Vans Custom Culture - Vans & Americans for the Arts
Vans, an Anaheim-based manufacturer that sells sneakers, apparel, and accessories to young people in 70 countries, considers itself to be a creative workplace that supports creative expression through action sports, music, art, and street culture. Its employees are encouraged to express their artistic creativity through the products they develop.
The company approached Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit that envisions a country where everyone has access to and takes part in the arts, to partner with them for a cause marketing program that would fund high school art programs, create awareness of the importance of arts education give high school, and give students a chance to express themselves creatively.
Vans Custom Culture, which began in 2009, each January invites art classes from schools around the country to register in a competition to design four pairs of blank canvas Vans shoes. The students are challenged to create designs that represent the four themes of the Vans ‘Off the Wall’ lifestyle: action sports, arts, music, and local flavor. Teachers then upload photos of their students’ finished shoes via the Vans Custom Culture website. A group of finalists then competes before a panel of judges to receive $50,000 for its arts program and the chance to have one of their designs produced and sold by Vans. The four runner-up schools receive $4,000 for their art programs, and each of the five schools receives a $25,000 scholarship for a senior to attend the Laguna College of Art and Design. Additionally, Vans donates $50,000 to Americans for the Arts to advance arts education.
The program, begun in 2009, has involved more than 142,000 students in 7,612 schools, and contributed $578,000 to the arts. From their start with only 325 schools registered to participate, in 2015 nearly 3,000 schools from all 50 states and DC were registered, reaching a record 24,500 students.
Vans received nearly 11 million media impressions, including coverage from the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and CNBC. President Kevin Bailey, in interviews, cited the program as one way the brand keeps growing and reaching young, hip customers without help from celebrity endorsements. Custom Culture has also led to other partnerships for Vans, including with the retailer Journeys, who donates an additional $5,000 prize to the winning schools, while increasing in-store retail space for Vans during the competition.