Bleacher Report wants to capitalize on the buzzy rise of streetwear culture embodied in brands like Supreme.
Two years ago, Turner-owned Bleacher Report launched B/R Kicks, an Instagram account devoted to athletes and their shoes. Today the account has close to 1 million followers, including stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Justin Timberlake. Now, Bleacher Report is trying to make B/R Kicks into a full-fledged business, starting with its first event, The Drop Up, which will mimic the limited-edition-product-release drops that streetwear brands use to build hype for their products.
At the event, which is free and on Friday in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, sneakerheads can gawk at a new shoe Adidas is dropping, learn how to personalize their shoes from shoe customizers Mache and Ubiqlab, and buy T-shirts and hoodies from B/R Kicks and other brands, among other activities. In addition to Adidas, sponsors include Levi’s, Chivas, and Twitter.
The event comes as media companies are scrambling to diversify their revenue away from digital advertising. The emphasis on B/R Kicks follows a similar build-out of House of Highlights, Bleacher Report’s NBA-focused Instagram account. To Bleacher Report, streetwear coverage is a natural extension of its coverage of sports through the lens of culture.
“If you think about the NBA and how players are using the stadium as their new runway, people are interested in what players are listening to and wearing off the court,” Ed Romaine, senior vice president and chief brand officer of Bleacher Report, told Business Insider. “[The Drop Up] will dimensionalize all that.”
B/R Kicks is eyeing commerce, video, and events
Looking ahead, Bleacher Report plans to make The Drop Up an annual event. It’s launching two new video series for B/R Kicks in December: “The Pre Heat,” a documentary-style show about the creatives behind sneaker styles, and “Sneaker Shock,” in which sneakers are awarded to deserving fans.
With B/R Kicks and its dedicated staff of five, Bleacher Report also sees e-commerce potential. Bleacher already created T-shirts that capitalize on big news in the sports world and once hired an artist to reimagine NBA team logos in honor of Black History Month. Bleacher plans to do more collaborations like that to benefit B/R Kicks, Romaine said.
“With Kicks, we’ll go from selling just T-shirts to expand to full-service merchandise,” he said. “You can expect to see pop-up stores from us next year.”
B/R Kicks will also start to have a presence at sporting events throughout the year, like the NBA Summer League, Super Bowl, and NBA All-Star Game.
Bain & Company estimated that the market for high-end sneakers alone grew 10% to about $4.2 billion in 2017. Yet selling advertising on a brand like B/R Kicks is tricky because the young audience it caters to has a high BS detector for advertising messages.
B/R Kicks has competition in going after streetwear fans. Complex Media, Hypebeast, and Nice Kicks are just some of the media companies that have already gotten a foothold with the audience.
“It’s a crowded landscape, but where we feel like we fit in is that the democratization of fashion has happened, and sneaker culture is beginning to happen,” said Howard Mittman, CMO of Bleacher Report. “Most of the way sneaker brands have covered it is through the lens of OG sneaker fans. We’re trying to make it accessible to everyone. We’re trying to push our mantra, ‘everyone’s a sneakerhead.’”