VaynerMedia cofounder and chief executive Gary Vaynerchuk talks fast.
He’s got a lot to say and has his hands in a number of pots. The serial entrepreneur founded the digital agency VaynerMedia and has his own podcast. He’s also an investor having plugged money into companies such as Twitter, Snapchat, Uber and Venmo. He’s been called Internet famous and an influencer marketing wiz, with nearly 1.6 million Twitter followers and 2.5 million on Instagram.
He may not be the typical athlete or celebrity a shoe brand would work with, but he’s got the following, thus helping explain his new collaboration with K-Swiss.
Vaynerchuk and K-Swiss paired on two sneaker styles that debuted at ComplexCon in a relationship reflective of the direction the shoe brand is going with its marketing. It’s a bid to position itself away from the heavy alignment with athletes in the vein of a Nike or Adidas in favor of linking with individuals who resonate with Millennials and Generation Z-ers.
WWD nabbed a few minutes with Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee, to talk about the somewhat unlikely collaboration and why it made sense.
WWD: Was designing a sneaker something you always wanted to do?
Gary Vaynerchuk: I grew up with shoe culture. I’m an Eighties baby, Nineties baby. So sneakers were always a big part of my life. I never thought, being an entrepreneur, that it would lead to anything remotely close to this, but for the three, four years I’ve been noting how much entrepreneurial spirit there is in this [sneaker] culture: the buying and selling of sneakers.
When the president of K-Swiss, Barney [Waters], reached out to me, I read the e-mail carefully and I’m like “Does he mean an actual official collaboration, not me just shouting out a sneaker?” We sat down at dinner and we were able to put it together.
It’s super humbling, but you can see it works. Much like athletes, much like artists, entrepreneurship is an art. We haven’t talked about that enough.
I think I’m a purebred artist in entrepreneurship. I really do, and I think that’s why people feel it. That’s why it’s working and it’s cool. The thought of entrepreneurs now having sneakers? It’s different.
WWD: And tell me about the design aesthetic here.
G.V.: The green is because I love the New York Jets. The classic [Gary Vee] 001 knit was just being very cultural and understanding what’s happening. The knits are really taking off. The [Gary Vee] 002, these are like the sneakers I wore when I was growing up.
WWD: These collaborations have typically been with celebrities or athletes, so what does the mash-up with an entrepreneur say about culture, the consumer or brands?
G.V: It says we are at a place now where entrepreneurship and business has crossed over into the lexicon of culture. And that’s it. And guess what? Music did that at one point. Fashion did that at one point. The fashion industry 40, 50, 60 years ago was very different than the way we look at it now and entrepreneurship is now on that pedestal path. It’s the early emerging days of it.
WWD: You’re a marketer. The FCC’s really cracking down now on influencers and brands on social media.
G.V.: I love it. I think it’s great.
WWD: Will this impact the business of blogging?
G.V.: No. I think people don’t give a s–t. In fact, I think they like it more. I think doing the right thing — it hasn’t had any impact. Influence marketing’s growing. Just because it’s [labeled] an ad — nobody’s being tricked.
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