Shoe Business

With both sneaker collaborations and corporate novelty merchandise programs ubiquitous and still on the rise, is it any wonder that we’re seeing an explosion of offbeat corporate-branded shoes on the market? Products announced lately involve properties that are frequent participants in licensing and collaborations, as well as those that are new to the game. Many are IP that would, at least until the fairly recent past, have been very unexpected participants in the footwear category.

Some examples from the first half of this year:

  • This week, Unilever announced its partnership with Sperry, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, for a limited-edition frozen treat-themed capsule for men, women, and children featuring the Good Humor and Popsicle brands. The collection crosses several models, including the Sperry Striper II sneaker, the EVA Float, the Crest Twin Gore slip-on sneaker, and the Bahama II boat shoe. Designs integrate the colors of ice cream and popsicle flavors including Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Éclair, Creamsicle, and Firecracker Pops. The products are available at Zappos, Nordstrom, and Macy’s, as well as, for prices ranging from $45 to $80.
  • The Clorox-owned brand Pine-Sol entered into its first footwear collaboration, pairing with artist and fashion designer Vashtie Kola. Proceeds go to Pine-Sol’s existing partner, the nonprofit organization digitalundivided, which supports women entrepreneurs of color, like Kola. The shoes are sold in the company’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce shop, the Pine-Store, which debuted earlier this year.
  • Frequent collaboration partner Crocs is working with salad dressing brand Hidden Valley, along with streetwear label The Hundreds, to create a ranch dressing-inspired version of its Classic Clog for sale at Each pair is in a ranch-like off-white color, with green speckles, and comes with a collection of the brand’s Jibbitz charms in the form of foods that might be eaten with ranch dressing, from various veggies to snacks such as French fries, chicken nuggets, and pizza. The strap features the Hidden Valley Ranch logo.
  • M&Ms and Adidas are creating a series of sneakers in colorways reminiscent of the six advertising mascots that represent the different colors of M&M candies—the characters are printed on the in-soles—plus a brown-and-yellow version inspired by Peanut M&Ms packaging, with a logo on the strap. The shoe style is based on Adidas’ Forum, a basketball shoe from 1984 that has recently been reintroduced as a retro model. All told, there will be seven shoes, priced at $150. They were originally expected to drop throughout 2021, but the release has been delayed until 2022.
  • Nike’s collaboration with the United States Postal Service for a version of its Air Force 1 model came about through a controversial path, as Nike created the shoe without permission and was called out for it by the USPS before the partners ultimately forged a deal to jointly and officially market the sneaker. The $130 “Postal Ghost,” which takes its design cues from Priority Mail packages, was released in May.
  • Crayola paired with Native Shoes for a collection of 11 spring-season sneakers for children and adults in signature crayon colors and coloring-inspired patterns. The collaboration also included special editions of several of Native’s models, the Jefferson, the Jefferson Child, the Charley, and the Miles, in Crayola’s Sunny Side Up Yellow and Navy Niblet Blue hues.
  • In a two-way partnership, nail color brand Loud Lacquer and Hush Puppies teamed for Brite Jells soft jelly sandals in two styles (slide-on and strapped) and matching Brite Shades nail polish. The strap sandals were available in Fiesta Red, Sun Yellow, Vapor Grey, and Black, and the slide-ons were offered in the same color range, except with Caribbean substituted for the Vapor Grey. The four lacquer colors were close matches: Lawn Flamingo (red), Soft Swap (yellow), PHC (Caribbean blue), and Go To (black). A set of sandals with matching lacquer retailed for $69.95.
  • K-Swiss partnered with the non-profit Girl Scouts and their primary commercial product, Girl Scout cookies, for three Court 66 model sneakers for girls and women. The styles are inspired by Thin Mints (mint green with chocolate brown accents), Coconut Caramel (burnt orange suede with hints of purple and brown stripes), and Trefoils (sandy-colored suede with bright blue highlights and an embossed area recreating the look of the shortbread cookies). All three, sold on the e-commerce sites of K-Swiss, the Girl Scouts, and Footlocker, have a cookie-print lining and the Girl Scout logo on the in-soles and heels. K-Swiss and the Girl Scouts previously teamed for a white shoe with laces inspired by the colors of the Girl Scout uniforms.

Each of the eight examples outlined here involves a different shoe marketer. This underscores the fact that footwear collaborations with corporate brands are not limited to just a handful of key industry players, nor are they restricted to a select group of brands or corporate property types. Anything goes when it comes to satisfying corporate licensors’ wish to create novel takes on their IP and sneaker marketers’ desire to fuel their fans’ continuous desire for fresh designs.

We will not be posting on Monday, July 5, 2021, due to the U.S. Independence Day holiday, and wish a Happy Fourth to all who celebrate. We will be back to our twice-weekly publication schedule on Thursday, July 8.

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