The unlikely partnership between pop stars and Crocs

Crocs’ collaborations  with pop stars, such as this one with Justin Bieber, have become an important part of its business.
Crocs’ collaborations with pop stars, such as this one with Justin Bieber, have become an important part of its business.
Image: Crocs
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Two years ago, singer and rapper Post Malone teamed with Crocs for a special version of its signature foam-resin clogs. It was an unusual deal for a pop star, but Post Malone, with his offbeat style and face covered in tattoos, is a bit unusual himself. By then the company was already gathering a following with US teens, and the collaboration worked well enough that they’ve released several more special-edition shoes since.

Crocs hasn’t rested. Since 2019, the company has released products with country singer Luke Combs—with more just announced—put out a line with Korean rapper Psy, and debuted a new partnership with Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton sensation. Most recently, it teamed with Justin Bieber on a clog it released in select markets around the world.

Unlike sneakers from big sports brands, Crocs aren’t the sort of footwear pop stars would traditionally attach their names to. Originally created for use on boats, the shoes are known for being comfortable but also remarkably unattractive. It’s given them a subversive cool that Crocs has leveraged to partner with some of music’s top stars.

The collaborations are helping the company to grow amid the pandemic. Today it reported sales in the recent quarter rose to $362 million, or 15.7% higher than their level last year, returning Crocs to growth after Covid-19 battered its sales earlier in the year. The company has some factors working in its favor right now. Its shoes are comfortable and casual, making them great for a moment when many shoppers are spending their days at home. They’re inexpensive, costing about $40 to $50 a pair. But the collaborations are also helping to create what could be considered a surprising amount of excitement for plastic clogs.

That’s the real goal of the celebrity tie-ups. Crocs releases them in limited quantities to keep them exclusive, meaning Crocs likely isn’t selling enough products from the collaborations themselves to make a big difference in its total sales. The company doesn’t specify how large or small the release numbers are, but on a call with investors and analysts today, CEO Andrew Rees explained the purpose of the collaborations:

They drive consumer engagement. They drive social and digital impressions on a global basis and on an enormous scale. In addition, the dynamics of the consumer shopping on our website allows us typically to collect their email addresses and create a relationship with those consumers, which obviously has value beyond the sale of that collaboration…Given the portfolio of collaborations, and the different types of consumers that we’re bringing to the site, that obviously broadens our reach as a brand.

Crocs may not look like sneakers from Nike or Adidas, but the playbook is similar to the one those companies use. The company doesn’t just partner with pop stars either. It has done deals with actors such as Drew Barrymore and Ruby Rose as well as a number of fashion companies large and small.

Rees said it’s translating into sales, remarking on the call how collaborations helped bring in shoppers in regions such as the US and Europe where growth was strong. Whether or not wearing the clogs is helping Justin Bieber’s brand, it looks to be working for Crocs.