Commentary

Nike's Kipchoge Puts Best Foot Forward; LeBron Scores With 13

It was the best of times for Nike sponsorships yesterday, despite a potentially disastrous flap over a pair of malfunctioning running shoes. 

On the day that Nike launched its LeBron 13 basketball shoe with a contemporary variation of an old-fashioned pep rally in LeBron James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio, Eliud Kipchoge won the Berlin Marathon with a personal best time of 2 hours 4 minutes and 1 second despite a very noticeable problem with his new running shoes.

“Wayward insoles cost Eliud Kipchoge a chance to break a world record,” reads the lede on the Associated Press’ story. Kipchoge says he felt there was a problem from the first kilometer of the race. By the 16th, the insoles were sipping out the back and at the finish they were flopping outside the heels.

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“As he has done in previous races, Eliud was testing a prototype racing flat which we’ve been working on together for several months,” Nike spokesman T.J. Crawford tells the Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano. “As with any prototype, elements can sometimes go wrong. On this occasion, the sockliner didn’t work. As in all innovation, we will learn quickly from mistakes.”

“Despite acknowledging that he ‘could have run faster,’ Kipchoge laid no fault with his sponsor for his footwear issues,” writes the AP’s Ciaran Fahey.

“I tested the shoe, I tested many pairs of Nike. I think this shoe is the best shoe ever. The shoe is good,” the 30-year-old Kipchoge said. “The sole was not glued. I used the same pair in Kenya and it was good.”

Meanwhile, at the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall, Nike unveiled the LeBron 13, which is due out  Oct. 10 for $200, before a crowd of about 2,000 people Sunday night.  

“Nike calls such events a shoe ‘launch,’ but no one left campus with a new pair of LeBron kicks,” writes Joe Vardon on Cleveland.com. “Instead, the lighter, sleeker, maroon-colored pro-type shoe was unveiled as part of an evening-long pep rally of sorts, fully equipped with Cavs' two dance teams, master of ceremonies at The Q Ahmaad Crump, a disc jockey, a slam poet, NBA TV's Kristen Ledlow, and James.”

The event was broadcast live on Twitter’s Periscope platform. No other video of the event appears to be on the Internet, but Patrick Johnson covered it live on Sneakernews.com’s Twitter feed (@SneakerNews). 

“The bottom heel of every shoe has the words ‘LeBron James’ and ‘Akronite’ molded on the hexpad cushion,” reports Paula Schleis for the Akron Beacon Journal and comparing the event more to a “movie premier-style event” opening than a pep rally. 

“Before taking the stage at 7 p.m., James and Nike project manager Kevin Dodson met with media to explain the evolution of James’ latest footwear. The news conference mimicked a broadcast talk show, with NBA TV personality Kristen Ledlow interviewing James and Dodson,” writes Schleis.

“The 18-month idea-to-market process begins with ‘just listening’ to James’ vision, Dodson said. ‘What are the innovations we want to get out there? What are the stories we want to bring’ to his line.”

There’s a YouTube video touting the features — “zone impact protection”; integrated asymmetrical lacing — and tagline: “Built for Explosiveness.”

“The Lebron 13 design inspiration reflects James’s hometown roots in Akron, Ohio, according to the Nike release, replete with pictures showing the shoe from every which angle.  “Unique elements to each colorway come to life in five locations on each shoe: tongue top, tongue embellishment, heel tab, Swoosh graphic and inside heel. Additional nods to James come through specific details in each colorway, including outsole elements and a LeBron logo on the toe and heel tab.”

Meanwhile, back in Berlin, which is known as a fast marathon course, Kipchoge was not ruffled by the mishap despite his discomfort and failure to reach his goal for the day.

“When you run without soles, there is a lot of impact. There was a lot of pain with every step,” Kipchoge said, Reuters reports. “The world record was really my aim but it was not my day for it,” Kipchoge said, who was more than a minute off the record pace. “But I ran a personal best and I am happy and I will come back next year for it.”

The shoe may have come unglued but the Nike spokesman clearly didn’t.

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