Sperry’s customers “stick like a barnacle”.

dkaizer    February 20, 2017

Paul Sperry hailed from a family that had a longstanding relationship with the sea. As a result, he went on to become an accomplished sailor himself. Sperry was a Seamen, First Class in the United States Navy and in his spare time sailed aboard his own boat ‘Sirocco‘. During a chance encounter with rough seas, poor shoes on a slippery deck nearly cost Paul Sperry his life. It was at that moment that he began searching for a solution to the unfortunate problem of many sailors. After much trial and error, it was eventually Sperry’s dog who would help him come to a solution. After watching his dog run across ice without struggle, Sperry decided to create grooves in a rubber sole, similar to those that were in his dog’s paws. In 1935, the first Sperry deck shoes were made. The sole of the Sperry Top-Sider deck shoe “sticks like a barnacle” and was therefore trusted by the United States Navy as an official shoe during the Second World War, The Kennedy Family during their sailing adventures, and as the official shoe for the America’s Cup. Given the fact that the Sperry brand of deck shoes were, and continue to be the top choice of such customers, it is no wonder that the Sperry brand entrusts their customers to ensure the quality and the longevity of the brand.

Sperry is a brand that has a longstanding history with positive customer engagement. It is therefore no surprise that during the age of social media, the brand continues to rely heavily upon their customer relationships. Sperry relies on their customer relationships in regard to social media to do five things:

  1. Increase their social media engagement
  2. Maintain customer relationships
  3. Create new customer relationships
  4. Ensure quality of their products
  5. Ensure brand longevity

Sperry does so in a variety of different ways. Via their Instagram, Sperry encourages each individual that purchases a pair of their shoes to take a photo and share it with the hashtag #OdysseysAwait. I can attest to this as I have done so. Sperry then shares their favourite customer images on their brand Instagram, giving credit to the customer’s Instagram handle. Doing so maintains loyalty to current customers, helps to create new customers, drives engagement to both the brand and the customer’s social media accounts and ensures the quality of their products by showcasing the unique environments their products can withstand.

Sperry also uses the Odysseys campaign for good. In December 2016, Sperry launched The Sperry Share Program. The Sperry Share Program was a shoe recycling program that aimed to provide gently used shoes to “budding entrepreneurs in small local markets and secondhand shops” in over fifty countries around the world. Individuals were encouraged to drop off a pair of gently used shoes to a donation box at any Sperry retail location (and the donated shoes could be any brand/type of shoe). The donors of shoes were given postcards where they were encouraged to share the stories of the shoes, such as their greatest adventure. The new owner of the shoes would then receive the postcard and be invited to log online with a unique code, letting the original donor know that the “shoes are about to embark on a whole new odyssey”. As a thank you, Sperry offered donors 15% off a new purchase. This campaign was driven by the customer/brand relationship and was successful in driving donations, sales and online customer engagement.

Lessons for Others

The Sperry approach to customer engagement is a prime example of how important customer/brand relationships are to brand performance. By allowing customers to influence the brand, Sperry has created a loyal following of people, all while staying true to the vision of brand founder Paul Sperry. Sperry customers are adventure-seekers and do-gooders (just like Paul Sperry) who want to contribute to something meaningful. They remain loyal to the brand because the brand remains loyal to them. This sense of confidence in such a large brand is refreshing to customers in a world of globalization and corporate culture. I’d take it from them, they’ve made it 82 years!

Organization: Sperry
Industry: Retail
Name of Organization Contact: Craig L. Reingold, President

Authored by: dkaizer

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


America’s Cup presented by Louis Vuitton. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from https://www.americascup.com

Facebook. (2015, November 16). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/sperry/

Instagram. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.instagram.com/devynkaizer/

Instagram. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/odysseysawait/

Instagram. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.instagram.com/sperry/

“Introducing the Sperry Share Program.” Sperry.  (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017 from http://www.sperry.com/en/blog?url=%2F/sperry_us/introducing-the-sperry-share-program/

Morgan, Danielle. “The History of Sperry.” The Idle Man. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from https://theidleman.com/manual/arrivals/brands/history-sperry-top-sider/

“Our Story.” Sperry. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017, retrieved from http://www.sperry.com/CA/en_CA/our-story/

Say hello to Paul Sperry. (2016, March 18). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wt2bzBCa8A

Sperry. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.sperry.com/CA/en_CA/home