Rarely do you hear about signature basketball production months in advance of its release directly from the brand. Yes, Jordan Brand is introducing the latest Air Jordan earlier than ever before to prevent leaks and you might see an athlete rock a weartest model during practice a season prior to its debut, but it’s not everyday that a whole marketing campaign is being devoted to teasing the release of a signature shoe in December and it’s only July. But that’s what James Harden and adidas Basketball are doing with Project Harden.
Introduced last week during adidas’ LVL3 event, our first look at Project Harden was through a virtual reality experience. We had several minutes to actually check out what will become Harden’s signature shoe without actually seeing it because they were either too far or moving too fast to really make out concrete details, other than it might be a fancier version of the adidas Crazylight Boost 2.5. Now a veteran sneaker blogger who also happens to write about video games for a living might chalk this up as a clever, but not completely new, way to build hype for an upcoming release, fans who are going to get a chance this see this throughout the summer are going to be blown away by this special look. It’s like they’re a part of something they’re not supposed to see, but they like it and now they’re hooked and locked in to whatever adidas and Harden have in store for them.
Let’s be honest here; adidas Basketball needed to go in a different direction. There hasn’t been that much excitement for them since before Derrick Rose’s first injury and the time in between has been about refocusing on what being an adidas athlete means. For the past several years adidas Basketball has not been up to snuff compared to what the other parts of Adidas have been doing, whether it’s adidas Running or adidas Originals or adidas Baseball and even Football. Each of those sectors lately have focused on what sneakerheads have been clamoring for; shoes that balance the line between performance and style and at same time bring in icons from both worlds. The response to Harden’s Crazylight Boost PEs says that they are moving forward.
Some experts scoff at the value of hyping up artists like Kanye West or Pharrell or Pusha T, but their influence on “the culture” (the nebulous term that I admittedly am not always up on) is broad and they attract eyes that normally don’t pay attention to an Ultra Boost or a Superstar or an EQT. When there was a giant truck full of adidas gear that rolled up at Harden’s house right around the time he officially signed with the brand last year, it was loaded with not just basketball stuff, but plenty of kicks made of off the court. Regardless of how “real” that spot was and how “surprised” Harden really was, it was a fun and casual spot that people enjoyed for what it was. Fans love that fun that adidas is bringing right now. They’re striking that balance that is hitting the consumers in the best possible light.
A few years ago, there was a wild rumor going around that Russell Westbrook was going to sign with adidas. He ended up at Jordan Brand as history would have it, but imagine Russ the controversial style icon taking things to the next level with adidas Originals. James Harden is that guy now for adidas and just like his former Thunder buddy, (ideally) he is going to change our perception of what signature basketball can be for on and off the court. The hype train for Project Harden is going to be an interesting one to watch in the coming months and the best part is you can watch the confidence yourself through those VR headsets.