College basketball fans around the country are rejoicing; NCAA March Madness 2016 has begun. In addition to being one of the biggest U.S. sporting events of the year behind the Super Bowl, March Madness is also one of the prime opportunities for the athletic footwear industry.
Much of the opportunity has to do with marketing. Signing college teams is more of a marketing ploy than a direct sales story. These contracts can be worth several hundred million dollars. The contracts can include footwear, uniforms, other apparel, and direct payments to coaches.
Nike once again dominates the court as this year’s tournament begins, having shoe contracts with 44 of the 68 teams and providing uniforms for 41 of those teams (the three other teams will wear Russell uniforms). Both Under Armour and Adidas will have a greater presence at the tournament compared to last year; Under Armor is providing uniforms for 10 teams, up from six last year, and Adidas for 14, up from 11 last year.
Here are the most important times of the year for basketball shoe sales, and March Madness makes the list.
Sneaker sales peak during Christmastime, and some of the biggest weeks of the year for basketball shoes are around this holiday. With the advent of gift cards, these weeks have become even larger in relation to other weeks of the year. Brands often schedule releases to take advantage of this natural buying time. Typically, the largest Jordan retro release of the year occurs around Christmas.
The NBA All Star game has become another very important sales period for basketball shoes. As the game is showcased for the skills of some of the best players in the game, it’s a logical time for brands to showcase some of their best products as well.
Black Friday is another key sales period for basketball shoes. While many retailers have turned the Thanksgiving holiday shopping period from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, for the most part, sneaker brands have held their releases until the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Back-to-school is another important season. Today, kids often wait for school to start to see what other kids are wearing before beginning their back-to-school shopping, which moves the sales period later than in previous years. While this remains an important sneaker sales period, the traditional timeline for back-to-school shopping (usually mid-July through early September) is now extended. This means we can expect to see back-to-school sneaker sales spread over a longer period of time.
The fifth most important selling period for basketball shoes is during March Madness. Sales during this period are not that much higher than an average week, but still enough to move the weeks into a top spot for the year.
March Madness aside, the real lesson here is that brands have to create great products 52 weeks out of the year. Consumers demand fresh ideas with every shopping trip. Brands that create one new look and hope to ride it for months will not succeed.