When Korn first exploded onto the scene in the mid-90’s, they not only sounded like nothing people had heard before, but they also looked uniquely different from their heavy metal peers.
Rather than donning the standard black shirt and camo attire of metal yore, the band opted instead for a flashy Adidas tracksuit wardrobe that was more RUN-D.M.C. than Deicide.
The look would soon become synonymous with the band, so much so that they famously penned the song A.D.I.D.A.S. on 1996’s Life Is Peachy LP (a cheeky acronym about sex obsession that gave a big wink to just how much they had become associated with the German sports brand).
While it might sound incredibly silly now, it was a big deal to the nu metal elite when Korn ditched their famous Adidas look for the Follow the Leader album cycle, very much like when Metallica cut their locks off when Load dropped.
So what caused the controversial jumpsuit switcharoo? Respect and money. Per Jonathan Davis, Korn approached Adidas about a proper brand sponsorship deal given the insane amount of sales they were driving for the sports brand organically:
“Get this shit… their reply was ‘Adidas is a sports company. We do sports, not music.’ I would look out into the crowd and see all these kids wearing Adidas shit at our shows, but they couldn’t do anything for us. Then you’ve got Kanye West and all these other people with their own [custom] shoes [in the years since]. What the flying fuck?!”
Understandably, Korn was open to other competitive suitors, and Puma came a knocking at the right time:
“We switched to Puma because they told us they’d put us in a commercial and give us a little money to wear their shit. We were just like, ’Fuck yeah! That’s more than Adidas ever did for us!’ It wasn’t a sell-out thing. It was about respect.”
So, how much did Korn get paid by Puma to stop wearing Adidas?
Korn reportedly received $500,000 for the deal in 1998. When you adjust for inflation, that would equal roughly $1 million today. That might not seem like a crazy figure when compared to today’s billion-dollar Yeezy collabs. But back then, it was substantial. Especially for a band that sounded like Korn. And in totality, the deal was worth a hell of a lot more than the initial check.
Puma included the band in massive commercials and ad campaigns as part of the deal. Per a 1999 press release, Korn got some pretty substantial mainstream promotion from the sports brand:
“We think Korn is a perfect fit between our campaign and the hardcore consumer market. The first three spots featuring Korn will debut during the Super Bowl XXXIII pre-game show on Fox on Sunday (Jan. 31).”
In 1999, a Super Bowl ad cost $2.1 million. Korn got 3 of them.
So, to understand the true holistic value of the deal, when you factor in the earned media component, you’re looking at what equated to essentially a $7 million dollar plus opportunity for the nu metal messiahs. Not too shabby.