Pro-Keds Goes for Hip-Hop Endorsements

Pro-Keds is getting things in line.

The athletic brand is cooking up fresh ways to build credibility with its core consumers as it awaits the transition from former parent Collective Brands Inc. to new owner Wolverine World Wide Inc.

“Our brand definitely has a heritage-based angle,” said brand director Michael O’Donnell. “One of our missions is to evangelize and tell our story.”

To spread its lifestyle brand message, which has roots in the hip-hop scene of the 1970s, Pro-Keds has enlisted the help of music icons such as Biz Markie, DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Clark Kent. The hip-hop personalities will be represented in fall and spring ’13 product, and will lend their musical talents to upcoming initiatives.

O’Donnell said grassroots events with retailers are a crucial part of Pro-Keds’ marketing mix. Next month, the brand will fete its latest package of sneakers at an in-store celebration at Alife Rivington Club in New York with Biz Markie and DJ Clark Kent. 

“The reach of these artists is a big advantage,” McDonnell said. “They grew up in the sneaker game, so they have pull with our core consumers.” 

Product collaborations also help the brand get in front of younger audiences, O’Donnell said. In the past year, Pro-Keds has partnered with the likes of J.Crew, Woolrich, baseball outfitter Louisville Slugger and urban streetwear brand Play Cloths.

“It always behooves us to partner with a brand that has expertise in a certain area,” O’Donnell said. “We’re a heritage athletic brand, so it really helps give us credibility with that younger consumer.”

Going ahead, O’Donnell said the label, which is an offshoot of Keds, is looking forward to seeing how its new affiliation with Wolverine World Wide can add to the mix.

“They have a track record of growing heritage-based brands, such as Hush Puppies,” O’Donnell said. “We’re really excited about the expertise, knowledge and resources that Wolverine will bring to the table.”

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