Stephen Curry and his new brand may be better off avoiding the sneakerheads
“I’ve got a lot to explain” — Steph
Looks like Stephen Curry has gone into more detail about his new Curry Brand at Under Armour, of which we broke the news back in the first week of August and got aggregated a few days later by 95.7 The Game, then NBC Sports Bay Area, then Bleacher Report and BR Kicks and all the major sneakerhead aggregators after that.
It seems the news hasn’t really caught fire these days. I mean, back in the second week of August under the BR Kicks banner with our @LetsGoWarriors brand name tucked somewhere in the corner of their post, Damian Lillard and JR Smith already offered their congratulations via Instagram comments among the thousands that people chimed in on (very few of them sought out our page or our article).
It’s been rather “ho-hum”, as the flagship Curry8 model has already been leaked plenty — not by us, but by the supply chain in China, where the shoes are already on sale.
There are now three Q&As with Curry to discuss the brand’s initiatives: The Undefeated with locally based sportswriter Marc Spears of ESPN, and two feature writers from Complex and SportsIllustrated (now owned by Maven, whereby SI is a shadow of its former self — example: the article is merely a transcription of the video interview rather than one of those classic SI character profiles, which probably don’t even exist anymore). Tap on the above video for the one from SI.
These were all Q&As that were done last week, so everything was probably embargoed until today, probably under the direction of Curry’s braintrust, as they waited to tease the brand up through Friday’s Match3 golf extravaganza…
…then college football on Saturday, the NFL on Sunday, and then today, the day before we all dive into the NBA’s “Media Week” (the pandemic Zoom-based version of previous years’ Media Days).
Where’s the sneakerhead publication? I have no idea. But I can tell you this. The design of the Curry8 is getting routinely slammed by commenters on social media. Just search any post of it on IG or Twitter; the ratio of “yay” to “nay” is, and I’m going to just guess based on feel, nothing scientific, around 1-to-3 at best. That’s one good comment for every three bad. Even the new logo gets criticized.
And I’m being objective. I actually like the Curry8 design because I prefer simpler designs 🤷🏻♂️ but I’ve always bought basketball shoes based on court performance, first and foremost. I also thought the new logo was actually pretty cute — until I decided I better rethink it in terms of “swag factor” after reading all those negative comments. So, maybe that’s why zero sneakerhead media companies have gotten an interview so far?
But as you learn from the three Q&As, it’s less about creating the next iconic shoe as it is to bring all of Curry’s endeavors with the youth market under one identifiable symbol. In that way, it is wildly divergent from Jordan Brand, which is all about culture and has been, since its inception back when Michael was a rookie.
The Curry Brand is more of a business platform (see the three interviews) and perhaps that’s what’s needed in the Year 2020. I see it as the for-profit equivalent of Eat Learn Play, Steph and Ayesha’s awesome community project that, to me, set the blueprint for what can be done with Curry Brand.
For example, Eat Learn Play was able to partner effectively and quickly, offering its expertise to improve a very complex restaurant and food supply chain so that kids and their families weren’t left hungry during this pandemic. Think of what Curry Brand can do, once all of its partners are identified and aligned, armed with the power of the popularity of his Curry shoe line with kids all over the world. Curry said it himself, calling it a “North Star” and an “ecosystem”.
But that’s the thing. At the end of the day, although it will be leveraged to the hilt, it’s still a shoe brand. So out of the three interviews to spread the information, I found one morsel.
At the end of SI’s Q&A (7:30 mark, tap the picture of Steph at the top of this article) with Jarrel Harris, Curry says, “I’ve got a lot to explain when it comes to the hoops culture coming out,” seemingly knowing what I’ve observed, that the early reviews of the Curry8 are bad.
But Curry adds, “I've been in the game six, seven years now, I'm pretty proud of it.”
I am no sneakerhead, but I see his Curry line as more designed for his performance on the court and comfort, plus the protection of those ankles, rather than having a design that the older sneakerhead audience — older than the youth who tend to buy Currys — thinks looks cool.
Even Klay Thompson’s ANTA has invested heavily into innovative designs and meaningful colorways, albeit targeted more towards their markets in China. A lot of the critical comments even call for Curry to return to Nike, which is all but impossible with Curry Brand a reflection of how tight-knit his relationship with Under Armour has become.
But I’d love to see UA poach an ANTA designer or two and really rejuvenate the Curry line. We’ve seen the bleeding edge innovation with some of Klay’s eye-popping KT line releases. Did you know ANTA’s market cap, about $40 billion, dwarfs UA’s, which is about $7 billion? ANTA’s doing something right.
The Curry8 just looks plain, yet comfortable with the knit design upper, and therefore offers nearly zero “sizzle”. The NBA family as voiced by Dame and JR have already spoken, so we’ve lost the “rah rah” part of this. It’s certainly exciting to have all your basketball-related initiatives under one brand, like his multimedia organized under Unanimous Media years ago, but it’s hard for people on the outside to get excited about it when there’s no flair with the flagship shoe.
So yeah, Steph, you do have some explaining to do, but it’s probably not actually necessary so long as the youth continue to buy your shoe. At $7 billion, it’s not like UA is necessarily doing anything wrong. You can still do what you need to do in third or fourth place in the shoe game. UA is not going anywhere anytime soon. But aside from being under a bigger brand’s umbrella, Curry Brand is so totally not Jordan Brand in more ways than one.
And because of that, I’m thinking it may actually not be a good idea to face the sneakerhead community. If UA is already killing it with the youth market, a decidedly different make up than the fabled sneakerheads — think seven-year-old girl who’s learning to love the game, wants to improve, adores Steph and begs her parents for the Curry8 versus the 19-to-34 year-old with disposable income looking to make a splash at the next (non-pandemic) party with some new colorway of the original AJ1 — then why bother?
Take the “L” with the sneakerheads, blame it on the pandemic, and regroup for Curry9.