How do you sell a signature shoe of a player that doesn't wear it?
It's a tough question to answer. But one shoe brand has been dealing with dilemma for almost three months now.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade hasn't yet worn the model of Converse shoes — the Wade 4 — that hit stores at the beginning of the season and his agent Henry Thomas told us that it's highly likely that the 2006 Finals MVP won't put that model on his feet for the rest of the season.
Since Nike and Michael Jordan popularized the idea of endorsing a new shoe every year, marquee players with shoe deals have gotten used to the annual tradition of changing shoes.
But sneakerheads, like "SportsBiz" reader James Martin, have been perplexed with the fact that Wade hasn't played a single game in the shoes they are selling for $90 at retail.
In a press release for the Wade 4, Wade was quoted as saying that this shoe was his lightest yet, "which keeps me agile and explosive as the clock winds down."
But the only clock winding down is the one referring to whether Wade will actually ever wear those kicks in a game this season.
Thomas confirmed to us that his client is playing in the Wade 1's and not the 4's.
"He wears the 1's because he really liked them," Thomas said. "And Given that he was playing in the Olympics, he was preoccupied this past summer, so he didn't have the chance that he and Converse wanted to get used to his new shoes."
Thomas says there is a difference in the way the shoe feels and that Wade is more sensitive to changes in his shoes because of the issues he has had with his left knee.
We didn't expect the folks at Converse, who didn't immediately get back to us, to tell us about the fact that Wade wasn't wearing the shoe they built for him, but we think we know how they are rectifying it. (*UPDATE: Converse sent us a response, please below*)
Word is that the brand is re-releasing the Wade 1's in different styles starting next month.
That might have to do with the fact that the Wade 4's clearly aren't selling well.
This year, Sales of Wade's shoes are off about 50 percent compared to sales last year, according to Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, a sports market retail tracking firm.
Converse and Wade got off to a great start. Although he was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, the shoe companies, including Nike -- which now owns Converse -- and Adidas skipped over him. His $400,000 a year deal was a paltry sum compared to what LeBron James ($13 million per year) and Carmelo Anthony ($3 million per year) made from Nike.
But he made that up when Converse re-signed him, before the championship year, through the 2011-12 season at a significant bump.
His big star power was deflated when he missed parts of seasons due to shoulder and knee injuries. That, along with the decline of the Heat's performance, has cooled the demand for Wade's shoes.
And while we are to shoe dilemmas, how about the one New York Knicks Stephon Marbury is giving us? His $14.98 shoe once sold by the defunct Steve & Barry's will now be hitting Amazon.com, according to the New York Post.
Marbury, of course, hasn't played this year because of his squabbles with the team, but the shoes are still cheap and actually surprisingly comfortable.
UPDATE: Converse just sent us this statement:
"We are fully aware that Dwyane Wade is currently not wearing the WADE 4 during Heat games. Dwyane has very specific footwear needs that help him perform at his intense level of play. Based on his evolving needs, we work with Dwyane to make sure his footwear is comfortable for his feet. This does not reflect, in any way, the performance level of the WADE 4 being sold at retail. Converse has created a high-performance basketball shoe that we believe will exceed basketball players' expectations. Dwyane continues to wear Converse product on the court as we look forward to our continued relationship with one of the NBA's top players.
The WADE 1 will be re-released in limited pairs in Dwyane's on-court black/red/white colorway in April 2009."
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