Lexus leans into sneakerhead culture with car-inspired shoe, video series

Dive Brief:

  • Lexus sponsored a video documentary that shows how a group of designers participated in a challenge to customize a sneaker inspired by the luxury car brand’s 2021 IS sedan, per an announcement. Viewers can see the three-part “Rubber & Sole” series on a dedicated web page set up by entertainment company Complex.
  • Lexus partnered with Complex and designer collective RTFKT to create the custom shoe partly out of materials from the car’s NuLuxe interior. The series shows how RTFKT designers analyzed the 2021 IS, developed a sneaker prototype based on the car and created a final version with the Lexus badge and a tag from its F Sport models. The shoe isn’t available for sale.
  • The “Rubber & Sole” series part of Lexus’s broader “All In” campaign that started on Jan. 4 and seeks to reach people pursuing their passions. The campaign includes additional influencer partnerships, TV spots, social content and a documentary-style travel video, the company announced.

Dive Insight:

Lexus’s “Rubber & Sole” video series that highlights a sneaker design challenge is part of the carmaker’s effort to engage younger audiences who spend more time with digital media than with other channels like traditional linear TV. Those audiences tend to favor authentic content from creators, a preference that social video app TikTok helped to inspire in the past few years. The collaboration with the RTFKT collective is consistent with that theme and Lexus’s broader “All In” effort that includes video spots starring microinfluencers. Its “Names” and “Vanity Plates” commercials in January began airing during primetime TV, special events and playoffs for the NFL and NBA.

“Rubber & Sole” is another sign of how sneakerhead culture has become more mainstream, inspiring campaigns from brands that aren’t endemic to the sportswear or apparel industries. Mondelez’s Chips Ahoy last month began asking sneakerheads to vote on their favorite shoe design for Chip, the cookie brand’s mascot who in 2020 returned from a six-year hiatus. The campaign included a sweepstakes to win a scholarship to the Shoe Surgeon Shoe School, a design school for shoemaking. Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut chain also has partnered with the Shoe Surgeon on sneaker-themed campaigns, including the introduction of “Pie Tops” connected sneakers for ordering pizza.

As part of its effort to engage younger viewers, Lexus in January asked viewers of livestreaming platform Twitch to help create a customized version of the 2021 IS. Twitch streamer Fuslie hosted a two-hour program that asked 554,000 unique viewers to vote on features such as gaming consoles, a 3-D printed controller, monitors, lighting, drinks and a car wrap. The crowdsourcing effort highlighted how brands can support direct interactions with viewers and glean insights about their preferences to inform future campaigns.

Lexus’s campaigns also include smartphone-centered initiatives that ran throughout last year. The carmaker in March 2020 released a six-part podcast series hosted by author Malcolm Gladwell. Three months later, it released the Lexus AR Play app to give users an immersive preview of the 2021 IS sedan. It also introduced a social media series, “Lexus Creates,” urging people to participate in the creative process that underpins the brand’s emphasis on craftsmanship. Through an origami tutorial with U.K. artist Coco Sato, Lexus highlighted its “pursuit of perfection” brand ethos. Its latest video series ties into this brand ethos through the lens of the sneakerhead community.

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