Any time there is a “new” footwear brand to discuss it excites me. I don’t need to preface why I’m uniquely qualified to discuss why Q4’s rise is important, but I will. In 2004 I launched Sho-Shot Athletics under license with a group in Vancouver. At the time And1 was one of the few basketball brands out there doing what basically amounted to an indie rap label. There was also DaDa, but in general new brands weren’t just showing up en masse like they are today. Right now you can look at Chinese brands (361, Li Ning, Anta, Peak, etc), UK and Europe brands (Cortica, FP, etc), and one of the longest running indies in K1X as brands creating footwear with very little coverage or extensive distribution channels. No one is doing what I did in the US with Sho-Shot. Sho-Shot barely made a blip on the radar, but way back in 2004 the Ackinum was featured in Dime Magazine. I launched the Eclipse in 2005.
By the time I was winding down Sho-Shot in 2008 and transitioning to ARCH, I had the brand featured at Madison Square Garden and placed with Bobbito Garcia and the Puerto Rican Legends. I had 9 colleges at different levels wearing the uniforms and the Marqui Group had signed up to outfit the IBL as an official sponsor. When Marqui Group pulled the license back, Sho-Shot was in the process of working out a deal with former And1 streetballers. We even had high flying JFK featured in Bounce Magazine (shout out Coach Couch!). I had launched the first All American basketball camp and I even had a kid get the Sho-Shot streetballer logo on his arm. (I did help the kid get a scholarship) I write all of this to stress that watching from the sideline and witnessing Q4’s fast work in the world of sneakers is amazing.
It’s also a testament to the power of networking. I worked alone on Sho-Shot and ARCH. I funded the creation of footwear and samples and I don’t mince words here, it drained me financially and took my focus off of my primary business which eventually led to Sho-Shot causing my basketball recruitment site to go down in flames in 2008 and ARCH going out of production in 2016. Making shoes is expensive and difficult.
A quick glance at co founder of Q4 Quintin Williams’ LinkedIn page and his connections run deep into the world of design and sports. It’s a lot like Pensole winning designer Christopher Dixon (whose first official sneaker was a colorway of my ARCH CG097 running shoe which carried his logo on the box) launching a women’s fashion shoe with the support of NFL player Cortland Finnegan. Dixon is now on the path to launching his first collection with Foot Locker after winning another Pensole competition.
When a guy has the right network, things simply happen faster especially when that person has the grind and talent to support the connections. Quintin Williams is connected to legendary designer Dwayne Edwards founder of Pensole. As a graduate of Savannah College of Art the success of Q4 so soon isn’t really a result of connections as much as it is the result of a guy who has been making dope ish for years.
The startup appeared on the scene in 2016 and in this short amount of time has landed NBA players E’Twann Moore and Langston Galloway. It’s a difficult task considering most players tend to align themselves with Nike so that they can get that elusive Nike credit and cop shoes that are on trend. I don’t know the financials behind Q4, but to begin signing players (only two so far) they have to battle the Chinese brands and that’s no easy task. Although the two signees are a great get for Q4 there are few things that will have to be at play if the brand is to succeed in the shifting footwear environment.
Unlike the Chinese brands Q4 doesn’t have a safety net of an entire country to support it. Q4 was born here in the US. Cracking this market will require the ability to navigate the fashion conscious waters of performance sports. Get that? The shoe designs are not only required to be functional, but they have to look good. Unless the goal of the brand is to be an on court performer solely. Let me explain, a soccer cleat isn’t going to be a daily wear shoe. It performs a function and then it’s put away. Most athletes may have a favorite soccer boot, but they can also wear any street shoe that they like. One of the most important aspects of the deals that Q4’s two NBA players are excited about is that they get to wear whatever they like outside of the court (Slam Online).
What this tells me is that Q4 is not making a play to be a streetwear brand. They are focusing solely on the performance market. This leads me to my second analysis: The brand is going to have to find a way to be prominent at two to three distinct moments of the year. Early Fall when team shoe sales are beginning for basketball. At the end of the high school season as travel team ball begins to heat up, and in the viewing period for travel players at the start of July. This will give the brand peak seasons to target sales. They can also build smaller collections so they won’t have to sit on inventory. If the brand successfully integrates into the high school market they will do as Sonny Vaccaro states, “make the kids the ambassadors.”
Q4 is very smart in another way; they named themselves Q4 Sports. This is important. Sports carries the ability to shift from basketball, to soccer, to football, or to running. The brand has an inherent model for growth. And1 was always destined to be a basketball shoe company. Their name doesn’t translate to anything else. Q4 has done what all smart brands do, they created a double entendre in the moniker and created an opportunity for the creation of apparel and footwear. They can use a similar strategy as Under Armour. UA was what you wore under your Nike gear. They infiltrated the market in a subversive manner. A brand that will allow you to wear whatever you like off court can work in the same subversive manner. While the NBA doesn’t have the branding power it once did, it is still the only place a startup can garner eyes on the product where it is meant to be seen.
Back to the name…Q4 is the final financial quarter for businesses. It’s also the quarter that decides who is going to win. There is an inherent attachment to the seasons, and to the sections that make something whole. The opportunity for branding here is incredible. Williams states that the 4 stands for “team, focus, passion and commitment.” (Slam Online)
Watching the movement of the brand is a narrative that should be studied by sneakerheads everywhere. The goal of this site is to extend the depth of knowledge around the sneaker business. At this moment there isn’t a better case study to pay attention to than Q4 for every kid who has a dream. I’m definitely paying attention and you know I’ll be analyzing the website to see if they are doing all that they should be doing to build from the inside – out.
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