Vans is launching "This is Off The Wall," the first effort in its new brand foundation to get back in step with its core audiences.
The campaign stars a constellation of "creative voyagers," the kinds of athletes, musicians and artists who have found themselves through creative exploration.
And it's also launching the Knu Skool, a new line that updates its classic '90s style skate shoe.
Many of those in the campaign are already brand ambassadors. But this effort looks different, with bolder colors and distorted visuals.
Luminaries include Felipe Nunes, Irene Kim, Cocona Hiraka, Little Simz, Arthur Bray and Salome Agbaroji. What they have in common, the Costa Mesa, California company says, is a determination to be the most authentic versions of themselves.
"During the pandemic, consumers' idea of creative expression shifted away from 'this thing that you do for external validation' toward a journey of self-discovery," said Carly Gomez, vice president of global brand management, in the announcement. "We are speaking to our new muse, the creative voyager, with the idea that life is an ongoing work of art because ultimately, the most 'Off The Wall' thing you can do is be yourself."
The new effort comes as Vans struggles to regain its groove, with sales dropping 13% in the most recent quarter to $926.9 million from $1.06 billion in the year-ago period.
While the brand performed well in Europe and parts of Asia, U.S. shoppers are passing it by.
In a presentation for investors last month, the company offered glimpses of its new focus. "Vans is ramping innovation after underspending for years," writes Jonathan Komp, who follows VF Corp. for Baird. It's also refining segmentation and reducing the number of products it makes by between 30 and 40% this fall. And it's also shifting marketing, as evidenced by the new campaign.
In addition to its overall sales decline, Vans has lost a step with teens, its core audience. According to Piper Sandler's bi-annual ranking of teen brands, it once held the No. 2 spot among footwear brands, second only to the mighty Nike. In 2020, 16% of teens named Vans as their favorite footwear. That's been steadily declining, and the brand has now fallen to fourth place, named by just 7%.