When Sneaker Con was born in 2009, its goal was to create a dedicated space for sneakerheads-- extremely passionate sneaker lovers-- to talk shop, show off their collections, and make trades. In its first year, Sneaker Con attracted 600 attendees. In 2018, the convention welcomed 20,000. In a mere 9 years, Sneaker Con has grown 33 times over.
Let that sink in.
Sneaker Con was a near instant success, garnering support and attention from every aspect of the sneaker industry. With its proven popularity and demand, Sneaker Con grew very quickly. Today, it is the world’s premier sneaker convention, bringing vendors and attendees to buy, sell and trade some of the most exclusive and sought after sneakers on the market. The show travels across the globe, and is held multiple times a year in different cities.
A hallmark feature of Sneaker Con is “The Trading Pit”, an open floor space where attendees can buy, sell, and trade their sneakers. If compared to another marketplace, one could possibly anologize it to a souk; vendor and product filling every nook and cranny, sneakers strewn across the floor and tables, sellers--tenacious, self proclaimed hustlers--hawking their wares to captivated and willing audiences. Here is where enthusiasts come to head to talk shop and strike deals, making Sneaker Con an appealing, safe space. It has become a real life eBay without the risk.
But that wasn’t always the case.
The pace of growth in the sneaker economy is out of the ordinary. Brands and influencers are constantly releasing a barrage of limited edition sneakers, with each increasing “drop” branded as more impressive and exclusive than the last. The high value, low volume, and intense demand for these sneakers creates a prime counterfeiting market. To protect their attendees from dupes, Sneaker Con introduced “authenticators” to the convention: experts in sneakers who could analyze a physical shoe by eye and determine whether or not the sneaker was genuine or fake. This added feature provided attendees with even greater value. It was a way for attendees to verify for themselves that their sneakers were indeed legitimate. It also acted as further insurance for those wanting to trade or sell their shoes.
Sneaker Con's goals were to become the standard of what is authentic, and to create a digital marketplace and community for sneakerheads.
The problem was, however, that the only proof that a shoe had been authenticated was a metal LEGIT tag that was placed on each pair. The tag itself, while virtually indestructible, could have been reattached to another shoe or even recreated by a skilled counterfeiter. Furthermore, the visually appealing tag, had no interactive capabilities. Sneaker Con wanted a more bulletproof solution to the LEGIT tag; one that physically verified authenticity in a tamper-proof way, and that could communicate digitally to sneakerheads. As a brand positioned as an ally and expert to the sneaker community, this was a necessity. If Sneaker Con inadvertently perpetuated fake sneakers, its reputation and legitimacy would hurt significantly.
To solve this problem, Sneaker Con partnered with Blue Bite to create a robust authentication system. The Company’s goals were to become the standard of what is authentic, and to create a digital marketplace and community for sneakerheads to strike deals; in essence: an extension of the Sneaker Con event that could be accessed and experienced at any given time.
To do this, Sneaker Con devised improvements to the real-life authentication process at their convention and created an official Sneaker Con digital marketplace app leveraging all 3 of Blue Bite’s core offerings: The Experience Studio, Decode, and SDK.
The first improvement Sneaker Con made to protect its attendees was to require anyone who wanted to set up shop in The Trading Pit to first have their sneakers verified “legit” by authenticators (through manual inspection). Once the authenticator determined a sneaker genuine, they would activate a physical NFC-enabled LEGIT tag with the sneakers’ details (brand, model, size, condition, etc.) and an official Sneaker Con digital stamp of authenticity. The LEGIT tag was then fastened to the sneaker. After the activation process, the digital details could not be changed or reversed, and since the tag was fastened to the sneaker using a special tamper-proof mechanism, one would need to break it in order to put it on another shoe. This system helped thwart fakes being sold in The Trading Pit because the tag was a visual indicator of authenticity, and it empowered attendees to check authenticity themselves by using Blue Bite’s Decode app (using the app to tap their phone against the tag would authenticate the sneakers).
The only way to receive a LEGIT badge in the online marketplace was to physically tap an NFC enabled LEGIT tag.
The next big innovation that Sneaker Con made was to create a digital marketplace app where sneakerheads could enjoy the experience of the Sneaker Con convention at home. This was a sure fire way for the Company to provide greater value to their following. It also seamlessly integrated with the improvements made in the authentication process at the show. Once an authenticator certified a sneaker, an attendee could easily add it to their virtual closet by simply tapping the new LEGIT tag embedded with NFC. Since the app integrated with Blue Bite’s SDK, the app would display a LEGIT badge next to the product image, indicating that the sneaker was authenticated in person by Sneaker Con experts. Additionally, the only way to receive a LEGIT badge in the online marketplace was to physically tap an NFC enabled LEGIT tag. This proved valuable to app users in the same way it did in The Trading Pit: when users came across another user’s verified LEGIT sneakers on the app, they could feel confident about making a purchase. In this way, Sneaker Con created an entirely new category of sneakers: Legit ones.
The project saw the enablement of 3,235 LEGIT tags, with an activation rate of 34% in less than 60 days. In the first month of the launch, Sneaker Con’s app had over 50,000 downloads, and has continued to steadily grow month over month.
In the first month, Sneaker Con’s app received over 50,000 downloads.
Employing the new authentication process coupled with the app helped Sneaker Con expand its value to attendees and achieve their dual goal of creating a digital marketplace and community for sneakerheads and becoming the standard for what is authentic. Blue Bite made it possible by helping power Sneaker Con’s authentication ecosystem, providing their users with greater value, and imbuing sneakers with a digital identity.
Sneaker Con’s great success with their brand and the immense loyalty of their following has prompted them to think even deeper about how they can provide more value to their growing fanbase. A recent order for 50,000 NFC tags tells us digital experiences are definitely part of the plan.