The BR Kicks Drop Up was the first-of-its-kind Sneaker Event I helped pilot and creative direct as a part of the original brain trust and team that launched the sub-brand. It was the culmination of years of brand growth and the first chance to interact with our consumers IRL. I helped spearhead the 2018 and 2019 build-out of the event in their inaugural years and was intimately involved in the look and feel, the various activations, merchandise, show packaging and releases sponsor integrations, musical performances and ensuring that our digital footprint was evident in the physical space while having fingerprints on pretty much every aspect of the social coverage. B/R Kicks brought the greatest components of sneaker culture—the kicks, the players, the music, and the style—to life at the Drop Up.
B/R KICKS ISN’T AN INSTAGRAM PAGE OR AN IPHONE APP. IT’S A CULTURE. IT'S A MOVEMENT.
As a founding member of the BR Kicks team, I saw our following grow from a small few to millions and as the Kicks brand expanded and evolved, our flagship winter sneaker culture event was developed under the banner of "The Drop Up" where I worked in conjunction with our marketing team to develop the look and feel and the branding of the event along with the promotional videos and invites as well as the art direction for various exhibits and things like the background visuals for our musical guest Sheck Wes. Setting up events like these was the culmination of the journey that I had been on starting BR Kicks and giving it a voice and developing a distinct look and feel for the brand through the years. Our Kicks team worked with various brands such as Adidas, Levi's, Twitter, StockX, 1800 Tequila, Jason Mark, Honorroller, Chinatown Market, and Showtime to create experiential moments throughout the space. The second year we blew it out even more and took it to another level with new activations building on top of this. The challenge was maintaining the ethos of the Kicks brand while making it accessible to more people IRL as we grew and scaled the brand. Balancing the voice while finding ways to drive revenue for the business was a tough line to walk.
As can be seen in the invite video above I put together, the BR Kicks Drop up event went down on December 7th 2018 and became the first chance for us to connect with our audience in a new way. Like many publishers in today’s media landscape, events have become a key way for Bleacher Report to create additional monetization opportunities for partners, as well as new ways to bring a brand that is inherently digital, into the physical world.
The first of these for Bleacher Report were our All Star Events which set the stage for activations in our other verticals across different moments on the calendar. Thus followed “The Drop Up” which was a path forward for athletes, musicians, influencers and fans to come together to see how the stadium tunnel is becoming the new men’s runway at an experimental event in New York City for our sneaker vertical BR Kicks, a passion project launched by myself and a few colleagues.
A major aspect of my role was to approach the event through a social media lens and create shareable moments and experiences that would not only create waves for the people attending the event, but also those fans experiencing it digitally, it had to be a two way street. Furthermore, as the key stakeholder who had a footing in both design, social and even production experience, I was able to help provide key insights throughout the development process. We collaborated with the marketing agency Cogent World to help fabricate and produce the event, including the wonderful BR Kicks installation as you can see above.
The event was held at a gallery in Chelsea (at 525 West 24th St.) right in the heart of the action and provided a way for Bleacher Report to touch base with some of its online followers but also bring in sponsors to help familiarize them with a brand and give them a chance to activate. Recent financial struggles among digital-media companies — including the abrupt shutdown of Defy Media and the collapse and sale of Mic — have highlighted a key lesson for the sector: the need to find reliable, diversified revenue streams. Going into events was a key way to make BR Kicks into a viable business pillar and something that not just fueled the culture but was also self sustaining. While starting the sub brand and accounts were a passion project, these events were us joining the big leagues.
Bleacher Report’s sponsors for the event included Levi’s with it's own outfit wall and Adidas, which showcased its new N3XT L3V3L sneaker as the headliners. On top of that there were also custom Knowlita merch stations, Joya Scent perfumes and a fun Twitter sneaker wall with illustrations and murals all around for the hashtag #NBATwitter showing the most-discussed sneakers on the platform throughout the year.
The Drop Up also featured a special sneaker customization lab featuring designer Mache and one-on-one master classes by sneaker designer UBIQLAB. It also included art exhibits featuring the top 10 basketball shoes of all time as selected by the B/R Kicks editorial team; GOAT sneaker selfie photo opportunities; and exclusive B/R Kicks customizable products were all available for sale.
Since launching the brand, I was able to work with our team to build up a following of around 1 million fans, and once this critical milestone was reached including influencers like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Justin Timberlake, Devin Booker and Dwyane Wade - there was room to explore how we could begin to monetize and tap into this audience to help sustain the brand. We were expecting some 1,000 visitors over the course of the day, with another 300 for the after-party with Sheck Wes, numbers which we surpassed relatively healthily simply due to the hype of the event and ending up with around 2,000 people.
The B/R Kicks brand was actually able to make more money from the Drop Up event than it had in its entire existence up until that point, as we were initially focused on hyper-growth and building an audience. Once we hit that critical point it was possible to find sustainable and authentic ways to provide our consumers value by connecting them to endemic brands surrounding the culture in a very empathetic way. It was important for us to get our audience so we could show them we understood them and what they were searching for from a sneaker culture perspective so that we could meet them there with on point experiences like this.
Once again, as we kicked off the planning stages, selecting our performer and making sure it aligned with our brand ethos was key, as we had seen the impact of a Gen-Z focused rapper like Jaden Smith helping to blow up the spot at our BRxLA NBA All Star weekend event earlier that same year. And if you were pretty much anyone or everyone in the year of 2018 then you most definitely had heard the song Mo Bamba as it went viral on college campuses and stadiums around the country.
One of the fun projects I was able to knock out for the Drop Up was coming up with looping motion graphic backgrounds for the Sheck Wes performance that featured his iconic glitchy grungy style popularized in the Cactus Jack music videos but with a BR Kicks spin to them, below is an example of where we landed. I felt like this type of kicks tour visual for the performance was a great way for us to imbue some of our DNA into Sheck's performance. We also had some burgeoning discussions to bring in Cactus Jack as a partner on a future e-commerce release that you can read about here. But all in all it felt like Sheck Wes would be the perfect musical guest to reflect the edgy and youth focused attitude of BR Kicks we wanted to cultivate. This was the vibe that made BR Kicks resonate with the audience we coveted.
Along with the sneaker visuals which looped I also created assets which showcased all of our sponsor logos. Sponsors included Adidas, which is unveiling a new shoe, Levi’s, which will demonstrate ideal jean lays for different types of sneakers, and Chivas Regal, which will be providing custom cocktails, Twitter doing a wall installation, Joya's custom scents, merchandise created by Knowlita, and custom shoes by Mache and Ubiqlab.
Something we didn't plan for or expect to happen, but is just the type of magic that a night out in New York City can bring, was that Lil Yachty decided to pull up to the Drop Up event, especially after he had a great time at our previous BR99 Pop Up shop experience I worked on with our team and Game Seven Marketing for the Kith capsule collection launch. He hopped on stage with Sheck and ended up grabbing the mic to perform a few lines as well while wearing his own signature shoes, something that really added a memorable moment to the whole event. This relationship was one that was organic and authentic and not something forced.
Lil Boat up there on stage vibing really just set the tone for everyone and the scene went up a few levels in terms of craziness and energy, especially when the iconic beat drop moment in the song happened. This was a great reflection of what our Kicks brand stood for from a cultural impact perspective, about how there are these constant interactions and collisions between the worlds of sports, art, music, culture, fashion, lifestyle and so much more.
The crowd really got to witness something fun, and our brand was able to capture the whole thing live on our instagram page and broadcast it digitally to include our fans that couldn't attend as well. As you can see from some of the crowd shots, the atmosphere was absoloutely insane, and the crowd really got into things.
While the song was playing, the entire space was effectively transformed into one giant moshpit, and you could actually feel the vibrations of the bass in the room as the lyrics rained out. The lighting made it feel super intimate with our tour visuals playing in the back and a trailer for our upcoming new programing also getting a fun moment of spotlight. It was a concert that felt right in line with the type of stuff we would often post to our social channels, showcasing their outfits or the sneakers they were wearing on feet. We actually had a fun installation on the back wall of a sneaker shoelace with iconic lines from famous rap songs that mention or name drop sneakers or famous kicks in them right behind the performance as can be seen in some of the great event imagery below.
A fun moment happened just moments prior pre-show when we had a chance to deliver a piece of original Bleacher Report artwork created by my colleague and Posterizes design team member Ryan Hurst that featured both Mo Bamba and Sheck Wes on the front with the New York skyline in the background telling the story of how they grew up together in the city on the mean streets of Harlem. This set a trend and we actually ended up doing these type of art delivery projects at NBA All Star events in the future.
If there was an overall theme to the first Drop Up event outside of sneakers and the culture around the game, then it definitely was this spirit of experimentation and piloting concepts that we could carry into future experiential activations. From the initial renders seen above, we cooked up to how the space ended up looking we wanted to make sure that from the moment you walked in you were immersed into the images and icons of the sneaker culture. That meant filling the room with art and installations and places for organic interactions and moments to take place serendipitously.
The hero moment really was a massive BR Kicks sneaker logo with hanging adidas Stan Smith shoes, something that we were able to bring Adidas in to help build out and sponsor. Fans would meander into the space, notice the tape on the ground telling them to "Look Up" and be greated by the BR Kicks logo in all its glory. Once this sculpture situated people in the center of the space, they could look around and take it all in and be drawn to one of our interactive moments. The ceiling really acted as a starting point for the whole experience and then allowed the consumer journey to unfold slowly in the periphery.
On the walls however we wanted to bring in Twitter to do it's own little installation featuring an interactive segment that we could activate against on social with. Users were prompted to vote for their most representative sneaker for the NBA Twitter community. The choices included Virgil's North Carolina inspired Jordan 1's, the Wheaties Nike Kyrie collaboration, The Clyde Puma disrupts and of course the classic Travis Scott Cactus Jack Air Jordan 4.
Above the shoes, we had artist Cole create some cool twitter bird themed pieces and at the end of the event the winner ended up being the UNC Off White Jordan 1's. What was cool about this type of an activation is that folks were able to vote online, but at the event not only could we display the shoes, we could also create the artwork as a tribute o them and their impact on the platform, integrate an advertiser in a fun way, and engage in conversation about it afterwards.
As can be seen in the video above, the four artwork piece each had a sneaker texture in a clipping mask in the shape of the Twitter bird, one of the cool elements of the night was that for folks who tweeted about the event while they were there at the end of the night we randomly gifted fans some of the pieces to take home with themselves.
The idea of generating conversation was central to the entire build out of the space, we wanted people to be able to flow through in a coordinated path or to choose wherever they wanted to explore and to get value and storytelling out of it. So next to the #NBATwitter wall with our 4 sneakers fans could vote on, we had our Evolution wall with big bright orange Bleacher Report themed typography. Like any of our events, we always want to tie it back to sports and the fact that that is where the lifestyle and culture all stems from and having the history of the game and how sneakers became a bigger part of it until the point we are at now felt like a fun journey to take folks on.
NBA Twitter really is an energetic place when the games are going on and people are having debates or talking kicks on court and the classic barbershop type of chitter chatter you always see on the timeline. This is the exact environment we wanted to create IRL and set out to do with these sponsored integrations. We wanted people to be able to take their own pace through the space, drink in one hand, and a sneaker box in another.
Speaking of sneaker boxes, it wouldn't be a BR Kicks event without plenty of opportunities not just to see shoes on display but also to buy or win or create your own, and we made sure to create plenty of tangible opportunities like this for our consumers to go home with something special. This ranked from our more VIP invite only experiences to the option to purchase a pair of blank Adidas shoes for you to customize in the space, or even just random giveaways and fun prizes for things like sneaker trivia.
If you were one of the aforementioned VIPs, you would get the by appointment invite to the high end bespoke Ubiqlab experience where folks could customize an Air Force one with premium materials and custom flourishes. The video above showcase some of our influencer partners like Chania Ray or Infamous Kayce going through the experience to create their own sneaker masterpieces. Our BR Squad of influencers told the story of the experience through their own social channels.
The entire lab experience was similar to the BR99 Meme Lab experience I had spearheaded, but with a sneaker focus where instead of putting your spin on a headswap or viral moment from our instagram page, you got to put your personality on display on your feet. Just like the greenscreen and photobooth setup we created with Kith, there was a separate upstairs area to go pick your materials and laces and elements. It was all about the details and the conversations.
We worked with Atmos Philadelphia location to set up the sessions and had folks on site to sew together the shoes while people experienced the rest of the event. At the end of the night, consumers were gifted limited edition denim Levi's covered sneaker boxes with Drop Up plaques to take home. The whole experience was slow, deliberate and meant to feel premium for our VIP clients and give them a chance to network with each other in a fun place.
As can be seen in the recap video above, the unique sneakers had options to put on leather or other premium materials as swooshes, to chop off the high top portion, to add in little nods like BR stencils or leather patches to add to the tongue. This ensured that people would go home with a one of one item that would turn heads and hopefully get people talking about the experience and our brand way down the line beyond the actual date of the Drop Up event. Levi's also helped us decorate the space with jackets and various items and we had a mixologist present to create bespoke cocktails while people waited for their shoes.
This idea of longer lasting experiences that consumers could take home with them and live on p[ast the actual event was something that our marketing and merch teams were focused on and I was a part of a brainstorming group that collaborated with Joya Studios and their amazing scent artists and scientists to produce some very unique scents that were available for purchase online and given out for free throughout the event. We wanted to replicate the feeling of opening a new sneakerbox for the first time and that fresh leather smell you would get with a new pair of kicks, something that most sneaker heads will agree feels like heaven.
Joya Studio who has collabed with the likes of A24, Thomas Keller, Lucali, Daniel Arasham, The Grateful Dead and Katz Deli worked with us to create custom scents and candles specifically for this Drop Up event. A collection of multi-purpose, layer-able fragrances inspired by the feeling and scent of a fresh pair of sneakers taking cues from the leather and textile and other materials used in the production process of a shoe.
The textile scent features top notes of peach and almond oil with a heart of jasmine petals and a dry down of musk, sandalwood, tonic bean and fir balsam absolute. Leather is more subdued with a consistent sharp lemon, cedar and violet leaves for top notes, a heart of tobacco and suede to mellow things out and a dry down of liquid amber guaiacwood and frankincense. Finally my personal favorite is the other scent which comes through beautifully with top notes of stunningly fresh lemon, cedar and violet leaves, a heart of lemon, cedar and violet leaves and a final little kick with a dry down of pine, styrax benzoin honduras and rockrose.
We also included a sneaker cleaning cobbler shop styled installation in the back where fans could clean up their shoes and get a nice experience while they uploaded the images and selfies captured in the event up on their social media. The whole event was kind of an ebb and a flow of content creation opportunities and engaging activations and then more lowkey lounge type areas where the culture had a moment to pause and really breathe and allow for reflection and conversation.
Towards the back of the space we had a custom screen print and laser gun to create hoodies, crewneck and custom T-shirts with Knowlita in a curated pop up space that was consistently packed with people. Not only could folks walk home with the march, they could choose where and how it got customized with various graphics they could pick and choose from, similar to the Nike Maker lab experience.
In the adweek feature video seen above, you can see an interview with our CMO at the time, Ed Romaine as he talks through the various experiences and elements that we included as a part of this experience. It really was a pleasure to be a part of the team that brought this to life, and to see it go from a small instagram account that I started to a bustling event like this that was generating large revenue for our company really was quite insane. I remember having to pitch and get approval just to put up some photos, and now we were driving millions of dollars through this avenue. We had stylists present at the event not only to help people pick the right kicks and speak to the history of the culture, but also to direct people to purchase opportunities.
Speaking of purchase opportunities, we had a fun chance to reveal the new laceless Adidas NXT LVL sneaker as a part of our event, the first time the shoes had actually been revealed in public as an exclusive thing for our brand. Adidas also provided blank sneakers like the iconic Stan Smith or Superstars for us to be able to have on sale or give away to folks if they wanted to take part in some of our more bespoke activations.
I was also a big proponent of sustainability when it came to these type of events, and our team wanted to encourage people to bring in their own old sneakers as well. We partnered up with Mache, a custom sneaker designer who often is shared on our social accounts when he cooks up cleats for NFL players before Sunday games to create a BR Kicks x MACHE DIY Kicks Customization Studio that was open to all guests to bring their old kicks to customize with classes and sessions held throughout the day.
One of my favorite little details that the Mache and Ubiqlab custom stations both had were the fun colorful printed insoles we created for fans to be able to customize their own kicks with and add a flair to their everyday boring ones that came stock in most sneakers. I swear I probably ended up with a ton of my own, but they really were just a fun extension of our brand and a product any sneaker head would recognize and appreciate the little comfort boost it added. These also provided a consistent branding opportunity for us and on the back we even had our instagram handle down below. These type of simple and fun details defined our event.
BR Kicks had a longstanding relationship with Mache as he had done a few videos with us and was often featured on our sneaker and athlete coverage like I mentioned, but he also had done some custom shoes for us at Sneakercon, and at the Drop Up we wanted to democratize this so more people could get into the fun. The solution was a DIY station where Mache could go around and give pointers to folks as he helped them customize their own shoes. Reservations were filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Mache helped people pick a theme and follow through with the detailing while walking folks through all the prerequisite steps to prepare their sneakers for optimal customization and design transfer. Like I mentioned earlier, a big part of this was the sustainability angle where you can take your old kicks and bring them new life with a story.
In the example below we had the Statue of Liberty added to the back of a pair of Air Jordan 1's to give it a familiar New York spin. We had a number of kicks come from this DIY customization station and they were some of the most treasured items taken home from the event, thus giving BR Kicks a special place in their homes.
We wanted to create a reveal moment along with a number of instagramable experiences as guests enter the venue and New York City was a central part of the storytelling for the entire space and no other activation showed this better than the Photo Booth of New York City that made it look like you were sitting on a street ball rim with the iconic skyline in the background. You can see some of our guests like Infamous Kayce, Tamara Die and Omar Raja on the installation below:
We worked with Levi's to do another activation called the perfect pair, which looked to take their denim and jeans collection and find the perfect color and type to match the sneakers you had on feet. Consumers were able to go home with a pair of jeans that matched the shoes they had on feet, regardless of the style or if it was a more athletic shoe or more of a lifetyle or even workwear type of situation.
We operate B/R Kicks from the sensibility that everyone is a sneaker-head, and my voice in the planning, design and execution sessions was to make sure we resonated properly across digital, social and experiential in a consistent way. Bleacher Report and the kicks team were trying to build something that reflects the sensibilities of not just for OG sneaker-heads, but those who are curious about and interested in sports, music and culture, and the Drop Up was really our first crack at doing this at this scale.
Spun out of the event, B/R launched “The Pre Heat” and “Sneaker Shock,” two new content editorial franchises that will be connected to this celebration with seamless values of giving fans experiences that they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to get their hands on. There were a lot of people, like the ones who were walking into the event on the day of or coming from our street team graffiti, might be seeing the brand for the first time and these shows could gain new audience through this.
In the first episode, artist Joshua Vides takes us through his come-up story while showing us his process of painting the Off-White Air Jordan 1. Vides has done exclusive work for LeBron James, has been acknowledged by Russell Westbrook and has been sought out by numerous athletes. In the second episode we got an exclusive ride along with Nigel Sylvester as the BMX athlete showcased his very own Jordan 1 silhouette and did a few tricks in our Office.
My role really centered around the connective tissue between experiential and digital and making sure that came to life in the right way. The Preheat was a way for us to highlight the talent behind the sneaker culture you might not always hear about, it was about taking folks traditionally on the periphery and giving them a spotlight. Getting to be an executive producer and show runner for the project I was excited to launch our episodes at The Drop Up as a way to build up some hype for our sub brand and showcase to sponsors what we were capable of. This pilot project would actually lead to heavy interest from sponsors and turn into our much more highly produced branded content "Behind the Design" series we did with folks like Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetekoumpo in partnership with Nike.
Along with The Preheat, we also dropped the first couple of episodes of our brand now concept, Sneaker Shock which I not only got to produce and art direct but also starred as a host in a few episodes. The event was a great place for us to integrate the sponsored Adidas episode and build an audience as they all ready had a presence there. The concept of the show was to surprise folks with sneakers in new and unsuspecting ways. Seward Park, a basketball powerhouse in NYC, hadn’t had team shoes in 3 years until players were surprised with new Jordans in the episode that can be seen below.
All in all the first Drop Up Event helped us establish the blueprint for what these sneaker culture centric type of experiential activations could look like and also proved that we could viably bring in sponsors to help amplify it and drive revenue while also building audience for shows. The fact that we were able to recoup the entire cost of the vertical through a single event speaks to how you can build for the future with this type of a concept.
The Drop Up, now in its second year, was created with the idea that "we are all sneakerheads," and Bleacher Report fed those sneakerheads content, experiences and adventure through a two-day event in New York City's Meatpacking District that built upon the success of the first one as a way to launch our new rebrand wile expanding on the partnerships from the previous iteration.
The second Drop Up took place on the picturesque NYC High Line, where guests were welcomed to the Kicks community by traveling on the "Friends and Family" tour, which allowed them to customize products, get exclusive access and, most importantly, cop some heat. B/R Kicks partnered with It’s From The Sole to donate new and gently used sneakers collected as guests arrived at the event. Right off the corner of the Chelsea Market, the bright colors caught everyone who was passing by's eye.
Last years event drew nearly 2000 people and we were expecting more than double that in the second year with a larger footprint and more opportunities for us to go big. BR Kicks had added quite a few followers and we had also undergone a rebrand with a brand new logo and set of colors that we really wanted to show off. BR Kicks felt like its own vertical as the visual language breathed life into the space. The refresh was a great chance to go big with our event and announce our arrival.
The brash color palette and graffiti and comic book inspired typography really was amplified by the bodega style wheat paste installation we did outside the event location. This really made the whole space feel true to New York and gave it a bit of an edge, the posters remained up for quite a quile and the alley way actually became a bit of a Photo Booth opportunity. What I love about this is that it fit right into the fabric of the neighborhood and the effortless cool of NYC.
You can see the pops of yellow really come out in the space as the dark blue backdrop provides a nice contrast and cool vibe to the space. The use of the emoji coming to life really gives it a young and Gen-Z vibe as it feels fresh and quirky, but then you get the infusion of the sharpie to give it a nice hand drawn vibe as well.
As soon as you arrived, we wanted you to feel welcome from the elevator to the bespoke guided tour experience offered inside. After our partnership with Joya Studios to create custom scents the previous.year, we knew how much of an impact aroma could have, and we also knew how important it was to have a wow moment for people to experience as soon as they walked in.
Last year we had our sneaker sculpture up in the air and this year we decided to work with Christopher Chan of Honorroller, an artist with a multidisciplinary practice, to create a an installtion takeover for the entry freight elevator. Sponsors filled the space, with folks like 1800 Tequila helping us turn up and Chinatown Market helping us create content and StockX filling the space with shoes.
The sneaker florals take advantage of everything from legos to paint and glue and various elements to create amazing floral installations. We added a dope print to the bottom of the elevator with our sponor 1800 tequila logo along with some fun reflective graffiti on the walls to give it more of an urban vibe.
As can be seen in the video above, Chris brought the flowers all the way from his studio in Brooklyn and set up the entrance display right before the event. Once we opened doors it became a wow moment and appeared on just about everyone's instagram stories, and was really a moment that kicked off the entire experience by rooting it in a reverence for art and sneaker culture.
Collaborating with Chris was great because not only was he an artist at heart but he also understood the culture, and we tapped him in later to work with us on our NBA Remix project as well. He was able to help us take the space up a notch, it is not many times that the elevator becomes a bonefied Photo Booth opportunity at any event but we were able to pull it off. That speaks to our brand equity and also the risks we were willing to take with our audience.
With things kicking off at 459 W. 15th Street in Manhattan on Dec. 12 with a VIP viewing, and then subsequently opening to the public on Dec. 13 with activations for clothing customization and sneaker donations at a much larger scale, the whole event was meant to give a bunch of bespoke sneaker experiences.
We were able to leverage our partnership with StockX for a “Sneaker of the Year” fan vote for the top 10 sneakers of 2019 where select fans will win each of the 10 pairs using BR Kicks branded stress balls that they could also take home with them. This interactive way to bring the space to life and have it evolve over time, along with a wheat paste photo opportunity greated folks as they walked in, similar to our museum Evolution and NBA Twitter integrations from last year.
It was important to engage fans through a mechanism like this where folks could vote and see the space come alive as the space below the sneakers fills up over time. The stress balls themselves were a hit and one of the most popular pieces of merchandise as well to come from the event, and really did carry the branding quite well.
As with any of our experiential activations, one of the major anchors as far as KPIs go, there had to be a way to drive people back to download the Bleacher Report app. To help make the whole space interactive we created a BR Kicks specific stream and a pourable experience that curated the perfect path through the event for your right from your phone. This would allow us to track the user journey and find friction points later on, but also really provide a curated experience during as well.
Using their event badges, guests were able to check in for experiences and be guided through in a timely manner to Photo Booth experiences or sponsor activations like sneaker cleaning or exclusive merchandise available to American Express Platinum card holders. Thought the space we had Kicks attendants to give folks information and help navigate the space but also engage in thoughtful moments for our giveaway team to surprise guests with free merchandise or shoes.
I also helped design an arcade-style claw game called the Key Master Machine, where attendees can play for a chance to win prizes, and marked selfie areas to take photos of their style, including a 1/87th-scale version of Times Square for a branded photo shoot as seen above that included various B/R sponsors and original shows for everything from House of Highlights, to Taylor Rooks: Take it There, to Untold Stories with Master Tesfatsion and Game of Zones.
This was really a great way to take the shoes and give them center stage by making them feel larger than life, the post itself was a massive success seeing thousands of shares and tags and even newsponsors interested in doing similar iterations for various cities, landmarks and locations at future events in a similar miniature manner. We came a long way from the initial Photo Booth galactic hyperdrive concept I partnered with The Bosco to help bring to life at our first NYC Sneakercon event to now amplifying it in a fresh innovative manner unique to our brand at The Drop Up with this Times Square diorama piece.
People were able to make appointments to do all sorts of things, and if there was any sort of wait we also had plenty of walk up diversions to keep folks busy and engaged in sneaker content. The most interactive and fun exhibit was by far the Chinatown Market Tie Dye station where guests went home with a one of one custom piece that they could rock all summer long. The signups for this went quickly and there was always a clamor for no show spots.
Leading up to the event, Mike Cherman of Chinatown Market and B/R Kicks hosted a three-part video and podcast series with our BR Kicks team called "Friends and Family" that explored streetwear, street culture and the athletes and designers behind it. The Drop Up acted as the culmination of the series with exclusive sales of the custom collaboration created with Lil Yachty, Cole Bennett and Kelly Oubre Jr. in each episode produced with At Will Media and BR Kicks.
Chinatown Market embodies BR Kicks mission statement, and if we’re going to partner with a brand to enhance credibility, we wanted a brand to parallel who we are, and we felt Chinatown Market embodies all of those values. The series, which is packaged by media company At Will Media, also had an accompanying apparel collection for each episode. The whole vibe matched that urban NYC aesthetic with the chinatown market bootleg canal street aesthetic.
Rapper Lil Yachty, the first guest on “Friends and Family,” designed a T-shirt and hoodie, Lyrical Lemonade founder and chief executive officer Cole Bennett designed a basketball and T-shirt, and Phoenix Suns player and New York Fashion Week regular Kelly Oubre Jr. designed a set of shirts and sneakers. Guests could buy these items at The Drop up exclusively along with additional BR Kicks centric pieces just for a limited time at the event and in our app.
For the first episode, Lil Yachty stoped by the Chinatown Market innovation lab to create and ideate some concepts and t-shirt designs with designer Josh Umil. In the process of making a remix on the iconic smiley t-shirt, the two discover they have a shared passion for music and thrift shopping, and uncover one of Yachty’s hidden talents. This intersection of conversation, design, fashion and sports culture all came together under our banner.
What was awesome about this partnership and podcast was that the first episode got to be with someone who really fucked with Bleacher Report Kicks, and had been around from the start. Lil Yachty was at our BR99 pop up shop and even showed up at the first one with Sheck to boot, so he was a bonafide fan of the brand and making this merchandise was special to both of us, and we landed on a collection that still is seen on grailed all the time. From eating Kith x Bleacher Report cereal in Soho to dropping merch together was a truly wild ride and was fun to see develop organically.
The capsule includes a t-shirt with front print and a t-shirt and crewneck with a front and back print. The graphics take up the classic smiley of Chinatown Market and add to it the braids of Lil Yatchy. Meanwhile we found a way to bring the weed infused red eyes of Cole Bennett to life with some innovative UV technology.
Up next for episode two, Cole Bennett explained why Birkenstock sandals are a year-round fashion accessory for him on music video shoots all across the nation. He and Chinatown Market’s midwestern rebel Dillon Gerstung collaborated on some exclusive UV-activated merch while trading stories about growing up in a small town. The basketballs were one of the coolest piece we had for sale and really spoke to that hoops element, especially since Cole grew up a huge Michael Jordan fan in the Bulls backyard.
In the final episode, which is truly at the intersection of style and sports, Kelly Oubre Jr. revealed how his clothes are an expression of himself whenever he is photographed pregame with his tunnel fits.Mike Cherman who is actually the founder and creative director of Chinatown Market, brought the innovation lab roadshow concept to Oubre’s new hometown team in Phoenix, Arizona. There, the two rapped about positivity, basketball and meld their separate brands together in a one-of-a-kind collaboration/design of his exclusive Dopesoul brand. This was super true to Kelly and felt personal and unique to Bleacher Report.
I believe that with events like The Drop Up, BR Kicks is attempting to highlight sneaker culture and streetwear culture via the lives of the athletes and the passion that fans have for them, which I believe is a somewhat different perspective than what I consider to be the preeminent sneaker blogs who come at it from the fashion first perspective. We strive to do so without constructing a velvet rope around it and first showcasing the roots in sports and how those worlds collide.
B/R Kicks combined boxing with sneaker culture with a one-of-a-kind shoe-filled punching bag. Guests who took and shared a photo throughout the event were entered to win a Showtime x B/R prize package. Having worked closely with them for our Ron Artest Documentary, we had a great relationship with Showtime and they were willing to trust us when we said it would make sense for them to activate at a sneaker event.
We felt like the demographics aligned and sure enough it was one of the most trafficked spots the whole night with quite a few solid GIFs being created in the space and seen on social in the following days. The whole event was meant to give people opportunities to surprise and delight and keep them moving along through the space while interacting with sponsors and our own content vehicles in an engaging manner.
The stage really brought the emoji set included as a part of the gen-z oriented social first design language and make the DJ booth and panel stage a focal point for the whole event. We had a Sneaker Disruptors” panel featuring multi platinum recording artist Fabulous, Sneaker designer and NYC based Psychotherapist Liz Beecroft and 2x Olympic Gold Medal winner Angel McCoughtry while being moderated by our very own Adam Lefkoe.
To me a “sneaker disruptor” is someone who makes an impact on any scale, whether that be through storytelling, raising awareness on important causes, design, or influence in general. There’s no “right” way to do it as long as you do it authentically and in a way that is truest to themselves. This type of panel was one of the true gems of the experience that guests got to participate in and ask questions throughout in a truly intimate space.
It really was an extension of the success of the panels that we had at our BR99 event with the likes of Ronnie Fieg that helped spark the interest and also the very visible value of talks like this for people in our community. Being able to speak on topics like mental health and consumerism from the lens of sneaker culture is really unique and was fun to integrate into the event but also gave us a fresh avenue to go beyond making this a capitalistic marketing play.
With a custom art installation by Honorroller, 1800 Tequila owned the sole moment of entry by way of the freight elevator like I mentioned above, but once guests were inside, they were provided 1800 Tequila cocktails in the secret bar, hidden behind an unassuming bodega entrance towards the back of the space, with an "If you know, you know" type of vibe. This was a great way to bookend the space and you can see member of our BR Kicks squad, CountonVic, one of the GOATs of #NBATwitter and a huge sneaker head herself, take us on a tour of the 1800 tequila secret speakeasy experience in the recap sizzle below:
One of the things we gave to squad members like Victoria who attended our event, or athtetes who stopped by and even a few lucky regular guests was our gifting box which featured custom beanies, merchandise, water bottles, BR Kicks mugs and stickers galore and of course a pair of kicks. These gift boxes were seeded to influencers across the nation as well to help build up awareness and spread the love and make sure we were being inclusive rather than exclusive.
50,000 custom-branded MetroCards were placed in subway stations across New York City and we promoted them on our social media. Lucky attendees who discovered these cards and brought them to the event were eligible to enter the exclusive “Grail Giveaway,” where the year’s most valuable shoe was given to the winner at the event, effectively spreading our message and building hype for the event. During an unseasonably cold December in NYC, the Drop Up really turned up the heat. The two-day event brought out serious and casual sneakerheads alike, while giving everyone the chance to snag exclusive merch, win some kicks and see what it’s like to be a part of B/R Kicks’ friends and family and it was awesome to be a part of the team that brought it to life both in real life and on digital and social.