Sunday Morning's Outside the Lines profiled Stephon Marbury's new
business venture, the Starbury One. It's a high-top basketball shoe
that is selling for the bargain basement price of $14.98. Host Bob Ley,
in profiling the shoe, acknowledged that this was a bold business
venture in a market where star-endorsed shoes sell for ten times that
amount and more. And, tellingly, Ley reported that every one of the big
shoemakers - Nike, Reebok, Adidas - refused to comment for the show
(actually, the latter two just didn't bother to return OTL's phone
Marbury himself was very clear about why he was doing this: "I know what's it's like for a mom and dad to have to worry about what everything costs, to not be able to pay for things like this." Marbury noted that he himself grew up in such circumstances and also that $200 was a month's worth of groceries.
Over and over again on the show Marbury said there was no difference in the quality of his shoe and the big-money basketball shoes and has said that he plans to wear the Starbury One this season. The show also repeatedly explored the question - without ever answering it - of why the big-money shoes cost so much. It's clear that marketing and advertising are the major determinants of the "price point" of those shoes, but Ley never broke down exactly how the costs were allocated. It is clear that Marbury is cutting costs partly by eschewing the typical big-money ad blitz with celebrity endorsement that normally accompanies the roll out of a new shoe. The Starbury One is being sold by a Steve and Barry's - a national discount chain with 130 outlets and there will be no on-air promotion, according to the show (other than Marbury's own appearances - he told Regis and Kelly about the shoe in an early August appearance on their show).
Several times during the reporting segment of the shoe (capably handled by Marh Schwartz) Marbury himself was asked why his shoe was so much cheaper, and how the other shoes could be so expensive. Marbury's matter-of-fact response: you have to ask them. But, the implication was clear enough - there is no good reason for the shoe prices to be so high - other than the obvious - it's what the market will bear, and if the market in question needs to be either a better-off buying public, or a less well-off public that will buy the shoes and make them a source of conflict and contention, well so be it.
The panel following the report, which included ScoopJackson and Sacramento Kings' guard Kevin Martin, questioned whether the Starbury One would be of quite the quality and "comfort" of LeBron's shoe, or some of the other big-name sneakers. And, Ley repeatedly raised the question of whether there was something nefarious in Marbury's business strategy - was he merely trying to revive his tattered image?
If that's the best you got, it's probably best to give it a rest. When Steve of Steve and Barry was asked how much it cost to make a shoe, he answered, "less than 14.98." The fact that the big sneaker companies are charging what they are, and that a new competitor is charging so much less puts the lie to the notion that price is a purely objective "point" - not subject to social judgments and priorities. If this is the way that Marbury intends to restore his image - it's a pretty good one for a pro athlete, wouldn't you say? The show suggested that Marbury was doing this partly because none of the big shoemakers is especially interested in hiring him to endorse their products. Maybe so. But, it seems clear enough that if Marbury merely wanted to undercut the competition, he could have found a price well above 14.98 that would have done the trick.
Marbury is certainly after something beyond money here, which is befitting his wealthy station, but highly unusual nevertheless for a person in his position.
This should be a bigger story than it is. And, it's precisely the kind of political statement that athletes like Marbury can make - walking around with a swoosh on your cap needn't be the only message you want to send to the world about what your values are.