Mike Trout, just 22, is widely considered the best player in MLB. Our friends at For The Win have postulated that Trout could become the all-time greatest player in baseball.
His singular ability has been recognized by, among others, Nike, which recently made him the first baseball player in 20 years to have his own signature cleat with the swoosh.
His on-field achievements warrant a cleat and probably much more, but it remains to be seen if Trout is charismatic enough to carry this shoe, or be a successful individual marketing brand.
The last Nike athlete to have his own baseball cleat was Ken Griffey Jr, one of the “coolest” athletes of all time. Griffey was so popular that Michael Jordan, yes that Michael Jordan, once asked Griffey for his autograph.
Griffey oozed charisma. Trout may come off as dry. Canadian columnist Cathal Kelly perhaps put it best when he wrote of Trout that “his greatness lies in doing everything predictably well. He is metronomic in his excellence, which makes him just a little bit boring.”
Making this move more dumbfounding is the product itself. The cleats look nice enough, but there exists a very specific and limited market for baseball cleats. Basketball shoes are worn by individuals from all walks of life at different times; they’re not just limited to the hardwood. It’s not surprising that Nike hasn’t had a player baseball cleat in over 20 years. They are only worn by baseball players, so there is a limited market. It doesn’t make sense to put the same amount of effort and marketing resources behind Mike Trout’s cleats versus Kyrie Irving’s basketball shoes. Irving’s new kicks might be worn by a high school freshman point guard as well as a non-athlete trying to impress someone. Trout’s cleats will only touch the diamond.
Nike didn’t even give Derek Jeter, one of the most popular American athletes in recent memory, his own signature cleat. He did have a baseball shoe, but it was Jordan-branded, not his own. So if the message Nike is sending is that the great but sometimes dull Mike Trout is better marketing material than the Captain, they might be flawed in their thought process.