Converse Breaks 'Made By You' Campaign for Chuck Taylors

Effort Urges Owners to Share About Their Custom Kicks

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A portrait of singer Patti Smith's Chucks.
A portrait of singer Patti Smith's Chucks.
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Converse is celebrating its signature Chuck Taylor All Star line in a new push that showcases consumers who make their own mark on the sneaker. The campaign kicks off today with more than 200 portraits of worn and customized Chucks from around the world, including some from notable fans like singer Patti Smith and artist Andy Warhol.

Called "Made By You," the push features the 98-year-old Chuck line, which is the foundation of the Nike-owned Converse brand. Competitor Adidas also launched a star-studded global campaign heralding the most iconic shoe in its Originals line this year. Converse's campaign highlights its customers' creative spirit, although it also includes high-level celebrities.

"This is just a general celebration of people who love to wear their Chuck Taylors," said Ian Stewart, VP-global marketing at Converse. "This campaign speaks to us wanting to celebrate self-expression around the world."

The campaign follows the brand's strong recent growth. Converse brought in $434 million in revenue last quarter, up 21% from the same period a year earlier, driven in part by continued strength in the U.S. and growth in Europe and Asia, according to an earnings release.

The crux of "Made By You" is to get more people to share stories of their Chucks. It kicks off with a global out-of-home push and social effort to encourage consumers to share their own sneaker portraits. "This isn't a media campaign where we're shouting to get people's attention," said Mr. Stewart. "It's a bridge to get people to show what they've done."

The concept -- led by Anomaly, Converse's lead global creative shop -- was inspired by the thousands of photos that are shared by Converse fans on a daily basis, many of which highlight how fans customize their sneakers. "This is how we got to the idea that Chucks are a work of art," said Mr. Stewart. "We're really lucky with Chucks that it's a product that people love when they're worn in."

Social media, and Instagram in particular, is a key platform for the brand and will be a cornerstone of the effort, he said.

Professional skateboarder Kenny Anderson's Converse are also featured in the campaign.
Professional skateboarder Kenny Anderson's Converse are also featured in the campaign.

The campaign also includes a Google Cardboard virtual reality experience in New York's Flatiron district that will allow consumers to step into the shoes of artist Ron English, actress Joanna DeLane, musician King Tuff and urban explorer Thomas Midlane. Viewers can experience a 360-degree video of the sneakers through the Cardboard Goggles, as well as through mobile app and online re-creations. It is part of the campaign's street-level exhibitions designed to encourage people to tell the backstory of their Chucks, Mr. Stewart said.

Other apparel brands like Merrell have recently experimented with virtual reality pushes using tools like the Oculus Rift. Mr. Stewart said Google Cardboard complemented the spirit of the campaign, because it's a do-it-yourself tool. "We'll see where it goes," he added.

As part of the push, Converse will also take over window and other displays at its shops and at retailer like Foot Locker, Nordstrom and Journeys, Mr. Stewart said. Some locations will have portable portrait studios so that customers and store associates can join the campaign.

The push will roll over into the coming seasons and will command the majority of Converse's media budget for the spring, said Mr. Stewart. The budget for 2015 is similar to previous years, but the brand staked the bulk of the money it would typically put towards other seasonal pushes on "Made By You," he said.

Converse spent $5.4 million on U.S. measured-media in 2013, according to Kantar Media. In 2014, it spent nearly $6.9 million through November.