by Terry Lefton

The 1,200-store Lids retail chain is relatively marketing shy, but the cap specialist is about to debut a social and digital campaign from Spike Lee.

Lee’s early creative with Michael Jordan and Nike helped establish both the Jordan brand and the culture of “sneakerhead” collectors and curators that has been built around Nike and other athletic footwear brands. As the largest retailer of caps, Lids wants to create similar buzz around what it’s calling “headwear culture.”

The hope is to reposition Lids from solely a fanwear destination to one more connected with fashion and pop culture. Around 20 percent of Lids sales are already from branded caps, like Dope, Hurley, Roca and Hooey.

“We want to be at the intersection of fan and fashion, and Spike Lee seemed like the perfect guy to get us there,” said David Baxter, Lids president and CEO. “Headwear has always been directly tied to team [preference] and to hook up with their footwear, but the headwear culture has never really been developed. We need to be fostering that.”

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Aside from his association with Nike (NYSE: NKE) and Jordan, Lee has as much cap-culture credibility as anyone. In 1996, he was the first person to ask longtime MLB rights holder New Era for a New York Yankees cap in red. Yankees caps are now made in nearly every color and, 21 years later, the red ones are available in leather. Twenty-one years ago, those original red Yankees caps required sign-off from George Steinbrenner before they could be made.

Baxter said Lee culled around 30 hours of video from Lids headquarters and on the streets of Indianapolis and New York City addressing the connection of caps and culture. Lids will seed the video through social and digital channels and within its stores.

Baxter said Lids aims to create social media buzz and a halo effect for its stores, which are due for a redesign debuting in July.

“You know the kind of pressure brick-and-mortar retail is facing, so what we want to do here is create a compelling in-store and digital experience, so we can maintain a position as the best omnichannel retailer of sports licensed [merchandise],” he said.

The online/offline mix is one of the biggest questions in retail currently. Without saying how much it is now, Baxter said Lids could grow its e-commerce to as much as 25 percent of total sales.

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