In the 1980s and 1990s, we were really getting jaded with that miracle of communication, the telephone. No longer did we venerate this hi-tech bit of magic with a place of honor on the wall or a special telephone table. No, the phone had become so ubiquitous that you could throw some anywhere. Not only did they start to disappear, we found it funny to make them look like other things. That is where you get things like the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone.
While not as well-known as its cousin, the football phone, the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone was released with a splash. Advertising was rampant and they put together a “hilarious” commercial to demonstrate just how much this thing looked like a sneaker. In the ad, unsuspecting “shoppers” are in a shoe store. Confronted by a wall of sneakers, they are surprised when one of them starts ringing. When they inspect the ringing, they discover with delight that this sneaker is actually a phone.
My first thought is that these people are all paid actors. Some of the reactions seem just a bit too perfect to not be scripted. But I am not going to be jaded. Instead I want to lean into the era. This was a time when gadgets were still fairly clunky. So putting a phone into a sneaker was actually pretty clever. So maybe a “Get Smart” reference could be expected.
The phone does look a lot like a sneaker, but had everything you needed on a hi-tech phone in the 1980s, including Mute and Re-dial. The best thing about the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone? It was free with your subscription to Sports Illustrated. So for years after this promotion, you would find these things at garage sales and flea markets. Sadly I never picked one up for a bargain back then because nowadays they run between $20 and $30 online.
Was this commercial staged? Watch it and judge for yourself.