The Evolution Of Footwear Marketing

From buzzy celebrity ads to captivating Instagram posts, FN takes a look at footwear’s marketing evolution.

The marketing scene has transformed dramatically during the last 70 years. While brands continue to put more emphasis — and money — into social media messaging, many still rely on the power of print advertising. Here are some of the most memorable campaigns:


Then: Wolverine World Wide’s Keds brand, once owned by United States Rubber Co., operated a women’s division called Kedettes during the 1940s and ’50s. Its ads were prominent in magazines — featuring not only sneakers, but espadrilles, oxfords and sandals. Ads for Keds men’s iconic white sneakers also appeared frequently in magazines and on television with the tagline, “The Shoe of Champions.”

Now: Taylor Swift is the face of the brand’s multi- channel campaign, with a focus on social media. The music superstar helped generate excitement by allowing her now-famous cat, Olivia Benson, to appear in the ads. Her pet can be seen resting on top of Swift’s black-and-white canvas sneakers. And Keds’ latest collection is inspired by the cover art on Swift’s album, “1989.”


Nike ad campaign
Nike’s #betterforit ad campaign
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Then: Nike debuted its first ad featuring the Lady Waffle Trainer — part of a line designed specifically for women — in 1978. The athletic giant has been a leader in putting female athletes front and center. In 1995, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes became the second athlete to have her own Nike shoe, right behind Michael Jordan.

Now: Flash forward more than 40 years, and Nike is still celebrating women with its newest campaign, #betterforit.


Then: During the late 1980s and early ’90s, the retro sneaker brand, founded by Robert Greenberg, was famous for its light-up shoes — and its ads, starring none other than Michael Jackson. L.A. Gear also worked with Paula Abdul, Kathy Ireland and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during its glory days.

Paula Abdul's L.A. Gear Ad
Paula Abdul’s L.A. Gear Ad
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Now: President Lance Jackson has retained the brand’s marketing roots by teaming up with rapper Tyga for the recent relaunch of the brand, now owned by ACI International. “We take a lot of inspiration from our old ads, but we try to put a more modern twist on them. We try to always stay true to our heritage,” said Jackson.



Then: In 1968, the U.S Basketball Team wore Chuck Taylors — and Converse capitalized on it. During the Summer Olympic games in Mexico City, Converse advertised its All-Star sneaker with the tagline, “When you’re out to beat the world, you wear All-Stars” and “Just because the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team will wear Converse basketball shoes, should you? You Betcha.”

Now: The brand’s recent “Made By You” campaign features Chuck Taylors that are owned — and customized — by global icons such as Patti Smith.


Jenny McCarthy Candie's Shoes
Jenny McCarthy for Candie’s shoes.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Then: Who could forget Jenny McCarthy as the original Candie’s girl in 1997? The then-host of MTV’s “Singled Out” was featured posing on a toilet while wearing the Candie’s classic platform mule. “For us, what has changed is that we’ve lost a little bit of our edge, and that’s very intentional,” said Dari Marder, chief marketing officer at Iconix, the brand’s parent. “Back in the ’90s, we had a small budget, and we needed to do something to break through.”

Now: With Disney superstar Bella Thorne as the current Candie’s girl, the brand is no longer doing marketing that is provocative or controversial. “We have a home at Kohl’s for Candie’s, and we have to consider [the chain’s] positioning in the marketplace as a family retailer. I don’t think edgy ads make sense for the brand anymore,” Marder said, adding that Thorne is a “mass vehicle in terms of her reach.”


Then: “We began our brand-building journey in 2012 with a global ad campaign shot by Mario Testino,” said Chief Marketing Officer Susan Duffy. “The goal was to articulate a vision and emotionally resonate with our diverse customer base.” Since then, Stuart Weitzman has featured Natalia Vodianova, Kate Moss and Gisele Bündchen in its Testino-shot ads.

Now: In April, Stuart Weitzman debuted its first-ever campaign on Instagram using Cinemagraphs, a photo-and-video hybrid. “We love ‘fashion firsts’ for the brand, and this is an innovative way of creating an original content experience,” said Duffy.

TOMS Sponsored By TOMS

Building Business to Improve Lives

TOMS discusses its approach to mental health awareness and female empowerment through impact initiatives in the footwear segment.
Learn More

Access exclusive content