Online Survey: Shoe Industry using Celebrities vs. Athletes

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 –
  • 58 people participated (43 Male, 14 Female, 1 undeclared)
  • 15 total questions
  • 10 Qualitative questions / 5 Quantitative questions


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.

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Strategy vs. Tactics…You can’t have one without the other!

Failing to plan is planning to fail
Failing to plan is planning to fail /

Do you ever wonder how some of the biggest companies in the world maintain a high level of business with their customers? What  did they do differently that separates them from their competitors?  Which business strategy did they use to achieve this?  What specific tactics were implemented to get the results they wanted?  It is imperative to dive in and look at what actually separates a strategy from a tactic and vice versa.  While they may both sound similar and are used usually within the same sentence, let’s dig deeper to break down why both terms differ from one another.

What Do They Mean By Strategy?

The term strategy is often referred to as “a method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.”  It is commonly used when a business sets out an agenda and looks for ways to execute it in a long term capacity.  Some of our favorite brands that we have grown to love and adore have been made possible because of the tactics they have implemented.  Tactics are essentially various processes done in real time that are measured quantitatively and qualitatively.  There is a combination involved of multiple skill sets and tools that are the foundation of a tactic. While strategy involves diligent planning with an end goal, tactics works with given resources that attempts to achieve the objective of a given strategy.

David Kryscynski - What is Strategy?
David Kryscynski – What is Strategy?

Big Businesses Lead By Example

The only way to stand out from your competition, is to literally be different from your peers.  It is about gaining a competitive edge and getting that dominant market share in the financial landscape.  Walmart for example has perfected this.  They evolved from a discount store concept to the largest retailer in the world by using a cost strategy of keeping their operating costs low and at the same time reaping the profits over their nearest competitors.  Apple continues to sell high end tech gadgets and people consume them at record paces.  They have established an identity of selling unique, simplified products which come at a high price point – this cost strategy is known as an Overall Differentiation.  Furniture giant Ikea has also managed to master their market by doing things differently as well, with everything from their design process, to packaging and manufacturing being completely different from their competitors.   Ultimately companies that can address who they compete with, how they can stand out from them, how they will achieve this and what overall value they can bring to the table is what matters most.  The above three mentioned companies incorporate all elements of what is known as the S.M.A.R.T philosophy, which looks at completing such goals by addressing every letter in the acronym with proper validation.

S.M.A.R.T. Objectives
S.M.A.R.T. Objectives

From the Boardroom to the Hardwood?

While the terms strategy and tactics may be executed in the boardroom, who’s not to say the same methods cannot be applied on the hardwood floor?  Take for instance the 6-time NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls, who gained a competitive advantage over their opponents by outsmarting them at both ends of the floor.  In particular, their 1996 squad went on hold a then NBA best 72-10 regular season record that was capped off by the franchise’s fourth title win.  Their team strategy was to be the best team in the league.  How they got there was attributed through their main playbook tactic, highlighted by head coach guru Phil Jackson’s use of the triangle offense.  And while some say tactics are often done below the shoulders, the Bulls were so dominant mainly because they had a weapon in a guy who simply played above the rim…his name was Michael Jordan.  In this example, the coach delivers the given strategies and it is the player(s) who are the tactics who must make the plan come to fruition.

1996 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls
1996 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls / NBAE Jonathan Daniel

It’s important to understand that strategy and tactics do not mean the same thing.  You always with a strategy of ideas that you set out, but you will need to have a process of tactics to get the job done.  In comparison, the two terms are synonymous with one another.  While they are interchangeable, they also definitely rely on one another.  It is unfavorable to have a set of tactics in place without any leadership of ideas.  The end result will be chaotic and pointless.  When you are able to ensure that you have a solid foundation of tactics which are outlined by an effective business strategy, you will see the desired end result of success.