Last year Beats By Dre turned the corner during the NFL Playoffs with a combination of strategic placement and a little bit of luck. Their two big rolls of the dice came with the Seahawks Richard Sherman and the 49ers Colin Kaepernick, both of whom took their games to the next level as the headset of choice skyrocketed through a grassroots campaign that went through the London Olympics a few years before and made sure they touched on every rising star in sports and popular culture. If you were in the limelight, Beats By Dre found their way to you, and that awareness went even more to mainstream when their breakthrough stars really exploded during the playoffs. The next jump came just a few months after the Seahawks Super Bowl, when Apple stepped to the table to buy out the company and bring it into the fold, making the sound systems even more mainstream, albeit still with an urban edge.
This fall as the NFL season kicks off, the gold standard for many years in consumer listening made their own push to get some street cred and establish their top of mind position with consumers. Bose, signed on as an official NFL partner, not only draping every coaches headset with their logo during every game, but going out to sign some marquee names to endorsements as well to combat Beats infiltration into the market. Richard Sherman’s edgy spots now have to battle Russell Wilson wearing noise cancelling devices, and Kapernick’s tune out of fans is balanced by promotions with Clay Matthews of the Packers. Factor in the use of the NFL shield and other official marks, as well as that constant sideline presence, and Bose seems to have found a way to combat the grassroots efforts with a big spend.
Now this is not to say that beats is going away. Johnny Manziel on his own sported beats Headphones this past Sunday, and countless other milennials and the players they follow in Madden and on their fantasy teams are part of the Beats legion of followers, preferring day-glo and unique styles to Bose’s conservative and always effective style. Critics will line up on both sides for high end audio pluses and minuses, and consumers will to, depending on taste and frankly, the need to buy or not buy large headphones and other products when ear buds and other simpler lower end items exist. However for the audio and listening marketplace, the need for not just quality sound, but cool and hip aspirational wear will never go away. Will either achieve a crossover spot? Will baby Boomers flock to beats or young folks to the high fidelity of Bose? That remains to be seen, but both, in their own calculating fashion, have looked to athletes and specifically football this fall to drive the ship.
Can Bose score in hip and cool? Can “Beats” keep the beat going in the space? Remains to be seen, but it’s clear that a category battle is now fully underway. Who will win? Some say the limited market can support both and even some other sin the space since headphones of that nature are not and everyday purchase. However the issue is more in incremental marketplace exposure, a place where Beats By Dre clearly had been winning a battle for some time. Now it appears Bose is making more noise, riding a constant flow of exposure and the NFL as a partner. Maybe in the end the consumer wins, but for now the battle is getting louder with two mega-players looking to ride a soundwave of success.