Former NBA star Stephon Marbury went on social media recently to promote the relaunch of his Starbury sneaker brand. In the process, Marbury criticized NBA stars like Michael Jordan.
Marbury retired from the NBA and currently plays in China for the Beijing Ducks. The New York City native called Michael Jordan “greedy” on Twitter and even accused him of “robbing the hood” with the high end $200+ Air Jordans basketball shoes that many wear as a status symbol. Marbury tweeted “real people know. I am off the kids getting killed for Jordan’s. I hate that this dude won’t change that. Greedy!” Neither Nike nor Michael Jordan responded.
Stephon Marbury’s sneaker line named Starbury initially launched in 2006 and sold for less than $10 in the retail outlet Steve & Barry’s, that has since went bankrupt. The relaunched sneaker will retail for slightly more at $15. By comparison, Nike’s Air Jordans range from $140 to $250. The limited release versions sell for even more on eBay, which has resulted to several high profile armed robberies.
Marbury does not seem to just be interested in publicizing his new sneaker line. Industry insiders believe that although sneakers like Starbury cost about $5 to manufacture and another $5 or so to ship and distribute, even shoe manufacturers that target the low end market regularly price their products for $40 and up. If Marbury wanted market share, he could have priced them at $30 or $35.
Marbury grew up poor in Brooklyn and most of the clothing he wore was handed down from his siblings and cousins. To him, the sneakers’ price is low enough for parents to be able to afford to buy a pair for each child. Stephon wants kids to take pride in having something for themselves endorsed by an NBA player. “Stephon Marbury is bucking every trend in shoe wear by pricing the gym shoes inexpensively enough to initiate a viral marketing campaign. The price point alone is enough for people to stand up, take notice, and maybe even purchase the shoes just to support Stephon’s message” said Kim Wang, a former executive at the now defunct retailer Steve & Barry’s. Manish Tripathi, an assistant professor of marketing at Emory University in Atlanta recent echoed Wang’s sentiment, even suggesting that Marbury called out Jordan just to build hype around the newly released shoes. “His ability to communicate to a lot of people pretty easily and in a cheap fashion, that has definitely changed. He can make these comments that are a little bit inflammatory, get people to start talking about it, draw some awareness to what he is trying to do.”
Regardless of the marketing pitch and Stephon Marbury’s true motivations, the $15 sneaker endorsed by a basketball star represents a tidal shift in the way celebrities and shoe manufacturers approach fashion. America’s consumer outlook is becoming more and more bifurcated as the middle class continues to struggle. Consumers on the high end are able to afford designer wears and $250 Jordan sneakers, while consumers on the low end are going from store to store looking for the best value. If athletes and celebrities are able to tap into this second market, they can open up their brand to an entirely new consumer and sell their products at unprecedented volumes.