How an NBA All-Star is helping to boost Kicks Crew’s street cred


Global online sneaker store Kicks Crew has always had a knack for engaging with its target audience in unique yet contemporary ways, and its latest partnership with NBA All-star Damian Lillard is a case in point.  Lillard has just become an equity investor in the platform and face of the brand, beginning with a community-focused visual campaign and in-app digital experience. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering up with Damian, he’s a great addition to our business and we have gr

d we have great chemistry together,” Kicks Crew co-founder and COO Ross Adrian Yip told Inside Retail.

Yip said that Kicks Crew has always been innovative and committed to promoting sneaker culture. With its latest initiative, it hopes to make sneaker culture less alienating and more accessible to a broader spectrum of consumers.

Laser-focused future

“As sneaker lovers, we have been keeping an eye on NBA athletes from time to time, so we were familiar with Damian. When we met, I saw instant synergy between Damian and Kicks Crew’s core ethos – that having a sense of community (or crew) is the cornerstone of success,” he said.

“As we had more conversations with Damian, he saw a real opportunity to go beyond just putting his name on something, but also to learn something new and contribute his ideas to shape our business.”

Yip is confident that the partnership will be a long-term one, as both Kicks Crew and Lillard share the same vision for the future.

“Damian has become our first Crew Athlete, and along with our future Crew Athletes will help to promote our platform through their communities,” he said.

The company aims to leverage unique personalities to raise awareness of sneaker culture and attract more partners to support its platform.

Community engagement

The first step in the partnership involved travelling to the neighbourhood where Lilliard grew up to announce the new venture together.

“As an equity investor and the company’s first Crew Athlete, Damian is very hands-on with our partnership. For example, our inaugural philanthropic event in Damian’s hometown of Oakland, California, is a big part of his work with Kicks Crew,” Yip said.

The event included community-centric experiences, as well as ongoing giveback activities geared toward communities and organisations that Lilliard has close ties to. 

“This also aligns with Damian’s vision – staying true to his roots. He believes the most important thing now is giving back and lifting people up, which is why he put it top of the agenda when we started working together,” Yip said. 

After the offline initiative, the company decided to continue the giveback theme virtually, through and The Crew app, where limited-edition items were up for grabs. 

Items include signed merchandise by Lillard, a selection of hype sneakers, credit to use for purchase at Kicks Crew stores and more. 

Lillard will also be curating a special sneaker edit using Kicks Crew’s selection of “everyday” and hype shoes, including rare items that will be available at retail (not resale) price. 

“Since the launch, we have received great market reaction and half of the collection is already sold out. Besides, as two parties that are enthusiastic about basketball and sneaker culture, we hope to broaden our reach to the local audience that share our passion,” Yip said.

The company is planning a series of events next year in Hong Kong to bring Lillard to meet and greet local enthusiasts.

The unique proposition

According to Yip, community breeds culture. This is why community and accessibility have always been important pillars for the company right from day one. His vision is to build a space that allows everyone to experience sneaker culture. 

“For Damian, the principle of community is also important as it is a big part of who he is today. We both believe [in] the need to stay true to our roots by connecting people to form our own community,” Yip said.

He believes the partnership is about a lot more than profitability, it’s about bringing positivity to the streetwear community.

“Sneaker culture isn’t static and creating a community experience can only enrich this. This is why giving back to the community was such an important tenet in our partnership,” he said.

Market realities

The US continues to be the largest sneaker market in the world, providing enormous opportunities for Kicks Crew. Yip believes the partnership with Lilliard will broaden its exposure to NBA fans as well.

“There are always different challenges in different markets, and we have been expecting to see market fluctuations. We expect to see continuous growth in the US market,” he said.

The company is also working hard on expanding its presence in different markets in Asia, such as Hong Kong and Japan, which hold huge potential for the business. 

According to Yip, the past two years of the pandemic have accelerated the digital transformation of retail in the Hong Kong market, and the change in consumer behaviour has driven sales and opened up new business opportunities, too.

“Sneaker culture has been strong in Hong Kong for a number of years, and with the growing popularity of casual wear in recent years, we also see a lot of opportunities in this market,” he said.

The future is bright

Another opportunity for the company is the rise in female customers, breaking the stereotype that sneakers are generally a fashion item for men. The female market is also projected to grow significantly.  

“In fact, since the launch of our Crew App on 20 October, we’ve seen five to six times sales growth in Hong Kong. We expect the growth will continue amid the increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles and a broader spectrum of consumers embracing the sneaker culture,” Yip said.

While the partnership with Lilliard started in the US, Yip said a US-HK scale-up is on the cards, as the company hopes to broaden the reach of sneaker culture to Asia.

“We have also been working behind-the-scenes to bring in even more Crew Athletes to collaborate on meaningful campaigns. We believe this will also help us to raise awareness of our effort in promoting the sneaker culture,” he said.


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