Sneaker companies historically have signed athletes to endorsement deals, including the creation of their own signature line.  The most recognized shoe pitchman in the industry’s history is Michael Jordan, a winner both on the court and at retail.  Despite being retired, he is a prime example of an athlete endorser continuing to sell well thanks in large part to his image and nostalgia factors.   The challenge today is to keep his Jordan Brand relevant to new customers who recognize him more for a crying meme than his legendary accomplishments.

Generally, when a shoe product launch rolls out, within 6-8 months the sneaker becomes discounted and loses its appeal.  The new marketing approach these days is utilizing non-athletes from different entertainment genres to use their social influence and appeal to move product.  Recent success stories such as Kanye West, Drake, The Rock and Kevin Hart have demonstrated their star power with sneaker apparel selling out at record numbers.  There is a new influence shift in how shoes are marketed, advertised and endorsed.

Executive Summary

An Internet Marketing Research study was conducted to determine who the next celebrity should be chosen for shoe marketers to drive new business for upcoming sneaker releases.  The study also gathered sentiment from respondents to find out whether a celebrity or an athlete played a role in the consumer’s purchase decision.  From March 1 to April 1, 2017, an online survey was sent to 58 participants via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and SMS/text message formats.

In total 15 questions were prepared, focusing on consumer purchase habits, product pricing and who the next celebrity should be chosen to sell their own shoe.  Through a series of more qualitative questioning and less quantitative thinking, it was determined that actor Mark Wahlberg would be the next ideal candidate for a shoe company to invest marketing dollars for a future shoe release.  He was likely selected based on his well known fashion style habits, constantly color coordinating outfits with his footwear.   The secondary question that this research study wanted to find out revealed that 59% of respondents said that it did not matter if a celebrity or athlete was promoting the product, they were viewed as the same influential marketer regardless.  Consumers also stated that a celebrity endorsed shoe should not cost more than an athlete endorsed shoe, which is the current trend in today’s marketplace.

Recommendations suggested were a focus group study to gather additional information and identify micro and macro key influencers through conversational and influencer listening sessions.  Overall, the survey helped gain valuable insight for shoe marketers to understand which celebrity to invest in and to also better understand consumer purchasing patterns.

Defining the Problem

  • Identify the next celebrity who is influential enough for a shoe company to invest in
  • Examine whether a celebrity/athlete endorsement has any affect on a consumer purchasing decision

Stakeholders involved:

  • Customers – They are the primary target audience to purchase the product
  • Athletes – Original primary endorser, additional income stream affected
  • Celebrities – The new social influencer in the shoe industry, new income stream possibility
  • Fashionistas/Bloggers – Looking for additional content to publish, discuss, curate and create engagement
  • Shoe companies – Creator of the product, looking to generate sales / profit
  • Sneaker retailers – They are carrying the product and provide showroom to the product

Research Design

  • Online survey produced via Google Forms – https://goo.gl/forms/6ICsX0PyqLCYsHFO2
  • 58 people participated (43 Male, 14 Female, 1 undeclared)
  • 15 total questions
  • 10 Qualitative questions / 5 Quantitative questions

Fielding

The survey was dispersed through the following portals from March 1, 2017 – April 1, 2017:

  • Friends & family
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Text message (SMS)

Selected Data Analysis

Some interesting consumer insights here is that the second highest percentage result was 57% stated that they purchase shoes from outlet stores.  This confirms that consumers are willing to wait for a shoe release to drop in price – even if that means waiting for an out of season product to be sent to the outlet shops for a discounted price.

Nearly 30% and 25% polled that style and comfort are instrumental factors over performance (3%) and price (4%).  The consumer values more visual aesthetics over the actual performance features the shoe can offer.

From a visual communications standpoint, 75% of respondents preferred Instagram as their main social channel for shoe information.  Marketers do an excellent job with image composition (i.e. knolling shot) that promote and create interest for product releases.  Facebook scored higher by 4% over blog sites, but the reality is that those posted links are most likely being shared from blog articles, which provide more in-depth production information.

Respondents declared that 59% of them are comfortable with spending over $100 for a sneaker.  The higher the price point of a shoe got, the lower the percentage of approval became.  The 17% of respondents who said they were willing to spend over $300 on a singular shoe purchase are classified as “sneakerheads.”  They are interested in buying regardless of cost, as this is considered the least of their concerns.

This should come as no surprise that 70% selected Nike as the best marketer for shoe products.  Coming in second and growing steadily in market share is adidas, as they have saw their brand make a resurgence thanks to luring a celebrity endorser (Kanye West) away from Nike.  This has had a cross over impact in consumers investing in other three stripe brand products such as the NMD, Boost and Ultra Boost shoe models.

This response revealed that consumers are still new to the concept of marketers using celebrities instead of athletes to sell shoes.  They most likely see each entity as the same marketing property.

All eight relevant celebrities listed had a connection to the shoe industry, often seen wearing the latest designs.  Mark Wahlberg was the most selected, as he is one of the most recognized in the group for wearing shoes matching his outfits.  DJ Khaled coming in second was no surprise, thanks in part to his popularity growth via Snapchat.  Majority of the females scored low, which could be supported that the representative sample was 75% male dominated.  Mark Wahlberg and DJ Khaled are currently in the works to have a shoe released by Jordan Brand while this survey was already in distribution.

Research Report Presentation

Findings of this report were presented in front of a live audience on Saturday, April 8, 2017, 9am at:

  • Seneca College, 1750 Finch Ave E, North York, ON, M2J 2X5
  • 16 page PPT slideshow presented to 2016-2017 SMD 202 class

Recommendations and Conclusions

Recommendations

  • Secondary research can be performed such as a focus group to have better insight and explanation on the difference between celebrity marketing influence and athlete marketing influence
  • Can also screen the target audience better by sending survey to select e-mail data bases that focuses in the shoe market
  • Can also target Facebook groups, forums and Twitter lists who have an admiration or are known as “sneakerheads”
  • Research key influencers both micro and macro levels to help create and promote content for Mark Wahlberg’s upcoming product shoe release
  • This can be achieved through conversational and influencer listening sessions to identity brand identity and insight from Wahlberg himself
  • Have the celebrity do an in-store appearance at a shoe retailer would help create a huge buzz and crossover purchase to other products in the store
  • Monitor results through the Social Media Metrics Funnel to track success of online marketing campaign

Conclusions

  • Qualitative questions helped create a dialogue with respondents
  • Comfort is key over the price of a shoe
  • Nike is supreme when it comes to marketing shoe products
  • Instagram is the most influential social channel platform for shoe consumers
  • 59% said it does not matter who endorses the shoe regardless if you are a celebrity or an athlete
  • The whole discussion of celebrity being used over an athlete for shoe marketing is still in its infancy, the audience tends to see each other as an equal influence marketer
  • Based on the success of recent releases, this new trend of using celebrities to promote sneakers will continue to grow in the future

Below is the slideshow report that was presented on Saturday, April 8, 2017.