Nike, probably the only corporation other than Apple that can get people to buy their products solely because they are cool, is set to debut the LeBron X, its newest set of basketball kicks bearing the apellation of hardcourt royalty LeBron James, according to the Wall Street Journal. The high-end model, available with the company’s Nike+ technology, will retail for an astonishing $315, almost five times the original $65 cost of Nike’s Air Jordan 1 in 1985 (which NewsFeed didn’t get for Christmas, although we did get a pair of Adidas and a Kangol cap).
Clearly Nike needs no tutorship in selling athletic gear; the company made $20.9 billion last year. And the boys in Beaverton probably have a major marketing campaign up their sleeves waiting to astound us. But in case they need a nudge on selling basketball gear, here’s a few tips on selling a $315 athletic shoe to a skeptical public.
1) Find a two-time Olympic gold medalist who also won his first NBA Championship ring two years after bolting from his hometown team to chase (and find) basketball glory. LeBron James is, of course, no stranger to selling Nikes. Just last year, the company charged $250 for the LeBron 9 PS Elites. Expensive? Yes, but the basktetball shoe division earned a 17% increase in revenue in 2011, and this shoe (and the name on it) was likely part of it.
2) Dazzle people with blockbuster movie-quality commercials that make their star bigger than life yet barely even show the product. Cameos by stars like Dirk Nowitzki and Questlove don’t hurt either. As a matter of fact, make a significant part of your marketing initiative geared toward social media with hashtags like #GAMEONWORLD.
3) Downplay the price, and play up the Nike+ technology, which does cool stuff like track how high you jump and how fast you move and can upload the stats to your smartphones. At the same time, explain the exorbitant price of the shoe by noting that labor costs in China, where the shoe is manufactured, and the price of cotton, one of the primary materials used in the shoe, have both gone up. Besides, consumers will still be able to purchase a non-cool tech version of the shoe for $180.
4) Be sure that your superstar is seen not just wearing, but performing in your product in a high-profile sports event that billions of people will be watching – like maybe the 2012 Summer Olympics. The new LeBron X’s unapologetically debuted on King James’ feet during the USA basketball team’s gold medal game against Spain, and he let the shoes do the talking (even though Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points). While most people will not display James’ prowess or skills on the court, they can still imagine themselves doing it — and that’s enough to sell billions in footwear.