Late last year, adidas made the announcement that it had appointed Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo to lead the creative and business strategy of its basketball category. It was an unprecedented move that sent shock waves around the sporting world, but it also indicated a directional shift in sport marketing. So, is this a move that could be replicated by adidas in football? If so, they already have a tailor-made individual to step into the role…

The move to bring a character like Jerry Lorenzo into the adidas fold, guiding the direction of its basketball franchise, should not be underestimated. This is a clear indication that the brand is aware of the shifting dynamics within the sport and how its influence reaches across categories, creatives, and communities alike. But not only do they understand this evolving shift, they’ve also acted upon it. And with the worlds of football and basketball sharing so many similarities over recent years, both in terms of influence and popularity, as well as the merging of the sports in more and more instances, should adidas be eyeing up a creative for a similar role in their football category?

Over the last few years, football has expanded well beyond the white-lined borders of its pitches, crossing into other arenas for what has fast become a well-appreciated and in-demand cross pollination of cultures. It has led to a significant change in the way football is marketed, with the approach evolving with the times and adapting to become more like basketball in the way that it’s so much more than just the 90 minutes on the pitch – we’re no longer solely talking about Saturday afternoons, scarves, shirts, a pie and a pint (although that tradition will never be lost on us).

As much as football has opened its arms to embrace influence from other sports, the music industry or even the world of fashion, it’s a two-way door, with football culture becoming more and more apparent on the street, the stage and even the catwalks of fashion capitals across the globe. A large reason for that is the influence that the beautiful game has had on the leading characters in these arenas; young boys and girls who kicked balls about, dreaming of growing up to be the stars of the big leagues of the world, but for whom life held a different path. So when brands are looking for new avenues in this ever-evolving world, why not tap into this well of creativity, utilising the skill set of people with an existing passion for football?

The brand has shown an appetite for the game, having created several collaborations that don't just show their energy for the sport but their ambition to change the direction of football and create something beautifully new"

Founded in 2010, Los Angeles streetwear boutique 424 – who are widely recognised for their cutting-edge creations that are born out of a love of fashion, lifestyle and art – already have a real connection with the game – and it’s not just through founder Guillermo Andrade’s deep-rooted love of football. The brand has shown an appetite for the game, having created several collaborations that don't just show their energy for the sport but their ambition to change the direction of football and create something beautifully new. It’s an approach that has already seen them share space with adidas, as well as Hummel Hive, and more recently with Arsenal, with the brand becoming the club's official formal wear partner in a two-year deal that kicked off in 2019.

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Each of these collaborations show something invitingly refreshing in the world of football. The brand’s work with Hummel spanned three separate collections and was authentically fashion-football focused, blending football silhouettes with a forward-looking approach based in the world of street-style. The very fact they were able to get Wilfried Zaha – a player notoriously difficult to access – on-board for the third collection was a sign of the high regard that the coming together represented. And this simply highlights the other avenues that 424’s involvement in anything would open up; after all, the brand already boasts a fanbase that counts Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd, and Wiz Khalifa to name but a few, among its ever-growing numbers.

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Through all of this, you can’t underestimate the part of Guillermo Andrade himself. One of the most influential figures in modern streetwear, it was his friendship with Hector Bellerin that directly led to the partnership with Arsenal. The approach of that collection was new for both tailoring and football, taking traditional fashion and beautifully messing it up for the contemporary crowd. While it was minimalist, it had a massive impact and again elevated Arsenal's brand to the point where the thinking becomes why don't 424 put their touch across all Arsenal elements and completely re-set the Arsenal brand? Imagine the possibilities… with their close relationship with the club, adidas must’ve been taking notice…

The adidas Originals collab that debuted last year put 424’s head above water in a different way and brought football/sportswear together with fashion with perfect precision. It was top end, inspiring, nostalgic, and a clever play on archive, but above all, it was bespoke and new. It showed how you can pay homage while moving entirely into focusing on a new generation, and it was further evidence of the possibilities of this type of partnership.

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When hints of Andrade’s work with adidas extending into a more football-specific arena surfaced with a possible Predator creation popping up in early 2020, hype levels hit an all-time high. Sadly, nothing has yet come of that hint (likely due to the global situation over the last 12 months), with the Predator now marching on into its next generation with the launch of the “Freak”, but it suggests that 424’s relationship with adidas Football is there and that the German brand is only too willing to hand over the creative reigns to Andrade, at least in some capacity. We can only hope that this one is picked up again in the future.

So in the footballing sense, Andrade has already shown what he’s capable of through his work with Arsenal, leaving us to imagine what he could achieve with clubs all over the planet, from Orlando Pirates to 1. FC Union Berlin. This could be the Human Race collection expanded to a whole new level, with a completely fresh perspective. The possibilities of that creative freedom are mouth-wateringly endless.

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What adidas need to realise though is that they currently do not have an exclusive claim to 424. Indeed, Andrade has even tinkered with the Swoosh in the past, creating a bespoke Mercurial Superfly 360 at the Nike By You Football Workshop in Los Angeles back in 2018, and Nike are certainly not averse to allowing creative talents loose on their collections. But the relationship with adidas is already established, and the Three Stripes need to take advantage of that, tying 424 down and giving them the authority to take their football output in an all-new and exciting direction; one where the beautiful game opens its arms to embrace and celebrate the combination of cultures that represents the future of the sport.


Adidas, make it happen...