### Abstract

The purpose of the study was to determine which factors greatly influenced African-American millennials to purchase athletic shoes. A sample of (n=101) African-American millennials participated in the study. The participants rated the following seven purchasing factors in order of importance using a Likert scale from one (“strongly disagree”) to five (“strongly agree”). The seven factors were athlete endorsement, brand name, color of shoe, comfort level, cost, style of shoe, and quality. The results indicated that athletic shoe style, color and cost were determining factors among the participants when purchasing athletic shoes. T-test for unequal sample sizes indicated that there were significant differences as it related to males’ and females’ purchasing preferences. This study supports previous research findings on African-American youth purchasing behavior. Moreover, athletic shoe marketers should use this information as a means to understand the purchasing behavior of African-American millenials and to design marketing strategies to better reach this target audience.

### Introduction

African-American buying power has increased by 187 percent since 1990 (5). African-American buying power rose from $318 billion in 1990 to $590 billion in 2000, to $845 billion in 2007, and it is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion by 2012 (18). The buying power increase has been a result of African-American upward mobility (3). This increased buying power has afforded African-Americans from all generations the opportunity to purchase more goods and services, particularly African-American millennials. In general, millennials are those individuals born from 1980 to 1995, they are technologically savvy, very tolerant when it comes to sexual orientation, religion, and politics to name a few. Moreover, millennials are characterized by their independent nature, optimism, propensity to question the status quo, self-expression, and financial acumen (2,13,19). In contrast, generation x individuals (generally those born between 1964 and 1980) are characterized as pragmatic, self-reliant, less accepting of other viewpoints, and multi-taskers (17). Again, African-American millennial purchasing clout and influence is unparalleled, as witnessed by the following statement in the African-American/Black Market Profile report(8):

> Today’s African-American teen market (12- to 19-year-olds) are consumers and creators of trends, strong influencers of household purchases and a valuable target for advertisers. The same holds true for African-American/Black teens, who have a major impact on today’s mainstream culture—especially in music, sports and fashion. African-American/Black teens spend an average of $96 dollars monthly, 20% more per month than the average U.S. teen. In addition, when compared to all U.S. teens, male and female African-American/Black teens spend more yearly on items such as apparel and technology-related products and athletic shoes. (p. 11)

What’s more, the African-American/Black Market Profile report indicated that African-

American millennials have more brand loyalty to a variety of goods, including personal

products, food and footwear. Specifically, African-American millennial males exert more influence on household athletic shoe purchasing decisions and they are more brand loyal than other racial segments of millennials when it comes to purchasing athletic shoes (10). This trend in purchasing visible goods (such as athletic shoes) will continue as the African-American millennials continue to exert more influence on household purchases and as they continue to enter the workforce and earn wages (4).

In regard to the sport industry, athletic footwear is a thriving and lucrative business. According to the National Sporting Goods Association (2009), athletic shoe sales reached $17.1 billion for 2009 (12). Furthermore, of the 2.3 billion pairs of footwear purchased in the United States in 2007, Americans purchased 334 million pairs of athletic (1). African-Americans spent $391 per consumer unit on athletic footwear in 2006. This was more than any other race that year (5). Thus, the propensity that African-Americans have toward purchasing athletic shoes along with their loyalty to brands makes this population one worth investigating to determine their athletic shoe purchasing preferences.

There have been very few empirical studies dedicated to understanding the athletic shoe purchasing behaviors of youth and there is a dearth of information on the factors that influence African-American millennials to purchase athletic shoes. It is the intent of this study to add to the existing body of knowledge. The purpose of this study was to determine and identify the most important factors that influence African-American millennials to purchase athletic shoes.

### Methods

#### Procedures

The study was carried out in the summer of 2009 at a small historically black university in the southeastern United States. The researchers randomly selected a course time block to disseminate the questionnaire. This practice was initiated to prevent the same student from completing the questionnaire at one course time period and then attempting to complete during another course time period. The 11:30 am course time block was randomly selected. The researchers contacted all of the professors that taught a class during the time block via email to ask permission to disseminate the questionnaire. Professors were also informed that the researchers had received permission from the university’s institutional review board to conduct the study utilizing responses from university students, and that the questionnaire would take their students approximately ten minutes to complete. Thirteen professors offered courses at the 11:30 am time period. Of the thirteen, eight professors agreed to have their students complete the questionnaire.

#### Instrument

The researchers utilized a modified version of the Lyons and Jackson Athletic Shoe Survey. A ten item questionnaire was used to elicit responses from the participants. The questionnaire contained three demographic questions pertaining to the participant’s age, gender and race. In addition, seven questions addressing athletic shoe purchasing factors were included. The participants were asked to rate each factor on a Likert scale from one to five with one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree.

#### Participants

Participants for this study were African-American millennials (n=101) between the ages of 18 and 24. All of the participants attended a historically black university in the southeastern United States. Of the participants, 52 (46.8%) were male and 59 (53.2%) were female.

#### Statistical Analysis

Descriptive statistics such as percentages, frequencies, and means were utilized to analyze data. Moreover, the researchers employed inferential statistics to further analyze data. The researchers used the t-test for independent unequal sample sizes. Specifically, the t-test for independent unequal sample sizes was employed to determine if there were significant differences between the purchasing factor mean scores of males and females.

### Results

Results from the study produced the following information regarding athletic shoe purchasing factors of African-American millennials. Group mean scores for both males and females revealed that style of shoe, comfort, color and quality were the most influential purchasing factors (Table 1).

For females style (M = 4.31), comfort (M = 4.14) and color (M = 4.03) were the most important factors (Table 2).

Style (M=4.63), quality (M=4.19), color (4.10) and brand (4.08) were the most influential factors for African-American males (Table 3).

T-test results revealed that there were no significant differences between males and females on each of the factors at the .05 level. To this end, there is indication that African-American males and females (in this study) have similar buying behaviors in that they valued each of the study factors somewhat equally (Table 4).

In terms of mean scores, athlete endorsement was the least influential factor for both males and females. Moreover, the cost factor did not rank highly for either group. In addition, the researchers considered the number of strongly agree and agree responses for each factor. Ninety-one percent of the participants indicated that they either strongly agreed or agreed that style was a crucial factor in purchasing athletic shoes. This factor was followed by comfort (76%), color (75%), quality (75%), brand (72%), cost (61%) and athlete endorsement (36%).

### Discussion

It became very apparent that style of shoe was the most dominating factor when deciding whether to purchase athletic shoes. The style factor mean score for males in this study was 4.63 and 4.31 for females. This finding is consistent with the findings from previous athletic shoe purchasing studies (16,20). It confirms to an extent that when African American youth are purchasing athletic shoes they focus primarily on the look of the shoe. Perhaps, as has been suggested, wearing a shoe that looks good makes one feel good. Better yet, the style of shoe may convey a form of status. Lyons and Jackson’s (2001) study on factors that influence African-American gen Xers to purchase athletic shoes also found that style was the most influential factor(7). This finding mirrored the responses of African-American millennials studied in this investigation, suggesting that the style phenomenon may be passed from generation to generation via cultural communication methods within the African-American community. It could also suggest that athletic shoe companies should continue to effectively communicate style as an influential feature among the African-American community.

Even though style was the predominant factor, other factors were influential as well. In regard to females, color and comfort ranked high, with mean scores of 4.14 and 4.03 respectively. For males, quality, color and brand name received mean scores of 4.19, 4.10 and 4.08 respectively, suggesting that African-American millennials are considering a specific set of factors that influence their purchasing decisions, based on their knowledge and experience with the athletic shoe. This knowledge and experience may be derived from the fact that African-American millennials may have purchased athletic shoes before and or they may have received information about the shoe via commercials, friends or other sources.

Athlete endorsement was rated the least influential purchasing factor in this study. Again, this finding is consistent with Lyons and Jackson’s 2001 study on African-American generation Xers(7). Both males and females rated athlete endorsement the least influential purchasing factor. This is surprising when one considers the enormous amount of money that athletic shoe companies spend to have athletes endorse their shoes. Nike spent close to three billion dollars in endorsements and sponsorship deals in 2007 with players like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods receiving over twenty million dollars each (6). Perhaps athlete endorsement creates awareness for the shoe and even evokes some sort of emotion that causes a person to become loyal, curious and attached to the shoe brand. However, Martin stated that “the image of sport, independent of the athlete, can contribute significantly to the consumer’s response to an endorsement. The image of the sport can enhance, or detract from, the effects of the personality and appearance of the athlete making the endorsement” (9). In light of this statement, perhaps the respondents in this study held negative views of athlete endorsers and or their particular sport. Still, based on findings from this study, when an African-American millennial decides to make a purchase the athlete endorser does not figure prominently into the purchasing equation.

### Sport Marketing Implications

Based on the results of this study, athletic shoe sport marketers should be cognizant in crafting media messages that focus on style, color, and comfort. Moreover, athletic shoe retailers should develop in-store sales techniques that sales people can use to highlight shoe comfort, style and the importance of shoe color scheme when encountering African-American millennial customers. Marketing products and services are extremely important to the survival of many sport companies and franchises (11). Effectively marketing sport products and services can translate in to increased revenue for sport entities if they understand the needs and wants of their target audience (15).

### Recommendations

Based on the findings of this study, the researchers recommend the following:

– that a larger sample size be utilized to solidify and strengthen results;
– that studies comparing the purchasing behaviors of African-American and non-African-Americans should be conducted to determine if there are cultural and racial differences; and
– that athletic shoe studies comparing the purchasing behaviors of African-American generation-Xers and millennials be conducted to determine generational differences.

### Tables

#### Table 1
Factor Group Mean Scores

Factor Group Means
Athlete Endorsement 2.83
Brand 3.98
Color 4.06
Comfort 4.06
Cost 3.50
Quality 4.01
Style 4.46

#### Table 2
Mean scores for African-American Millennial Females

Factor Means
Athlete Endorsement 2.92
Brand 3.88
Color 4.03
Comfort 4.14
Cost 3.63
Quality 3.85
Style 4.31
Style 4.31

#### Table 3

Factor Means
Athlete Endorsement 2.73
Brand 4.08
Color 4.10
Comfort 3.98
Cost 3.41
Quality 4.19
Style 4.63

#### Table 4

Factor Males Females p-values (p > 0.05)
Athlete Endorsement 2.73 2.92 0.167
Brand 4.08 3.88 0.423
Color 4.10 4.03 0.252
Comfort 3.98 4.14 0.102
Cost 3.41 3.63 0.251
Quality 4.19 3.85 0.256
Style 4.63 4.31 0.256

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