marketing standpoint.
Considering that adidas has a lifetime contract with Messi, any difficulty in pushing out Messi related products is a huge problem.
How Nike Markets Their Athlete Collaborations
Lionel Messi isn’t the only player to have received his own line of boots. After giving him 2 signature colourways of the Tiempo Legend 2, Nike created the Nike R10 Legend for the World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho Gaucho in 2006. This was followed up in 2008 with the Ronaldinho Dois.
It featured rubber tipped studs which Ronaldinho favoured for futsal styled moves, a shallow lacing system and quilted K-leather to create a larger forefoot for Ronaldinho to do his tricks. Crucially, both boots felt tailored to Ronaldinho’s every requirement.
In contrast, the Messi 16.1 could only boast the Gambatrax soleplate and little else.
And then of course, we have Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently concluded his Chapter 7 series signature boots from Nike. Sure, Nike had a history of giving Ronaldo signature colourways but the Chapter series had the extra element of a nice over arching story. It spanned 7 chapters, each with a unique design and story plastered on an existing line of boots – the Mercurial Superfly. The series also came with its own line of clothing wear and equipment.
While Messi’s understated personality may mean that he prefers not to commit to the commercial work required for a full line of clothing wear or equipment, adidas can definitely do better on the colourway front. Messi colourways can often seem random or just boring colour blocks. Just take a look at his Nemeziz 18.1 colourways and contrast them with the Ronaldo Chapter series.
Saving The Messi Brand
The easy answer of course is to adapt what adidas are currently doing with the Paul Pogba collection, where they release a new signature colourway and apparel range every 6 months. But as previously mentioned, Messi prefers to be involved in less PR commitments.
Here’s what I’d do instead.
Firstly, enough of this agility nonsense and put Messi back in the adidas X18.1. The X18.1 has a unique lacing system that creates a large clean surface area on the outstep, perfectly fitting Messi’s dribbling style which relies on small touches with the outside of his boots.
Next, if hype for Messi’s boots is the problem, why not let someone else create the hype instead? With the rise in popularity of the ath-leisure range why not tap on this trend to complement the Messi brand?
Nike tied up with Virgil Abloh to create bespoke Mercurial Vapor 12 Elite x Off-White boots. French star Kylian Mbappe was also given a bespoke pair of Mercurial Superfly 6 x Off-White, which was never released for sale. As with most Off-White products, the boots flew off the shelf and are still high on the lists of most collectors.
adidas also has an arsenal (pun intended) of highly regarded designers in their ranks, but just for simplicity’s sake, imagine a Messi x Yeezy X18.1. The Football GOAT teaming up with the GOAT in Rock Music (his words, not ours).
Kanye West maybe a polarising figure, but there’s no denying that his ability to generate hype. Despite him increasing the production numbers of the Yeezy 350s, they continue to sell out within hours of release.
A collaboration that taps on the strengths of both stars – Kanye generating the hype off the field, while Messi weaves his magic on it. Slap the upper on an Ultraboost or the Yeezy 350 Boost sole and watch them sneakers fly off the shelf as well.
You’re welcome adidas. Just drop me a pair of the Messi x Yeezy X18.1 and Messi Boost 350 when they’re out.