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Onitsuka Tiger, Will Smith and Noonoouri

By, Ronnie Yaacoub

Will Smith is aging, but people’s love for him never will. That’s why on September 6, 2019, Onitsuka Tiger announced its new social media project partner, Will Smith. Their goal was going to use his International sense of humor to influence “the borderless gender of young[RK1]  and old on a global scale.”(4) It definitely seems that Onitsuka tiger is trying to embrace the sense of humor part of that more than anything, because on September, 5, 2019, a video was posted on both Will Smith’s and Onitsuka Tigers Instagram pages, of an animated model of Will Smith wearing a yellow tracksuit from Onitsuka tiger and dancing all over the world, while also having his body expand and stretch in different iconic sites such as the Pyramids of Giza to the subways of Tokyo(2). The video they made is quite bizarre, however it’s funny.

Onitsuka Tiger is a Japan-based fashion brand that started making shoes 70 years ago. In 1951, they invented the first basketball shoe in history to have suction cups to achieve a better grip on the ground. Onitsuka Tiger later became Asics, and became a staple running shoe in the Olympics, having a presence on the Olympic Marathon Podium since 1964. The company was relaunched as Onitsuka Tiger in 2002(5), capitalizing on the trend of wearing vintage shoes. Their shoes ended up making a presence on Kill Bill with Uma Thurman wearing their signature yellow Mexico 66 sneakers throughout the movie(5). Since then, Onitsuka Tiger has not made a huge presence in fashion, entertainment or other media, therefore not remaining as relevant as it’s brother company Asics. It seems that through social media it seeks to become more relevant in general. 

 However, the company seems to have discontinued their relationship with Will Smith.[RK3]  Their video has gained 87,000 views on its Instagram page,(2) which is significantly more than they would usually get, however they didn’t gain that many followers since the video was posted. Since they posted it, they have gained 3,057 followers. And apart from a few behind the scenes videos of Will Smith making the original Global collaboration film, Onitsuka Tiger hasn’t made any other videos with him. Therefore, showing that he is not participating as a social media project partner anymore for the moment. However, one collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger that I found interesting was the collaboration with Noonoouri.

Noonoouri is a digital social media influencer. She was created by Joerg Zuber, an artist based in Munich, Germany on February of 2018 and since then has had partnerships with Versace, Gucci, Dior(1) and has gained 323,000 followers. She also did a collaboration with Kim Kardashian, fashion for relief, and Onitsuka Tiger(3). In Onitsuka Tiger’s collaboration with her, she is basically talking about living digitally in a real world. She also mentions that her dream is to become human.(3) This advertisement also posted by Onitsuka Tiger, received almost 11,000 views which was even less traction, than the collaboration with Will Smith, however it is interesting to compare both Onitsuka Tiger and Noonouri, when it comes to measuring success. It is very easy to see what Joerg Zuber is doing right with Noonouri that Onitsuka Tiger is not doing. For example, Noonouri will make multiple different posts per day, while staying engaged with her followers in the comments. She also keeps her followers updated on her life and her interests through her Instagram story, which depicts her trying to act as a normal girl.(3) For example, one thing that she will do is post old videos of Patrick Swayze, showing that she has a crush on him. She even goes as far as to keep her followers updated on the food she’s eating.(3) Noonoouri also makes it very clear what her dreams are. She wants to be human, which is why she makes at least one post a day along with at least 10 stories per day, making followers want to root for her. It’s very easy to see how much more successful Noonoouri will be than Onitsuka tiger when it comes to a social media presence, just based on the collaborations she has had with other people, along with her engagement with her followers and how she conveys her identity.

Campaign Objectives

The objective of Onitsuka Tiger’s partnership with Will Smith was to influence “the borderless gender of young and old on a global scale.”() Their goal is specific, realistic and measurable, however there is no specific timeframe when it comes to Will Smith specifically. It appears obvious that their objective was to get ready for their SS20 Runway, which was a runway that debuted their spring/summer collection for 2020.

Noonouri was one of the influencers used to help promote their clothing. Joerg Zuber specified that the goal for Noonouri is “to entertain and inform on a different level of quality. She is very art driven. I want to inspire people to think out of the box and stimulate their creativity to go beyond the imaginable.” So, although they are achieving different things, they operate through the same medium which is fashion. Their goals also seem similar in that their goals both show that they want to uplift people, which is why it would be fair to measure them in the same ways.

After Will Smith

After Onitsuka Tiger’s initial post with Will Smith, they did one other post that mentioned his name, which was a clip of him behind the scenes of the original film shoot, getting scanned physically to be used as a virtual model. However, this was debuted on Will Smith’s Instagram page first and was later reposted on Onitsuka Tiger’s profile. They also used Noonoouri for three posts on Instagram, which performed well. The original video with Will Smith received 14,531 likes, while the posts of Noonouri received 3,023 likes on the same day. Which is great considering they currently hold an average of 673 likes every post. However, considering how popular Will Smith is verses how popular Noonouri is, it would seem clear that Noonoouri was a better choice for Onitsuka Tiger to partner with, for many reasons. For one thing, both Noonoouri and Onitsuka Tiger operate through the same medium, which  is fashion, while Will Smith is not mainly know for fashion, as much as he is for movies. On top of that, Will Smith has been one of the top most paid actors in 2019. For celebrities of that stature, one can earn as much as $150,000.(6) While social media influencers of Noonoouri’s size, who currently holds 323,000 followers, is likely to make around $10,000.(6) So, Noonoouri would be a much greater return on investment(ROI), for Onitsuka Tiger. After their collaboration with Noonoouri, they collaborated with Mathilde Warnier, a French actress and model, who currently has 37,600 followers on Instagram.

They created three posts with her, which were all published on the same day of September 11, 2019. The first post was a video reel of Mathilde in different locations explaining her love for fashion. The second post is of Mathilde wearing an outfit from Onitsuka Tiger’s latest collection at the time, 19AW. The third one is very similar to the first one, where she is being interviewed on a Ferris wheel about her lifestyle. In total, the posts accumulate 1,019 likes. Another influencer that Onitsuka Tiger interviewed was a NY-based food creator named Laila Gohar, who currently has 122,000 followers. They created three posts with her as well, which follow the same pattern as Mathilde’s. The first one is an interview with Laila, getting to know her lifestyle, the second is a picture of her wearing Onitsuka Tiger’s latest collection 19AW and the third one is another interview with her about her lifestyle. These posts were all posted on September 13, 2019 and accumulated 3,364 likes. After this, Onitsuka Tiger had a collaboration with StaffOnlyStudio, a shanghai based menswear brand. Their first post revealing this collaboration was on September 16, 2019. They presented a video of the shoes they created being worn by a woman who is going through what can only be described as a psychedelic coma. This video was surprisingly posted on its own, receiving 1,055 likes. Two other pictures of the actor and actress from the video were posted the next day which displayed them wearing the new line of clothes, however posing in them in a very abstract fashion. Another brand that they collaborated with was KYE, a clothing brand based in Seoul Korea. The collaboration was debuted on October, 15, 2019. The debut included three posts, the first one was a video of a young model wearing their new track suit and shoes, while running around in a field with a large white glowing ball resembling the moon. The second post was a picture of the model next to the ball in the same field. The third picture was of the model looking at the stars while walking briskly in the field. All three posts only managed to accumulate 1,728 likes.


Noonoouri, who has become one of the most popular digital social media influencers, is a great example of how an entity who represents the fashion medium should act on social media.

Her personality is the same as a sixteen-year-old girl’s, she loves Patrick Swayze, she loves watching movies and she loves eating. Also, her profile makes it look like she cares about her fans. Except, she’s not a real person. One Way she achieves this is through fan engagement and engagement with her community. Her creator, Joerg Zuber will leave a comment on nearly every one of her posts. On September, 28th, 2019, Joerg commented, ” A dream came true 🖤 I LOVE YOU @manfredthierrymugler”. Then he likes the comment that he posts on her profile making sure that people can see his comment first when they are reading the comments, to ensure that he has a good chance of getting followed on his original profile as well as Noonoouri. This is important, especially for fans of Noonoouri, because getting to know the Creator will give people an understanding of why they are doing this in the first place, which is something I’m sure many people want to know considering this idea of a digital social media influencer is very new. The way this differs with Onitsuka tiger, is that Onitsuka tiger, has basically a 0% engagement rate with their fans, versus the 3.5% engagement rate Noonoouri has with her fans. Another way that Noonoouri has been Onitsuka Tiger’s social media activity, is that she does not bulk post, or spam post. What I mean by this is that Onitsuka tiger will often post three posts on the same day, that convey the same idea. This makes them seem less real. Another  thing  that is a contributing factor to making them look fake, is the  captions that they will write for their posts. For example, a large bulk of September, the 16th through the 22nd, Onitsuka Tiger’s posts were all about the staff only Studio collaboration. It had the same caption of “Available September 23 – October 20 online and in-stores in select locations. Onitsuka Tiger x @staffonlystudio.” there is not anything wrong with posting ads on Instagram, however people do not go to Instagram to see ads, it’s important to seem real, to establish a better reputation. Onitsuka Tiger has a great fan base, although they are very small. Much of their success, is due to Uma Thurman wearing their yellow tracksuit in Kill Bill volume 1, which is how they had a lot of popularity in the 2000s. So many of the people coming back to this Instagram page our fans from that era of fashion. For example, one of the comments on September 13th, 2019 on the collaboration with Laila Gohar said, ” OMG I was wearing Onitsuka like 4 years old, why am I not in the news yet, maybe because I’m not young anymore # sad.” Another example of this was on October 16th, on a post for the Onitsuka Tiger and KYE collaboration, a fan said I don’t like this model I just like Mexico 66. Which is the type of shoe that Uma Thurman wore in Kill Bill volume 1. Just to be clear, I’m not giving all credit for Onitsuka Tiger’s success to Kill Bill, their company does make great clothes and they are attached to a very big Brand.

The way that Onitsuka Tiger approaches the themes in their brand is quite strange. For example, initially, I didn’t think that Will Smith collaboration with Onitsuka tiger was trying to influence the Border list gender of young and old on a global scale. To be completely honest, the video does come off as quite strange, so it would be a little difficult for fans to understand what is going on. This goes for all their content as well. However, their content does achieve their initial goal of influencing the borderless gender of young and old, considering how diverse their profile comes off as, based on the variety of different social media influencers today work with. From September 7th, until October 31st, every social media influencer, or brand that they have collaborated with has been from a different country. Which not only gives them a good reputation for being diverse, it also will give their brand a further reach among other demographics of people. So, they’re not achieving their goal through the content that they create, rather they are doing it through the different demographics of creators and brands that they work with. However, diversity alone will not help Onitsuka Tiger be mainstream. Engagement is an easy thing to accomplish and if they make the effort to engage with their fans like Noonoouri does they will be much more relevant. Noonouri is representing a single person and has gained 7,000 followers from October,16, 2019 to November,8, 2019. While Onitsuka Tiger, an international brand with the support of Asics, has only gained 4,000.

The Outcome

The SS20 runway just happened on October 23rd, and there are already articles about it, with Forbes, Vmagazine and HypeBeast, expressing interest in the vibrance of their brand, while  expressing interest in their mission for genderless clothing and diversity(7). It was a success in how, they were able to broadcast their show, however, in terms of social media, I do not see them being a success until they make changes with how they engage with their followers. The heart of social media is interaction between people and rather than doing that Onitsuka tiger has merely created a means of representing itself on the platform. The heart of the message that Onitsuka tiger is trying to convey is beautiful. Trying to influence all genders and all ages, through unisex clothing and just in general trying to challenge the standards of fashion for men and women is a very meaningful task. However, trying to accomplish this without communicating what they are trying to convey directly to followers, will prove to be very difficult. Personally, when I saw the ads that Onitsuka tiger was producing, often I was left quite confused at what they were trying to convey. When one is trying to influence all ages, I would think that it would make sense for all ages. However, rather than something that would make sense to me initially, I’m often left in shock trying to understand what’s going on, with their posts. I’d sit for long periods of time, trying to understand what they are trying to convey. At first, I believed that the ad with Will Smith of him was a stunt, but I soon realized that this was not the case.

It is very common in Japanese culture and media for advertisements and entertainment in general to be quite strange from a western point of view. However, even though it is a part of their culture I do believe that with their message and goal trying to be conveyed in such a bizarre way for the rest of the world, will not lead them to a successful place. Especially without engaging with their followers. Although the diversity that exists, with what they are trying to campaign, is quite impressive for a fashion brand, they often deviate in themes when it comes to advertising their shoes in apparel. A good example of this, was how they went from interviewing the classy Laila Gohar about her lifestyle and fashion choices, to what is quite possibly was one of the disturbing advertisements I’ve seen this year. Onitsuka tiger is succeeding in fashion and I believe that it has much potential. I don’t believe that their company must begin making advertisements based on western entertainment, however I do believe that they must create content that can have a further reach. Will Smith was a good example of how to do this, because through their ad and how humorous it was, they were able to display the charm of Will Smith, while bridging it with Japanese media. Obviously, Will Smith is a very busy and very expensive actor, so working with him all the time would not be a great investment for them. However, working with smaller scale social media influencers like Laila Goher and Mathilde Warnier was a good decision on their part, because they were able to spread their reach to two very different cultures and demographics. With the potential that they do have, it would be smart for them to begin engaging with their followers or making more Instagram stories to engage with their audience.

Work Cited

1. Marain A, Green S. From Lil Miquela to Shudu Gram: Meet the virtual models [Internet]. Vogue Paris. Vogue Paris; 2019 [cited 2019Sep27]. Available from:

2. Onitsuka Tiger Official (@onitsukatigerofficial) • Instagram photos and videos [Internet]. Instagram. [cited 2019Sep27]. Available from:

3. Noonoouri @noonoouri • Instagram photos and videos [Internet]. Instagram. [cited 2019Sep27]. Available from:

4. Rouse I. Will Smith Just Became Onitsuka Tiger’s New Social Media Project Partner [Internet]. HYPEBEAST; 2019 [cited 2019Sep27]. Available from:

5. Tiger Tales: Onitsuka Tiger United States [Internet]. Onitsuka Tiger. [cited 2019Sep27]. Available from:

6. Dozier L. Talent Scout Salaries [Internet]. [cited 2019Nov8]. Available from:

7. Groce N. Onitsuka Tiger Salutes Founder Kihachiro Onitsuka With Vibrant SS20 Show [Internet]. HYPEBEAST. HYPEBEAST; 2019 [cited 2019Nov8]. Available from:

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