McDonough School of Business
Andres Kiger
News Story

Kicking Cancer

When it comes to footwear, Chuck Taylor All Stars are iconic. So when Andres Kiger (MBA’95) looked for a way to bring Converse into the fight against breast cancer in Latin America, he saw the power of a pink sneaker.

Seeing the rising numbers of afflicted women in this part of the world, the vice president of marketing for global partner markets at Converse teamed up with its Latin American licensees and regional breast cancer foundations to raise awareness of breast cancer and improve early detection. The visual cornerstone of the campaign: the Pink Version of the iconic Chuck Taylor. The kicker is that Latin American artists, celebrities, and politicians — including Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile—volunteered to wear the sneakers.

The shoes make a statement to “sigue mis pasos” or “follow my footsteps” to take action and get treatment. Kiger explains: “When Chuck went pink, people from all walks of life started wearing Chucks, and it created a conversation that led to action.”

Kiger got his inspiration for the campaign during a conversation with a friend, a breast cancer survivor. In Colombia, where the campaign launched, “there were some scary statistics about the lack of awareness and early detection” and the low numbers of women getting treated for the disease, he says.

Breast cancer causes more deaths in Latin American women than any other cancer. According to research the company reviewed, the numbers are rising. Approximately 115,000 Latin American women are diagnosed with the disease each year, leading to 37,000 deaths.

Kiger started connecting the dots and realized he could leverage the popular Converse brand as an emblem to trigger action and raise awareness, especially among teenage girls.

The sneaker made its debut last summer at a fashion show in the Colombian city of Medellín, where it generated buzz among fashion designers, local celebrities, and politicians. Seeing the city’s mayor, Federico Gutiérrez, proudly walking around in his pink sneakers, onlookers wanted their own pair of Chucks.

Sneaker sales officially took place during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to the regular “core” pink sneaker, some 300 limited-edition sneakers painted by Colombian designers were sold in November and December of last year.

The campaign generated more than 1 million interactions on Instagram. Running under the #siguemispasos (#followmyfootsteps) hashtag, it impacted more than 16 million people in Latin America.

Each Latin American country involved in the campaign chose a foundation for collaboration, Kiger says. In Colombia, part of the proceeds went to a local breast cancer foundation, Modo Rosa. And Kiger believes the campaign achieved its goal of kicking off a conversation about breast cancer.

-Jennifer Lubell

Georgetown Business Magazine