This time around, the same brash attitude and alternative endorser focus is at the heart of BK, and it’s the brand’s hip-hop heritage and assumed upcoming signees that have Braun, Billboard magazine and a host of blogs buzzing around the BK bring back. ‘Artists Are The New Athletes’ has become the mantra for the company re-entering a flourishing, but somewhat crowded, sneaker market.
“There are different aspects of culture and everyone should cater to someone,” says Braun. “You’ve got your Nikes, you’ve got your Reeboks, and what they really focus on are these gigantic athletes and doing their deals with them. And that’s fine. There’s always going to be those kids that want to wear that sneaker that Kevin Durant is wearing. I get that. But then there’s a lot of kids who look for someone else to influence them. They look for artists, they look for graffiti artists, they look for someone to give them that culture aspect that they’re looking for because sneakers have always been a way to express yourself. Not everybody wants their expression coming from an athlete. They might want it to be someone with a creative mind, like Dr. Romanelli, and the others that are coming in to collaborate with us.”
Just which collaborators? From the surface, it would be easy to peg the British Knights comeback as a campaign centered around celebrity endorsement and pop star power. After talking to Romanelli and Braun, it’s clear that’s not the case. Never one to do the talking before the walking, Braun’s reserved about discussing who will be the next name to join the BK roster. Aligning with artists is clearly in the works, but exactly who the brand will partner with won’t be disclosed until the deals are done. While one would imagine the names and numbers will be big when the deal is done – Braun backs the likes of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande – he makes it clear that it’s not limited to, or even centered around, the megastars of the music world.
In fact, for Braun, the return of British Knights is about something much bigger than that. “If there’s some young kid out there who becomes the dopest young graffiti artist, and he’s getting in trouble but people are talking about his graffiti, Dr. Romanelli will call that person up and say, ‘do you want to design a shoe?’ When we say that artists are the new athletes, we want art to lead culture. We want art in schools. Everything I do in my company has a charitable aspect, and that’s something Romanelli was behind 100%, and so are the rest of our partners at BK. As BK gets bigger and bigger, we will put money back in art programs. By supporting the shoe, we will support the community in return.”
The mantra ‘Artists Are the New Athletes’ definitely extends beyond that of performance artists, though it encompasses all forms. Romanelli echos the same sentiment Braun makes about wanting art to lead culture. “For me, to be able to put artists up on a pedestal and say artists are the new athletes gives me a good focal point to build the brand around – that theme, that mantra. If you look at today’s current market landscape, artists are the new athletes. These blue chip artists, these emerging contemporary artists, [they] have such a strong voice in today’s cultural market and fashion market. For us to be able to celebrate those icons and give them shoes and give them ad campaigns is a going to be critical to the brand’s success. We want something different as a consumer. We want something unique that’s disruptive. To use artists as the main DNA for the brand makes a lot of sense for us.”