my turn


Vans' Excellent Adventure With Josh And Dan

“Damn, Daniel.” Yes, I said it. If you saw the Vines, or the coverage of this, you know that I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to do: driving virality! (a term that, given what’s happening in disease vectors, we will stop using now, today.)

Two things that I saw this morning: first, the guy who made the movie, Idiocracy, having tweeted that his movie should now, officially, be considered a documentary. The second, and it’s not unrelated, actually, is Ellen Degeneres’ interview on Ellen of a couple of SoCal teens. The pair are famous for … damn, Daniel, what are you famous for? Shoes!

It was a golden opportunity for sports/fashion/footwear brand Vans, and they took it. It’s right in their wheelhouse: SoCal mindset, teenagers, fashion, sports (surfing and swimming). Vans clearly grabbed this fast, making a deal with Ellen producers to get some mojo during the interview. They worked fast, and Daniel gets free Vans for life. Double damn. And Vans beat Glamour, me, you, and all the rest to the punch with this. That isn’t easy. Someone had to be watching those Vines, noticing that Vans shoes were on Dan’s feet, and Josh was pointing that out, too.

The VF Corp. unit does not do a lot of advertising, especially versus the other players like UA and Nike. And Nike. I said that twice because Nike got mention in that interview with Ellen before Vans did. And I bet Vans was sweating right about then, but maybe not, because both boys were wearing … Vans. No accident, there.

Vans does really well in partnerships and sponsorships around music, lifestyle, sports, focused these days by necessity on Gen Z. That is where they focus their marketing, and it makes a lot of sense because they get to own those spaces. While everyone else is chasing the NBA Players Association, and other high-ticket three-letter leaguers who are also pitching deodorants, shavers, maybe even anti-stick cookware, Vans sponsors, like, TJ Ellis, a BMX rider. You wouldn’t know him.

Vans’ sponsorship of the Warped Tour, going on its eighth year, has arguably done way more for them than any amount of advertising could have or would have. The Vans Warped Tour is kind of “Xerox” for rock concert these days, in some circles. The brand is elsewhere, too. On Ellen’s interview segment, the kid who shot the videos and who says “Damn, Daniel” over and over again, got a surfboard. He surfs. Vans brand strategy is around X-Games type sports in the worlds of  skating, snowboarding, surfing, and BMX, including sponsorship and cross-promotional activity with athletes, events and complementary brands. That’s all good.

The biggest win for the company wasn’t the giveaway at the end of the segment, where Ellen surprised Daniel with Vans for life (rolling out a Vans “50th Anniversary” shoe display in the process), but a screen grab of an eBay page. After all, the ultimate measure of how well a brand surfs someone else’s popularity wave is how much the brand’s featured product is going for online. In this case it was an amazing $300,000. And not even for the slip-on Vans shoes Daniel wears. That’s $300 large for lace-ups. Damn.

I can promise you that Vans is already working with the two on some followup to this. And hey, maybe Ellen was joking, but she did mention that she’s up for writing Damn, Daniel, the Movie. Or they could call it “Idiocracy II.”

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