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Mar 22, 2016
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Reebok aims to capture market share with Kendrick Lamar

Mar 22, 2016

Long ago, athletic sneaker companies captured the hearts and minds of shoppers through athlete endorsements. Adidas endorsed athletes like Stan Smith, Rod Laver and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Converse played to basketball fans with Chuck Taylor and later Magic Johnson and Larry Bird before Nike disrupted the company’s hold on basketball with Michael Jordan. Nike and Jordan managed to make athletic sneakers a lifestyle choice, and soon enough sports weren’t the only thing selling sneakers.

Kendrick Lamar in Reebok Sneakers - Reebok/Instagram

Footwear brands have clamored to music artists and celebrities to sell sneakers just as much as athletes for decades now. Long before Kanye West designed his own sneaker with Nike and Adidas, Jay Z had his own signature sneaker with Reebok called the S. Carter. Run DMC made the Adidas Superstar famous long before Pharrell’s Adidas Supercolor Superstar pack, and even Puma is looking to grab a lifestyle market and market share with Rihanna and Kylie Jenner. Nowadays, it appears that Under Armour is the athletic footwear company that endorses athletes solely, but that depends on if you see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as an actor or as a professional wrestler.
One brand that kept things relatively modest is Reebok. Adweek reported that since being acquired by Adidas in 2006, Reebok’s US sneaker market fell from 8% to 2%. The sneaker brand aims to change that with its “Be Human” campaign that launched in 2015 and with the help of Grammy Award-winning rapper, Kendrick Lamar.

Reebok and Lamar began partnering in late 2014, and last year the two collaborated on the Reebok Ventilator sneaker that called to end gang violence. The sneakers featured the words ‘red’ and ‘blue’ on the back ankle to bring together the Bloods and Crips gangs and call for peace. The Reebok, Kendrick Lamar partnership rivals the partnership between Adidas and Kanye West, but it is closer in price point to Adidas’ collaboration with Pharrell, which was reported by Business of Fashion to have been more lucrative for the German footwear company.

The Reebok 'Be Human' campaign

Lamar told Reebok in a press release: "Reebok has a history of helping kids in the community realize their potential is limitless. I saw what the brand was doing, and I wanted to be a part of it and make it even stronger. It’s as simple as that. Kids that listen to my music are looking for inspiration. It's important that I continue that message in anything I represent."
University of Southern California marketing professor and celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev analyzed the partnership for Business Insider and said, "One [reason] is to align with Reebok's new positioning, which is to be more human ... a celebrity which will be able to humanize the brand and keep it real. Lamar will help Reebok [by] better connecting Reebok with the black youth and black Americans, in particular, who have felt more alienated than other groups by Reebok's less-than-stellar sneaking design. And they [Reebok] seem to be doing that once again ... through a grassroots approach."
Reebok and Lamar launched in January their second collaboration sneaker, the Reebok Classic Leather, which also features the words ‘red’ and ‘blue’ on the ankle.

The Kendrick Lamar Reebok Classic Leather sneaker - Reebok

In addition to capturing the lifestyle market, Reebok has targeted CrossFit trainers and athletes with its “Be Human” campaign. Reebok has been the title sponsor for the CrossFit Games and opened a 2-in-1 CrossFit Box and store in New York City in 2012. The brand also produces a line of CrossFit products including apparel, footwear and accessories and asks athletes to track and share their progress on its website.

Though the brand’s targeting has changed, Adweek reported that, “industry watchers generally applaud the approach because it's true to Reebok's heritage.” Matt Powell, an analyst at NPD Group, told the website, "Reebok's fitness positioning is unique and correct.” He added that the campaign may "take some time to catch hold," but he feels the strategy "positions the brand for future success."

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