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Why The Sneaker Industry Is Shifting Toward Female Pop/Style Icons

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A major part of marketing in the sneaker industry is the joining of forces with the biggest stars in the world. In the 1990s, it was all about the athletes who exuded their own flair while winning at the highest level – the Jordans, the Agassis, the Griffeys, the Deions. In the 2000s, pro-athlete superstars were forced share the stage with giants of hip-hop, particularly Jay-Z, Kanye West, G-Unit, and Pharrell. The age of Instagram has accelerated the evolution of the celebrity influencer, because it’s not just about points per game, championships, or grammy awards anymore. It’s simply about followers, and right now women are the new all-stars – and nothing is knocking them off anytime soon.

Every major sneaker brand across the board currently has a “style icon” signed to their roster. Nike currently employs Bella Hadid who currently has 14.8 million followers on Instagram. Reebok joined up with her sister Gigi Hadid (35.7 million) and Ariana Grande (113 million). adidas is keeping it in the family with Kendall Jenner (83.3 million followers), and of course there’s Kim Kardashian, who supports adidas regularly despite a deal with the brand not publicly known. Puma is perhaps in the lead in this race with Rihanna, whose FENTY line has been considered a savior of the brand, Selena Gomez, who has the most followers on Instagram, period (with the exception of @Instagram), and Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian/Jenner conglomerate whose job is solely to post on Instagram.

What this all means is that marketing, which has already shifted heavily to social media, will continue to be geared toward females. Sneakers are a part of fashion on all levels and there’s far more uncharted territory within the female demographic than there is in the male counterpart, so the potential for revenue growth is the reason why the Instagram-famous will get just as much money from the brands as championship-level athletes. There may be room for growth in womens sneakers, but sooner or later it’ll all reach a point where there’s just too much product out there and trends will eventually shift.

Aligning with the world’s biggest Instagram stars is hardly a guarantee of success nor is it a true indicator of return on investment. But in this hyper-connected era, where the average user of social media sees hundreds of a photos a day, it’s imperative that a brand is imprinted on the public as far and wide as possible. In fact, that’s the greatest challenge – to stand out on a landscape where everything and everyone is trying their damnedest to be noticed.

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