When it comes to brand collaborations –Nike’s shoes are at the top of their game. In 1985, the original Air Jordan marked a new age in how brands would collaborate, and while much of the early focus of these collaborations was with athletes it wasn’t long before Nike began collaborating with designers and those in the know in the world of fashion. British brand Stüssy was the first to collaborate with Nike in 2000, but a wave of other collaborations followed – Supreme (prior to any Louis Vuitton collaborations), designers such as Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), Yoon Ahn(Ambush, Dior) and Chitose Abe (Sacai) to name a few (Figure 1).
In recent years Nike has begun to tap into the truly top end luxury fashion brands. The Dior collaboration was the first to create impact for both brands – a pair of the Air Force 1’s can still be found for sale today on DeWu for ~50,000 RMB. Additionally the collaboration with Louis Vuitton last year also drove significant uplift in brand attention, coinciding with the unfortunate death of Virgil Abloh. Both collaborations were met at the time with interest, and generally positive critical response.
In January of 2023 word began circulating about an upcoming collaboration with Tiffany. The pair of shoes was finally revealed on the 31st of January and has since received a rather more muted reception from consumers and industry critics alike.
In this article we take a data based view of these collaborations in an attempt to be able to unpick the strategy. Brand collaborations are often about audience access and brand image enhancement – in the case of these Nike collaborations – they have been typically used from a Nike perspective to raise the desirability of the brand, and at the same time drive the sneaker collector market with a special edition that has long lasting collectability. From a luxury brand perspective, it has often been to access younger audiences – this is especially relevant in China where the luxury audience tends to be younger and thus making your brand seem more familiar and desirable to that demographic allows for brands to elevate above the market and build for future success.
We looked at the performance of brand related posts regarding the releases as well as any user generated comments in the seven days following the initial announcement. We looked at Weibo, XiaoHongShu and Douyin. In the China social media landscape each of these channels plays different roles in how they resonate with audiences as well as their stage of establishment in consumers’ minds.
Brand Generated Content
The official announcement posts from both accounts were analyzed. Interestingly in all three cases there was no official announcement from Nike on their brand accounts on any platforms, and only a brief product showcase on the Dior collection on two posts in the four years since launch. This is our first sign of the expression of different strategies – with luxury brands wanting to push the message out to their audience more readily and with more investment on digital channels.
From the brand generated content we can notice some key elements:
1- Comparatively Dior put significantly more effort in terms of posts to push the collaboration to the market. With 22, 15 and 9 posts respectively on Weibo, XiaoHongShu and Douyin.This investment paid off in terms of engagement with the brand having significantly higher engagement than both Tiffany and Louis Vuitton on both Weibo and Douyin.
2- Tiffany had a good level of engagement on XiaoHongShu – the platform itself is typically more aligned to luxury consumers, showing that it was well received (from Figure 4 we can see that this engagement level is 367% of the typical engagement of a Tiffany XHS post)
3- Tiffany did not post the collaboration on Douyin – this generated the most engagement per post for both Louis Vuitton and Dior potentially representing a missed opportunity
4- Weibo was perhaps the most disappointing performance overall – with no celebrity endorsement it achieved only 1% of the typical engagement of a Tiffany Weibo post (average over the three months between November 1st – January 31st) and was also significantly less than both LV and Dior were able to generate
User Generated Content
On Weibo Tiffany generated the most posts of the three collaborations, however the average reach and engagements per post signify that the activation lacked the same level of investment into KOL accounts as Louis Vuitton or Dior – Louis Vuitton reach was particularly large due in large part to posts from KOLs (the largest of which had over 20m followers). The lack of celebrity coupled with the lack of large reach generators in terms of KOLs signify that this campaign was unlikely to be successful on Weibo from a purely strategic perspective – which given the focus on GenZ audiences may make sense as the platform is somewhat outdated for the audience in question and success is heavily based on celebrity choice.
The performance of the post of Tiffany UGC reflects that of the BGC performance – generating discussion, with a large average audience size. While we did not analyze the sentiment, the metrics on XHS are favorable for generating presence. This can be seen as a strategic success given the close relationship of the channel to the target audience and the luxury industry in general. Louis Vuitton by comparison had a surprisingly poor performance on this platform with their collaboration which comes as a surprise.
Douyin has been heralded as the platform GenZ use more than others – the development of the platform of the past years can be seen from the data in Figure 7 (although it is worth noting that voice to text is required to extract video mentions of products and thus is less reliable than the Weibo or XHS numbers), with a gradual increase in posts, engagement and audience sizes from the Dior collaboration to Tiffany. With so many new (and GenZ) consumers following luxury brands, it is a key place to generate interest and engagement from audiences. This data further adds to the interesting strategic decision to not amplify the collaboration on the platform through owned presence and represents a potential strategic miss from Tiffany.
Taken in isolation, the Tiffany x Nike collaboration had mixed success versus that of the LV and Dior counterparts.Lower performance in Weibo and lack of presence in Douyin is concerning, but abetter performance comparatively in XHS adds positives elements.
The overall picture is perhaps more telling– the low amount of overall posts, a low index of engagement versus a typicalTiffany post on Weibo, and the lack of official presence on Douyin all show us that this collaboration was perhaps never meant to be a key element inTiffany’s strategy and appears more aligned with a smaller collaboration with little marketing investment behind it.
Perhaps unfortunately for Tiffany this lack of investment may have backfired, with many critics in the market labeling the collaboration as somewhat uninspired (and after a brief review of UGC posts –this sentiment seems to be echoed by consumers themselves). However, time will tell, and pure social media metrics are not always the most reliable indicators of overall success and we can look to other indicators of longer term success in other channels. For example a pair of Louis Vuitton x Nike collaboration sneakers will still set a consumer back anywhere around 30,000 RMB today on DeWu vs the 50,000RMB of Dior x Nike – leaving us with the question of whether Tiffany xNike will stand the test of time when it comes to collectability – time will tell.