Kids adore sneakers. Don't take our word for it. Matt Powell of the NPD Group explained how that particular sector of the sneaker industry was valued at $4 billion last year alone.
Besides how lucrative it can be, this also serves as a pivotal entry point to shaping a consumer's buying habits. Think back to when you were a kid. How did it feel buying your first pair of Air Jordans or LeBron James' signature shoes? Are you still a fan of those kicks? Brand loyalty is critical and forming a sense of loyalty often starts at an impressionable age.
With proxy wars being fought all across the sneaker spectrum, former Nike designer and entrepreneur Jason Mayden entered the space with a new idea in mind: Make kids feel like superheroes.
His company Super Heroic was built around that concept. "We wanted to look at the holistic experience of discovery and creativity. It’s all about helping the child transform," Mayden told B/R Kicks.
Mayden and his team believe footwear is changing and the athlete-to-consumer relationship isn't what it used to be. "Looking at the consumer trends, it comes back to what value does it bring to my life? The first introduction to an athlete is going to be through 2K. Not going to a game."
Figuring out what comes after the influence of sports is something Mayden and the Super Heroic team take seriously. "We’re at the tail end of the sports-driven culture thanks to social media. The Marvels, the Disney. Each summer, every story is being driven by a movie. They call Elon Musk Tony Stark. We’re living in an age where we can create super heroes."
Times were different when Mayden grew up. He fell in love kicks during the athlete-to-consumer heyday. "The Air Jordan 4 was the shoe that got me into wanting to become a sneaker design," Mayden mentioned. "I loved footwear in general. It was a tangible artifact of my heroes. You dress to feel a certain way."
Super Heroic's mission is to empower the youth as they engage in daily activities. The brand's first shoe, the TMBLR V1, was designed be worn on all platforms with superior, quality materials "It’s not built for a specific sport. Kids don’t exist in a controlled environment. Our shoes our built for the environment in which the kids play in. Play is a catalyst for performance, not a replacement," Mayden explained.
This idea of empowerment goes beyond purchasing a pair of kicks and pretending to be someone else. "A kid goes to the store and they wear a Kyrie. But they can’t become a Kyrie. Super Heroic amplifies a version of yourself. It’s brand new and different," Mayden expressed.
Super Heroic's concept has gained traction. The company raised $7 million to launch, attracting influencers like Magic Johnson to get behind the project.
Why do people like Magic believe in Mayden's vision? Perhaps its their unique—top secret—strategy to reach their audience called Thinktivated marketing. "The core of the strategy is we’re able to understand the gaps and the noise in a different way," Mayden acknowleged without giving too much information away.
Super Heroic plans to unveil additional silohuettes in the coming months. "They’re all going to be narrative driven. Ideas built around characters. It’s a full ecosystem of products that help the child play in the Super Heroic world," Mayden described.
For now, they're focused on the TMBLR v1. Mayden's planning on traveling the west coast in a custom Hero Lab van, showcasing the product to kids, explaining his vision.
When speaking with Mayden, you get the sense he's got this whole thing figured out. Super Heroic is an innovative approach to changing the way kids think about the sneaker industry and how they spend their time on the playground. It's a concentrated dose of self-empowerment and safety seen through a new lens. "We're taking a very different approach. It's about building trust and authenticity. Not just sales," he concluded.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.