You only have to watch some old football footage from the 70s and then skip to footage from the 80s & 90s to see how many more advertising boards and banners appear around the stadiums. Throughout the 80s, sportswear companies really started to up their game with regards to campaigns and marketing. Consumerism hit an all new level in the 80s with the birth of the city yuppie who had more cash than sense, the rise of B-boy and hip hop culture in the USA, the casuals in the UK and the Paninari in Italy. Each of these subcultures had one thing in common. They liked spending whatever money they had on clothes and footwear, be it a new Moncler jacket, a full adidas Firebird tracksuit or the latest adidas Forest Hills trainers.
Sneaker culture also hit a new high in the 80s with sportswear companies battling it out to see who could create the next big thing in trainer running technology. adidas introduced their Dellinger webbing system, ASICS introduced GEL and Nike introduced Air Max. When we talk about sneakers its sometimes easy to forget that it wasn’t just about the sneakers back in the 80s and 90s, it was mainly how you marketed them.
Long before the days of social media, hype drops, raffles and resale sites, brands like Nike had to use traditional marketing methods to connect with their customers. This was in the form of prime time TV advertising which cost an absolute fortune back then and print magazine adverts which have pretty much died out over the last 5 years thanks to the rise of digital marketing and social media. This was also before we had hundreds of sneaker blogs talking about the same drops and all fighting to see who can get the news out the quickest to their followers. The key to good marketing back then for a sneaker drop was simple. It was all about the advert itself.
Nike set about creating a range of tag lines and titles to connect with this new breed of sneaker consumer. Gone were the days of performance only buyers, even though Nike still shouted about it. Take the Nike Air Max 1 for example from 1987. What is now considered one of the greatest Nike trainers of all time was originally marketed as a running trainer with the tagline ‘Shock Treatment For The Road’. Was it this that made non runners want to buy it? It’s bizarre really when you think about it. People buying a product that is designed for a specific purpose but then not actually using it for that purpose. Have you ever bought a vacuum cleaner and not turned it on or a car and never driven it? Yes people still wore the sneakers but did the majority go running in them? No. Sneaker marketing became more lifestyle orientated. Even though Nike still featured athletes in their Nike Air Max adverts and campaigns they knew it wasn’t just athletes buying their shoes. The sneaker game had changed and the birth of sneaker culture as it we know it today had started. Marketed as performance shoes yet sold in their millions all over the world to lifestyle consumers who just simply wanted the latest Nike’s on their feet.