Written by Nick Santora (@classickicksnyc)
The first sneaker contract in recorded history was signed on June 14, 1923. The Converse Rubber Shoe Company endorsed an Indiana basketball star by the name of Chuck Taylor and his signature has remained on the side of those iconic sneakers for the past ninety years.
Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s there were many professional athletes representing companies like Converse, Pro-Keds and adidas, but it would still be a few more years before another “signature” shoe was issued to an athlete. adidas began putting Robert Haillet’s name on the side of their white leather tennis shoes, until it was replaced with Stan Smith in 1971. Another sneaker milestone occurred the same year when the NBA received its first signature shoe thanks to adidas and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.
Sneaker marketing has changed drastically since the old days, but the athlete endorsement has remained the same. Athletic shoes are only as good as how they perform. Many of us will never dunk from the foul line or win The Masters, but we have all closed our eyes and lived vicariously through our heroes. As kids we believe that if our parents buy us the same equipment the pros wear, that we’re also one step closer to becoming a legend.
With the amount of images and information coming at us these days through our televisions, computers and smart phones, it has become hard to separate the credible authorities from the paid bloggers. In the world of performance footwear though, not much changes. A sneaker company’s entire image depends entirely on the success of the athletes who wear it.
Some are historically significant while others are monetarily impressive, but they’re all landmarks in the evolution of athletic footwear sponsorships. This list will highlight the Top 50 most important sneaker endorsements of all-time.