Nov 26, 2019

Scoop: Complex is launching a sneaker marketplace

Credit: Complex

Complex Networks is building a sneaker marketplace and editorial app under the name of its current sneaker site, Sole Collector, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sneaker content has become one of Complex Networks' strongest franchises, and the company wants to grow its commerce business. Sources say that roughly 15% of the company's reported yearly revenue of $200 million now comes from commerce.

Details: The company is in talks with all of the major sneaker marketplaces for new and resale sneakers, per sources. The three biggest sneaker marketplaces in America are StockX, GOAT and Stadium Goods.

  • The site, which will launch in 2020, will be built off the Sole Collector brand that Complex acquired in 2013 and subsequently expanded.
  • The marketplace will feature a mix of commerce and high-quality content about sneakers, which is how the company is hoping to differentiate itself from other sneaker marketplaces.
  • Complex is also working with FIT and e-learning company Yellowbrick to build a seven-figure e-learning business that offers an intensive course in the sneaker business called "Sneaker Essentials." Complex Networks will take a cut of the revenue from class sales.

Between the lines: Complex Networks is building a commerce business around sneakers after more than a decade of successful sneaker editorial coverage.

  • Over the last year, Complex's viral YouTube series "Sneaker Shopping," which is hosted by popular sneaker expert Joe La Puma, has struck distribution partnerships with linear TV networks.
  • In Canada, the show is broadcast on the digital and social channels of one of the country's largest broadcasters, Corus.
  • "Sneaker Shopping" regularly features celebrity guests like Megan Rapinoe, Aaron Paul, gamer Ninja, Blake Griffin and Cara Delevingne.
  • "Sneaker Shopping" drives the most Instagram engagement out of Complex's network of brands.

The big picture: Complex Networks is one of the notable venture-backed media success stories, driving profit on around $200 million in revenue annually.

  • The company was co-purchased by Verizon and Hearst for around $250 million–$300 million in 2016 after raising venture money.
  • Over the past few years, Complex Networks, like Vox Media and others, has transitioned its business model to look more like an entertainment company by creating strong franchises that it can license or monetize outside of traditional media.
  • For example, Complex recently struck a deal to distribute its hit YouTube series "Hot Ones" franchise to linear TV network TruTV. Digiday reported last month that Complex Networks makes $10 million annually selling hot sauce that's featured on its "Hot Ones" video series.

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