How Curry Brand Is Using Under Armour’s Top Technology to Break Into the Retro Sneaker Business7 min read
En route to securing his fourth NBA title, Golden State Warriors sharpshooting guard Stephen Curry laced up sneakers that had his fans and sneakerheads alike buzzing. Rather than wear his current Curry Flow 9 style, he hit the hardwood in a refreshed iteration of the Curry 4 that debuted in 2017.
The new look — dubbed the Curry 4 FloTro — not only gives consumers another chance to own a sneaker that they loved, but it also offers the wearer a new on-foot experience. The Curry 4 FloTro will feature Under Armour’s year-old Flow technology, which is described as a responsive and grippy singular-foam compound that eliminates the rubber outsole.
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The pink and black colorways of the Curry 4 FloTro will arrive on July 22, and lilac and gray iterations will hit stores on Aug. 5.
But the Curry 4 FloTro is not the only updated retro shoe that the athletic giant has plans to release.
Below, key players in bringing the Curry 4 FloTro to life reveal Under Armour and Curry Brand’s plans for the red-hot retro sneaker market, which includes more Curry 4 FloTro releases, as well as updates of other past favorites, collaborations and more.
What was the response like when Stephen Curry debuted the Curry 4 FloTro during the 2022 NBA Finals?
Steve Segears (Senior merchant, global merchandising for Curry and basketball at Under Armour): “The biggest thing that we saw was when it was revealed, everyone would just want to know, ‘When can I get my hands on it?’ It’s such an iconic silhouette from us, and then with the upgrades that were made to it, it was like the best of both worlds collided. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand for the product. Now we know that there’s definitely a need for the product, there’s a definite want for the product, and the best thing about this is that it’s actually making our athlete better. When you check the boxes and you combine style with function, you know, you win. The thing that helped it the most was that Steph did what he had to do. We did our job on our side and Steph ultimately added that extra fire to it by going out and going undefeated in the ‘Lucky Lilac’ pair.”
Courtesy of Curry Brand
How strong is the market for older performance basketball styles updated with modern technology?
Ryan Drew (GM of Curry Brand at Under Armour): “The market has been established with the Protro line of product out there with Nike, specifically Kobe [signature franchise]. The language of something ‘Tro’ is out there among sneaker circles, and we have our own plan for retro product. Going forward, it’ll be a silo business for us. We also know that there are opportunities to go back and play with some of the product from our past where Stephen has had these great moments. One of the things we say is we’d like to fix some of the sins of the past. We’re not a sneaker brand that’s got 40 or 50 years in building footwear, and if you go back to some of Stephen’s early products, we learned a lot through the process. Being able to go back and take the good, leave the bad, update some things and add Flow technology gives us an opportunity to spin the shoes in a different way. This year, Steph has worn some retro models, but what FloTro gives us is a platform to reintroduce shoes and bring them up to the specifications of today’s athletes with higher performance materials, using some builds that are different from bills of seven or eight years ago, and then using Flow, which is really kind of a game changer for cushioning and traction.”
Why was the Curry 4 the ideal silhouette to launch the FloTro business?
RD: “It was a happy accident. When Stephen was working with our innovation team developing Flow, the shoe they put him in to test the bottom was the Curry 4 Mid. The shoe kind of just existed. That shoe is unique because it uses the same tooling as the Curry 8. Moving forward with Flow, the bottoms will mimic the original design of the shoes. With the Curry 1, Curry 2, Curry 5, there will be similarities between the tooling. For the FloTro 4, the tooling we used underfoot was from the Curry 8 because that’s the configuration Stephen used when we were building and testing Flow — and he loved it. From there, we developed the Curry 8 upper, and then we launched the Curry 9 and we’ll launch the Curry 10 this fall.”
How does the addition of Flow change the wearer experience from the original shoe?
Ed Wallace (Senior footwear designer for Curry and basketball at Under Armour): “Flow is crazy grippy, so there is definitely an adjustment period to get used to it. But some of the benefits is it’s much lighter than the original, it’s much more comfortable underfoot from a cushion standpoint, and the traction is just crazy. When it comes to stopping on a dime, shifting, it’s so much better.”
Courtesy of Curry Brand
Why was now the right time to bring the Curry 4 FloTro to retail?
RD: “In this business, I would say that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It’s not a mystery that this year, supply chain has probably been the biggest story in the sneaker market. For a lot of all players, if you went and saw a game back in November or December, the product that you saw on the floor was a lot of last year’s stuff. It was very obvious that shoes just weren’t getting into the country, and that really has extended from the fall into the spring. What’s normally a busy launch November for us turned into a really busy launched February. You had the shifting back of a lot of the product. Our original launch plans for the FloTro 4 — and there are four colors that we ended up producing — was earlier in the spring. The reason why he had them earlier in the playoffs was we actually had his pair, we had all of his pairs ready to go. They were ready to go for him, it was just not ready to go for retail. It just so happened that the shoes landed and were ready to launch in Asia, they launched the Sunday after the win, and in North America with the delay in shipping and everything else, it took us a couple extra weeks. Had we not had the supply chain issues, you would have seen these shoes in May around the start of the playoffs.”
How will this approach to retro footwear play out beyond the Curry 4 FloTro?
John Humphrey (Creative director, footwear at Under Armour): “Ed did a great job with the Curry 4 in terms of setting the stage for what this FloTro program means and what it looks like, and we do have more things in the pipeline. This fall, we’ll continue to build on some of the momentum with this and bring back another Curry style, the Curry 1 FloTro. If you look back historically, the Curry 1 is considered by many to be one of his more iconic shoes, the launching style for him with UA.”
SS: “On the Curry FloTro 4, the only collaboration we can tease right now is the Diet Starts Monday collaboration. We have a couple of other accounts that we’re working with on some other collaborations that you’ll probably see some sneak footage on a little bit later as we get further along in the conversations.”
Although several Curry signature shoes have hit the market, the franchise is still relatively new. How, if at all, will this impact Curry Brand’s approach to the retro sneaker market?
RD: “With caution and intentionality. We recognize that when you’re only 10 models in, a lot of people just wore the shoe. Retroing, you have to be careful with that. Why FloTro is exciting is a lot of these shoes are still top of mind. Stephen had a lot of great experiences in these shoes not that long ago, so a lot of people remember them. Under Armour and Curry Brand, we’re not the market leader in basketball footwear volume, so there are a lot of people that didn’t have a chance to buy the shoe when it was available. Being able to offer this now with this new technology, it gives people a chance to experience a product that maybe they missed or they were too young or they didn’t like. There’s a lot of things that are kind of coming together that make this the right time. We’re just getting into this, so we’re doing it the right way, making sure that we’re working with the right partners when it comes to partnerships and collaborations, being very intentional about the shoes that we put out there.”
Courtesy of Curry Brand
Courtesy of Curry Brand
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