Fast Company

Nike Has a New Digital Playbook—and it Starts With Sneakerheads

Nike’s partnership with Kendrick Lamar has yielded limited-edition shoes and new opportunities to connect with fans.

On a recent Friday morning, a select group of Nike’s biggest fans got an alert. A new, limited-edition version of the brand’s Cortez running shoe—an old-school nylon sneaker originally released in 1972—was about to drop. The release was happening during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, and the shoes—red, white, and black, with the words don’t trip emblazoned across the laces—were made in partnership with rapper Kendrick Lamar, a local legend.

Customers received the notification through an app called Snkrs, which Nike has been refining over the past year as a way of connecting superfans with desirable pairs of, you know, sneakers. It is distinct from the regular Nike app, where you go to get a pair of performance shoes. Snkrs sticks to the kinds of limited-edition runs—interesting colorways, unusual styles, partnerships with performing artists or fashion designers such as Riccardo Tisci—that are so popular they often end up being resold, concert-ticket-style, on the secondary market.

Fans who collect rare sneakers (and streetwear by culty brands like Supreme) are known as hypebeasts, and they are accustomed to waiting in endless, scrumlike lines at high-end boutiques with no guarantee of even getting a pair by the time they reach the front. Nike was trying something different for its $100 Cortez Kenny II, nicknamed “Kung Fu Kennys” after Lamar’s alter ego. (An earlier version, the Cortez Kenny I, sold out in January and already

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