Yesterday, college basketball was hit with a massive scandal when the FBI arrested ten people, including four college assistant and associate coaches, after a two-year investigation that uncovered alleged bribery, corruption, and fraud. The FBI also arrested several “high-level apparel company employees,” as it was revealed that players were being paid, or at least having their tuition paid for, by Adidas in exchange for agreeing to commit to the shoe brand once they entered the NBA.
Use high-profile professional (and sometimes college) athletes to sell teens on Adidas shoes instead of Nikes, Air Jordans, or Under Armour, so the thinking goes, and the money will follow. But if Adidas really wanted to increase revenue, and avoid future bribery scandals in the process, it would focus on the target demo that really matters: dads.
Sure, research indicates that 13 to 14 is the age when kids really get into sneaker culture. Turn them into loyal customers early and it should result in brand loyalty and a lifetime of shoe purchases. It makes perfect sense as a business strategy. But here’s what shoe companies like Adidas are missing ⏤ there are a lot of dads out there, and they actually make the money.
And while sneakers may typically be associated with the young and hip, a huge chunk of the market is occupied by dudes in their 40s and 50s who for some unknown reason dig white kicks. They may not buy the newest pair of Jordans or Yeezys, but dads are always on the hunt for a solid, affordable pair of tennis shoes, as they might call them.
In fact, New Balance is one of the most successful shoe brands in the world and its entire sales strategy is based on creating products that kids might mock, but dads will buy. Think that’s crazy? Nike’s most popular shoe ever is the Monarch, a chunky but affordable sneaker designed by Jason Mayden that approximately 68 percent (!!) of dads in America own. Let that sink in for a second.
Nobody is going to argue that Adidas hasn’t established itself as a major player in the shoe market; this year alone sales have grown by 20 percent in North America, Western Europe, and China. But if Adidas really wants to be the undisputed king of sole, it should rely less on selling overpriced high-tops to teenagers and more on pimping reasonably priced sneakers to dads. Not only could it lead to a lot more money but, more importantly, a lot less bribery.