Bleacher Report wants to turn its sneaker brand, B/R Kicks, into a business

Turner’s Bleacher Report spent 2018 building a business for its hit Instagram account House of Highlights. Now, it’s planning to do the same thing for another popular Instagram account it owns, B/R Kicks.

B/R Kicks is Bleacher Report’s brand covering sneaker style and culture. The account has more than 950,000 followers on Instagram including NBA stars and celebrities such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Justin Timberlake. On Dec. 7, Bleacher Report will host its first event for B/R Kicks called The Drop Up, which will feature everything from a new sneaker drop from Adidas, to design classes with famous sneaker artists, to street and modern art exhibits. (There’s also going to be a party and a performance by rapper Sheck Wes.) Bleacher Report will have 40 people across the company on the ground at the event.

While it will serve as a one-day festival for sneaker-heads and even casual enthusiasts, The Drop Up also kicks off a new investment Bleacher Report is making in B/R Kicks heading into 2019. The company declined to disclose the dollar amount of the investment but said that it has made a capital infusion as it looks to grow B/R Kicks beyond its Instagram roots. This includes two new video series — called “Sneaker Shock” and “Pre-Heat” — that will premiere at The Drop Up and be available on other platforms such as YouTube, as well as more events and physical activations that Bleacher Report is planning to do for B/R Kicks in 2019.

“We are incredibly enthusiastic about the elasticity that a sub-brand like B/R Kicks has, and we’re absolutely investing in it in a significant way in 2019, with this launch [event] kicking it off,” said Howard Mittman, CMO and CRO of Bleacher Report. “We’re going to staff up against B/R Kicks, build out a broader content palette and build out events like The Drop Up to create great physical experiences.”

Turning its various digital “sub-brands” into revenue-driving franchises has been a big initiative inside Bleacher Report since the start of 2018. House of Highlights, which has more than 11 million followers on Instagram, is now distributing shows on YouTube, Twitter and other platforms — and has a staff of 14 to support various functions. It’s also done deals with advertisers such as Under Armour and Taco Bell. Similarly, B/R Football has expanded with its own animated series “The Champions,” which is produced by the same creative team that’s behind Bleacher Report’s other hit animated series, “Game of Zones.”

“If you look at some of the successes we’ve had with other sub-brands this year with B/R Football and House of Highlights, B/R Kicks will be following a similar model,” Mittman said.

B/R Kicks will also play a key role in Bleacher Report’s goal of being a lifestyle publisher for young sports fans. Sneakers and streetwear are popular among NBA stars and other athletes, but also allow the company to venture into music and fashion in a way that traditional sports coverage doesn’t.

“We operate B/R Kicks from the sensibility that everyone is a sneaker-head,” said Mittman. “We’re trying to build something that reflects the sensibilities of not just for OG sneaker-heads, but those who are curious about and interested in sports, music and culture.”

The Drop Up itself is already making money for the publisher. Sponsors include Adidas, which is unveiling a new shoe, Levi’s, which will demonstrate ideal jean lays for different types of sneakers, and Chivas Regal, which will be providing custom cocktails. Twitter is also a sponsor and will erect a digital wall that will display some of the most-discussed shoes by NBA Twitter in 2018.

Bleacher Report will also sell merch at the event, including limited-edition B/R Kicks-branded streetwear.

The event itself is open to the public but requires users to register to attend through Bleacher Report’s mobile app, at which point they will receive the address of the event venue. Currently, more than 1,000 people have registered to attend, Mittman said. “We don’t want the crazy mayhem of a trade show; we want it be a bit more curated.”

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