I would’ve never expected a picture of Kim Kardashian and Adam Silver together announcing a marketing deal. But Kim Kardashian’s new multi-billion dollar “shapewear” venture, SKIMS, has signed a deal to become the official partners of the NBA, WNBA, and USA basketball— and there is a big upside for both sides in the deal.
When it comes to sports marketing, this one is a pretty smart move on both sides. SKIMS started out as a women’s product going after the “shapewear” market carved out by Spanx. After Kim’s initial stumbling when the original name of the company, “Kimono,” was criticized for hijacking Japanese culture, she adeptly pivoted to the name SKIMS, which turned out to be a perfect brand fit for her.
After launching its latest campaign with female pop culture celebrities like Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Candice Swanepoelis, Kim has turned her attention to extending the brand to the male undergarment market using sports as a vehicle. SKIMS has signed marketing deals with male athletes including soccer star, Neymar, NFL star Nick Bosa, and NBA standout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The deal with the NBA and WNBA introduces a new “shapewear” category for the first time in the sports world. The naysayers say that while SKIMS is a multi-billion dollar company, it’s entry into the men’s market is set up to fail. I wouldn’t be so sure.
Whatever your opinion of them, it’s finally time to give Kim Kardashian and her manager mother, Kris Jenner, full credit for their marketing genius. They were the original influencers who figured out how to dominate the social media game in an unprecedented way. Kim entered the sports world for the first time, during the time I was CMO of Skechers, we hired her to be the face of our newly launched performance division and she starred in our Super Bowl commercial working out and breaking up with her trainer. Kim and Kris wanted this mainstream advertising campaign badly for Kim because they knew it would supercharge her social media following even more and build Kim’s brand— and it worked.
The result was that she was the first influencer to cash in on her direct-to-consumer appeal with her Kim Kardashian Goes To Hollywood app. Her SKIMS venture has been a rousing success and has been valued by Forbes at $4 billion, and contrary to what some of the pundits are saying, using sports to extend the brand and enter the men’s market is a smart move.
A great comparison would be Lululemon, which was known primarily as a women’s brand. There were lots of naysayers when Lululemon launched its men’s line. However, not only did Lululemon enter the men’s market successfully, but last year according to Forbes it enjoyed a 61% growth in its men’s business compared to a 37% growth in its women’s business.
It is a calculated assault on the men’s underwear category that has been stagnant for years and has only recently begun to heat up with new entrants like Saxx, Tommy Johns and MeUndies. Just as Spanx created the shapewear category out of the women’s undergarment market, SKIMS could create a similar category out of the men’s underwear market. Instead of using models and actresses admired by women, SKIMS is using athletes and sports sponsorships deals to attract a male audience. The fact that it has a huge marketing budget can make SKIMS an instant leader in the category.
What The Deal Means For The NBA
The SKIMS NBA deal is also a smart move for the NBA which has a predominantly young audience that is 70% male. Not only will the NBA benefit financially from the deal but partnering with SKIMS allows the league to align with a female-focused brand that is likely viewed favorably by that female audience due to its popularity. As SKIMS uses NBA imagery and athletes in its advertising it activates the NBA in front of a new audience of women that it hopes will become fans. Just as SKIMS seeks new male customers, the NBA wants to attract more female fans.
SKIMS has been getting positive reviews from consumers and critics alike for its women’s product so I would expect that the men’s product will be solid as well. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told me that he thinks “the men’s line will be a huge hit.” So from Kim Kardashian and Adam Silver’s perspective, this new deal seems to be a marketing match made in heaven— more men business for SKIMS and more women fans for the NBA.