Some of the Best Modern Sneaker Launches and Activations
Epic launches and activations for new sneakers can play a big part in building the intrigue and hype around a certain release. And they also become an instant part of sneaker folklore, mentioned in hushed tones by those in the know. Brands and retailers are always looking for eye-catching ways to unveil their latest wares to help grab the attention of sneakerheads amidst an often-busy marketplace. We’ve taken a short look back at recent history to highlight some of the best modern sneaker launches and activations.
BSTN Celebrate the Nike AF-100 Collection
When Nike unveiled their AF-100 collection in 2017 to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of the legendary Air Force 1, they enlisted a dream team of collaborators. Obviously attempting to match the raw star power of a pack that included the work of Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke, Don C, Errolson Hugh, Virgil Abloh, and Travis Scott, German retailer BSTN went all out with a fleet of customised vehicles that paid tribute to the sneaker release. Featuring a Cessna Citation XLS private jet, a Mercedes G Wagon, a Can-Am Spyder, and a Lamborghini Aventador, there was something for everyone. Then, one year after this epic showcase, BSTN celebrated the release of the Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord’ by customising a Ducati 916 motorcycle. These were both seriously deluxe activations.
The AriZona Iced Tea x adidas Pop-Up
There’s something pretty wild about dropping a coveted colab and slapping a 99-cent price tag on it, but even adidas were probably surprised by the OTT reaction this release received on the streets of New York City in 2019. Things escalated real quickly on the day of the drop, forcing the NYPD to shut the whole thing down after reports of violence in the heavily-populated throng that had gathered to get a pair. The colourful pack – which included special versions of both the Continental 80 and Yung-1 – was eventually released online, with initial resale values quickly rising much higher than that incredible RRP.
The NYPD had to shut down Adidas’ Arizona Iced Tea pop-up shop in NYC. What happens when you try to sell 99-cent shoes. pic.twitter.com/qbAAONFsnb— Complex Sneakers (@ComplexSneakers) July 18, 2019
New Balance ‘Grey Day’ Global Celebration
New Balance and the colour grey are one of the sneakersphere’s most popular romances, so it makes sense to go all-out with ‘Grey Day’ celebrations. And in 2018, NB ,spread the love across the globe for their annual day of observance for the omnipresent shade. Key events were held in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, New Zealand, Thailand, and Australia, with each location paying its own unique tribute to the popular pairing. With a particular focus on the legendary 574 silhouette, there were art installations, interactive displays, special guests, and grey-themed parties. While each celebration was cool in itself, the international spread of events earns it a place on this list.
The Concepts x Nike SB Dunk High ‘TurDUNKen’ Dubai Store Fit Out
Just in case the Concepts x Nike SB Dunk High ‘TurDUNKen’ design wasn’t crazy enough, Concepts Dubai upped the ante with their store fit out to herald the arrival of this thematic rendition. As part of the release, Concepts built a ‘Bird Hunt’ shooting range in their Dubai store, and held a mock duck shooting contest for 500 customers over the length of the activation. The two contestants with the highest scores each day scored a free pair, while the eight runners up were guaranteed a pair on release day. It was all quite fitting when you consider that the collaboration took aesthetic cues from the Mallard duck.
Salehe Bembury x New Balance Test Run Project 3.0 ‘Finders Keepers’
Tapping into the nostalgic charm of an old-fashion game of ‘Finders Keepers’, in April 2021 Salehe Bembury and New Balance turned the release of their Test Run Project 3.0 ‘Finders Keepers’ into a treasure hunt. After scattering 50 individually-numbered pairs of the eclectic design all over Los Angeles, Bembury posted clues on his Instagram Stories to help fans find the specially-packaged shoes.
This really put the fun back into sneaker releases, and was a neat fusion of old and new, challenging people to use social media while taking part in a rollicking scavenger hunt. And if you were one of the lucky few to locate a pair, you’ve got a seriously cool backstory to go with a seriously wild shoe.