It all started with an urgent email from the top executives at Anta, China’s largest athletic company. They had a new opportunity that would put their brand in the international spotlight and wanted Concept 21 to make it happen. Anta had just signed future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and needed to develop his signature shoe for the 2010 season, the season that would see Garnett and the Celtics battling for the NBA championship all the way to game 7 against the Lakers.
Signing a top-10 player was big time for Anta. The stakes were high, the pressure was on and we need to build a shoe that would compete against the top player’s endorsed shoes like, LeBron James, Kobe, and be as iconic as Jordan’s. Having had signature shoes from Nike and Adidas, KG’s new Anta shoe had to perform just as well and we had to get it right the first time.
There were several things we had to address immediately: develop a relationship with Kevin during the season, create an overarching strategy for branding KG, design and develop a shoe with a factory group that was new to ANTA, and get prototypes to KG to wear-test and provide feedback. Under normal circumstances, this would be a daunting task. The fact we had to do all of this in a few months was monumental.
The Logo Design
As with any great design we started by discovering our inspiration. What we found was that Kevin was actually very articulate when it came to design and fashion. He was quite engaged with industry trends and had clear vision of his desired aesthetic. We had a unique opportunity to make a highly personal shoe for him and he jumped in with both feet.
During this initial meeting I was blown away by the demanding presence Kevin emoted and his intensity. This left a lasting impression on me, ultimately influencing many of the design decisions we made.
We knew we needed a logo for a player of this stature to complement his signature shoes so I turned to an industry legend and friend, Peter Moore. Know for his hand in creating the Jordan logo, his influential creative input in marketing Nike’s Air technology, and helping adidas grow in the 1990s, I was confident that we had the best person to build KG’s brand. Our goal was to capture Kevin’s unique attributes of his character, primarily his the intensity of which he plays the game. The results blew Anta and the basketball world away.
The Shoe Design
When It came to designing Kevin’s first shoe, we had an ace in our pocket in the form of Kyle Pulli, a renowned footwear designer who had worked with Concept 21 on various athletic products in the past. Kyle and our team really delivered on Kevin’s desire to have a shoe that was clean, classic and icon shoe.
The result was a full grain leather shoe, featuring old school styling, a forefoot strap, and personal touches such as design influence from the Celtics’ parquet floor on the outsole and Peter Moore’s new KG logo tastefully incorporated throughout the product.
Developing Kevin Garnett's Shoe
Things were moving fast but we only had three months to develop, sample, wear test, and produce Kevin’s game ready shoe. On top of that we also had to take Kevin’s signature shoe to market in China. In the world of footwear this was a very fast turn around.
To help insure success we worked with a top athletic footwear factory, responsible for producing product for brands like Nike, adidas and Vans. Due to Concept 21’s unique relationships we were able to arrange a complete production run and meet our tight deadline.
The successful launch of Kevin Garnett’s initial signature shoe had a profound impact on Anta’s business, Kevin himself, and the basketball sneaker scene. The shoe won Kevin over, shocking him with how “Dope” it was. The luxurious and classic look was achieved.
As for our client, Anta, they were able capitalize on this success in many ways. Most importantly it propelled them to becoming the dominating footwear brand in the rapidly growing baskeball segment in the Chinese market. We did this by positioning the KG line as it’s own micro brand, similar to Nike’s Jordan brand. This new line was positioned to be high end performance and retailed at $130, while Anta’s traditional product retailed for $55. This significantly elevated Anta’s brand value in it’s customers eyes.
Furthermore, KG’s success at Anta pioneered the way forward for attracting three more noteworthy athletes; Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons and Klay Thompson. As a result, Anta’s global awareness has expanded providing them with an opportunity to expand into new markets outside of China.
Today if you add all three of Anta’s top domestic competitors revenue together, you won’t come close to Anta’s topline revenue figure. That’s how much this brand has been able to expand in the last five years.
In all it was an amazing opportunity to work with a legend in basketball and proved to be a great exercise in Concept 21’s agility, design talent and in speed to market.