Sneakers Tell Stories Vol. 13

By: Charlie Green

Michael Ehrlich’s Ultra Boost

How do you know what you’re meant to do in this life?  If you’re extremely lucky, it’s just always been clear to you, from as early as you can remember.  Michael Ehrlich loved sports, athletes and footwear, and knew very early on that his life and career would integrate these in some capacity.  Born in New York and raised in California, he attended a school with a strict uniform policy.  From the 4th to the 8th grade, Michael wore the same look – a green jacket, white collared shirt and grey corduroys – every day.  He recalls how important shoes became to him and his peers, being the only fashion statement they could make at school. Michael opted for basketball shoes, which were a popular choice because kids could play at recess and still “look good in the hallways.”  He remembers that most exciting day of the month like it was yesterday.  The Eastbay catalog would arrive in the mail and he would read it cover to cover, circling and starring the shoes he liked in hopes that his parents would know what to do when the holiday season came around (every once in a while they caught his drift).  He consumed all there was to learn about each silhouette, understanding the technology and design.  “That process really shaped my passion and love for sneakers and the sports brand industry overall.”  One could say that passion has blossomed into something special, as Michael is now the Director of Public Relations at adidas, overseeing all US communication across sport and style.

Like many sneaker enthusiasts, Michael’s preference and collection have expanded beyond basketball kicks to include runners.  The most meaningful pair in his closet right now are his adidas Ultra Boosts and of the 20 plus pairs he has, the OG colorway is his favorite.  “From a comfort level it’s unmatched,  and aesthetically it’s perfect for me..”  Ultra Boosts were originally positioned as a running shoe when they hit the market in 2015, but they have since become a lifestyle phenomenon as well.  Michael, who admittedly doesn’t enjoy running on its own, says he wears them most days of the week.  They’re his go-to travel shoe, and for someone who can go months at a time without spending 5 straight days in the office, his Ultras have been all over the world.  He wishes he had two pairs of each colorway.  “You know how people say ‘save it for a rainy day’?  I wish I had a pair to save for a sunny day.”  Good luck, living in Portland!

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There is another element that makes Ultra Boosts particularly meaningful to Michael.  Even before Michael started working for adidas six years ago, he was working at the brand’s PR agency promoting their brand.  Having been involved with adidas for so long, he had participated in countless release and launch events.  Yet, he distinctly remembers the release event for Boost in NYC.  “We have so many different launch events, as so many of the brands do, but this one felt different; it felt bigger.”  It felt bigger because the momentum that has turned into a full-blown runaway locomotive began here.  Michael remembers the buzz when he and his coworkers experienced Boost for the first time internally.  “Everyone was incredibly excited about the technology, the innovation and the design, and more than anything the creative partners that the brand was going to be working with in the future.”  One of their biggest PR moments was when Kanye West was spotted rocking a pair during NBA All-Star weekend in New York, prior to his own Yeezy Boost 750 launch.  Michael and his team have sustained the powerful momentum that developed during that winter and we all are excited about the future of adidas and Boost.  The OG Ultra boost represents a “moment” for the adidas brand, and for Michael, as he has invested so much into its success.

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With the emergence of social media, the distance between brand and consumer has vanished.  The access that is created by that vacancy, Michael believes, is very much the future of PR.  “The fusion of traditional editorial and modern social media continues to grow stronger.  Combining both functions will continue to be the trend.”  Michael’s job is to leverage the next generation of influencers and to introduce them to what adidas has to offer.  Today, everyone with a smartphone and access to Wi-Fi is their own news source.  “This is an exciting opportunity as a brand, whether you are a global sports brand or an influencer trying to build your personal brand.”  In many ways, Michael’s work takes place in the future, predicting the direction of the industry and keeping adidas on the cutting edge.  “We’re not thinking and looking towards 2016, we’re looking at next season and next year and beyond.  A few years ago, you could see the opportunities in the future and the possibilities of the brand momentum.”  What a job he and adidas have done with their crystal ball, and what an influential movement to be a part of.

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As the athletic footwear industry changes, so does the definition of the customer.  Michael isn’t a typical sneakerhead.  Where some sneaker enthusiasts hesitate in a moment of paranoia (Will it rain?  Will they get scuffed?  Is there a piece of dog sh*t out there with my name on it?), Michael has purpose.  “When I get a pair of sneakers, I wear them.”   He has never subscribed to sneakerhead mantras such as, “one to rock and one to stock.”  His enjoyment comes from putting them on the street, not keeping them in a box or sitting on a mantle somewhere.  And unlike many current sneakerheads, Michael sees no point in re-selling shoes either.  “I don’t have any interest in waiting in line to get a pair shoes and then flip them.  I want them for me!  That defeats the whole purpose of getting the pair of shoes.”  His job has also had an impact on his sneaker-enthusiast mentality.  Sneakers are more accessible to him now than they have ever been.  There is an employee store on campus in Portland, which he admits can be both a gift and a curse.  Even with the perks, Michael hasn’t lost the excitement that comes with a new pair of kicks.

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“Any time you can do something in an industry that you are passionate about and really love it’s obviously going to help you and continue to inspire you every day.”  Michael sees his role as empowering and inspiring people to express themselves.  And it’s not just about work for Michael, it’s personal, too.  He loves introducing Boost technology to his friends and family.  Getting them to try on a pair and “actually seeing the comfort on their face” is truly priceless for him because he believes so wholeheartedly in the product.  The belief in the brand and its potential reached its peak during his trip to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  “Representing the US from a storytelling perspective and living with my counterparts from all over the world in all of our markets; Germany, China, England, France, Latin America, etc..  We were all gathered together with the common goal of being the most talked about brand at the World Cup.”  I think the young Michael reading Eastbay would be in awe of the guy representing one of the world’s most popular footwear brands at the world’s most popular sporting event, in the country that grew and developed the game.  Proof that childhood dreams can come true.

Do you have a pair of sneakers that tell a story?  Share them with us.  Post your pictures to Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #SneakersTellStories and include why they are special to you for a chance to be featured on the weekly blog.

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