Nelly is taking credit for Nike’s shoe sales for his 2002 hit “Air Force Ones” about the classic basketball shoe, and even told fellow rapper’s to thank him for paving the way for deals they may have with the athletic clothing outfitter.
Earlier this week, the 47-year-old rapper told Complex that his song “opened Nike’s eyes to a lot of that” in reference to rapper’s getting sneaker deals, and added “at the time (20 years ago), they weren’t doing it.”
“Everybody that got Nike shoe deals need to be thanking us right now,” the St. Louis native said during a recent episode of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping. “We opened Nike’s eyes to a lot of that. At that time, they weren’t doing it. They were basically on some ‘they’re gon’ win regardless.’”
Nelly’s Hit 2002 Song About Classic Nike Sneaker Led To Sponsorship, Ambassador Deals With The Brand
The hit single, which celebrated the classic Nike shoe – the first shoe to ever make use of Nike’s Air technology – quickly became synonymous with the St. Louis native with the company eventually sponsoring part of his Nellyville Tour and giving him a “limited” brand ambassador deal.
The song ended up peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was included in the 2003 film “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.” Just a few years after the song’s release, Nike reported that it had sold more than 12 million pairs of the Air Force Ones in 2005 alone.
Nelly Says “Air Force Ones” Song Helped To Drive Nike Sales, Begin The Brand’s Partnership With Hip-Hop
According to Nelly, the publicity from the hit single was the genesis of Nike’s ongoing partnership with hip-hop, which caused the prices of the shows to nearly double in the course of less than a year following the release of the song.
He added that “we ain’t get no residuals,” either.
“When we first started rocking Air Force Ones, they were $59.99. We did the song. Eight months later, they were $100 […] and we ain’t get no residuals,” he said.
As of September 2022, classic white Air Force Ones sell for $110.
In 2017, Kendrick Lamar started his sneaker journey with Reebok but moved to Nike for an ongoing partnership. Wu Tang also has a shoe deal with Nike, the Rolling Stone reports.Nelly is set to get the “I Am Hip-Hop Award” at the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards for all of his accomplishments throughout his career.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Kanye West, Cardi B and Pharrell have all had partnerships with Adidas, with Eminem, Drake and DJ Khaled having sneaker deals with Jordan.
Run DMC similarly has a deal with Adidas, likely the result of their 1986 hit song “My Adidas.”
“Air Force 1” Sneaker Along Earns Nike Over $800 Million Per Year Along, As Rapper Takes Credit For Sales
In legal documents filed by Nike last year against several custom shoemakers, the athletic clothing outfitter said the “Air Force 1 shoe remains incredibly popular and has maintained sales in excess of $800 million per year.”
That equals out to around $300 million in profit off of that single sneaker every year.
Last year, Nike’s Air Force 1 was the best-selling sneaker in the world, making it the second year in a row it’s held the top spot, according to Sneaker Freaker.
The Shade Room reported that Nelly split with partner Shantel Jackson last year, after Jackson shared that she and Nelly decided to call it quits after seven years together.
He had previously dated Ashanti for about ten years before the two broke up in 2014.