Boxing is not on the list of sports in which we see prominent athletic shoe sponsorships — or really much in the way of prominent apparel deals in general. That’s not to say there are no such deals to be found. But for a sport with well-known celebrity athletes who have very much established their own personal brands, it’s a little bit unusual that we don’t see major shoe deals.
Typically in sports in which athletes are visible and known, these kinds of apparel deals do materialize. Countless professional basketball and soccer players are attached to specific sponsors if not their own signature shoes and lines of clothing. The same can be said of many in tennis and golf. Even in professional baseball — regular shoes and apparel aren’t part of the actual sport — stars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter have in the past dipped into athletic shoe marketing. There really isn’t a counterpart in boxing.
The obvious name to consider where this subject is concerned would be Floyd Mayweather, who is certainly a big enough celebrity to have secured most any sponsorship he wanted. Mayweather’s refusal to remain exclusive to a single apparel sponsor, however, kept him from becoming the same kind of brand ambassador as his counterparts in world sport.
Maybe that’s the whole story; if Mayweather didn’t become a major apparel and athletic shoe ambassador, how or why would another boxer? But that ultimately seems a little simplistic, and there may be other explanations as well.
One may be that the idea of a boxer marketing athletic shoes comes with a little bit of a disconnect. Boxers wear special shoes to fight, and thus wouldn’t be able to showcase their own sponsored and/or signature items for, say, Nike or Adidas, while actually competing. One could imagine this being less than ideal for the apparel companies in question.
At the same time, there is still a lifestyle aspect to brand representation that could be played up with boxing. Just this past summer, a collaboration for “fashion-leaning fitness” was established between Staud and New Balance. It was primarily presented as an apparel and accessory collection, but was also described as having been inspired by tennis and boxing outfitting and lifestyles. And while the apparel was the main focus, the Staud x New Balance shoes from the summer-friendly collection, generated some buzz as well. They are not “boxing shoes,” so to speak, but they do demonstrate how a major apparel brand can release shoes tied to the sport. One would think a prominent boxer attaching his or her name to them would only benefit both parties, as well as intrigue fans.
Another reason might be that beyond Mayweather (and to an extent Manny Pacquiao) the stars of modern boxing simply aren’t big enough for major shoes brands to latch onto. To a dedicated boxing fan that might sound absurd, if not vaguely insulting to the sport. But the average sports fan — or for that matter the average consumer — might not be able to name a professional boxer today.
Even if this has been the case at times though, it may be changing.
The prominence of the Paul brothers as modern influencer-slash-boxers is becoming impossible to deny, and however boxing purists may feel about it, it is likely to bring more mainstream attention to the sport. And or that matter, the biggest names in the actual sport have also been gaining popularity in recent years. In 2019, for instance, rankings of the most famous athletes placed two heavyweights — Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury — in the top 40. Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, and Pacquiao also earned places in the top 100. Those rankings suggest boxing stars may be more marketable than we assume.
Then again, it may all just come down to simple market analysis. It may be that the major apparel brands have considered the matter, run their numbers, and determined it’s not in their best interests to put money into signature shoes or general shoe deals with boxing stars.
All in all though it’s getting easier to envision such a deal working out, and if major boxers started promoting their own athletic shoes, we’d be here for it.