In-Scope: How social media redefined the sneaker boom

Jonathan Tran is an Account Executive for OMD Create Melbourne, helping clients deliver on their business challenges with content led solutions.

The Sneaker Boom: Defined

Starting back in the 80’s, sneaker collecting was a form of hobbyist culture where people could only find out about sneakers through word of mouth and traditional advertising, leaving the most sought-after releases for the truest of fans.

Over time, we’ve watched sneakers evolve and transform. This has been led by the likes of footwear giants, Nike and Adidas who have brought the sneaker obsession into mainstream culture. No longer does it appeal to just a niche fan base, the sneaker is now for everyone regardless of gender, race, age or socio-economic status.

The sneaker boom peaked in the late 90’s, but since the introduction of social media (particularly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) we have seen the $55 billion industry grow and expand into markets and audiences like never before.

The sneaker boom has been shaped by social media in these two ways:

1. Through the ‘hype’ that is created on social.




  • 1Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.

With the introduction of social media, traditional advertising practices as we know it, were changed forever. Social media reaches a bigger audience, creates a two-way communication channel and delivers instant interactions. Adidas is a brand that has consistently used social media to strategically strengthen and reach their target audience. Take for example, the brand’s high-profile collaboration with rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West to release the ‘Yeezy Boost 350’ shoes. The campaign was driven by social media and kicked off with the musician announcing to his +18m Twitter followers that only a limited 9,000 pairs were available worldwide. Targeted celebrity endorsements across Instagram followed to further build exclusivity and demand around the highly coveted shoe. As the launch date neared, it was evident the brand had created a feeling of unattainability for the shoes – the ultimate recipe for hype.

2. By making sneakers more accessible to consumers
Before social media, sneaker obsessions lived through word of mouth or in small online communities. There was no true way to reach a broad mainstream audience and achieve the same level of engagement that existed in small communities. The introduction of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have made mass reach and engagement a possibility. By immersing their products into social media, sneaker brands have been able to launch their products to a wider audience, spreading the excitement like wildfire. I personally, have been on the receiving end of one of Adidas’ viral social campaigns. I would have never heard about Adidas’s NMD sneaker line if I hadn’t stumbled across it on my Instagram feed. However, once I did I fell in love with the shoe. I liked it. I shared it. I craved it. I was very prepared to buy it on launch day. I quickly made the transition from a casual fan to a sneakerhead (shoe enthusiast).

Like many others, my journey to becoming a sneakerhead would not have come about without social media, hype and the engagement of fellow consumers. These factors have helped shape the sneaker boom, and truly catapulted an already thriving industry.

Sneaker brands have leveraged social media as a tool to generate scale and hype for their products. By directly taking their product to where consumers are most active and present, brands have championed a community of advocates. At OMD Create, we foster this same vision with our own clients, as creating a community of advocates is equally as important to achieving high reach and effective messaging.




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