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Why is the Nike Dunk Low Panda so popular - The reasons and history of its success

Why is the Nike Dunk Low Panda so popular - The reasons and history of its success
  • 25 March 2023
  • Posted By : Charly
Whether you're a collector, a sneaker fan or just a fashion lover, it's hard to have missed the Nike Dunk Low 'Panda' from near or far.

When we think of mainstream sneakers and timeless classics, we usually think of the Air Force 1 'Triple White', the White/Green Stan Smith at adidas or the Chuck Taylor from Converse.
These are well-known models that have been around for decades. They are almost always in stock at mainstream retailers and sell out daily in good quantities.
That’s why these models are so important : this is where the money is for the brands.
Since 2020, it has clearly felt like the Dunk 'Panda' has slowly but surely infiltrated into this pool of bestsellers spreading to the feet of sneaker fans like an epidemic.

So we can legitimately ask ourselves why the Nike Dunk 'Panda' has become so popular. Is it a coincidence? A pump of social networks? Or a sharp strategy from Nike?

The Pandas before the Panda.

Going back in time and checking existing releases, we can already see that there are Panda Dunks before the Dunk Panda that we know today.
The 2 pairs get their nickname from their fully hairy upper and black and white color.
The Nike SB Dunk Low Pigeon of 2019 was also nicknamed Panda because of its colors and materials used.
Most people are completely unaware of their existence. So a cool nickname and classic colors are not enough.

The Marketing strategy

Does the Nike Dunk Low 'Panda' have a storytelling that sticks with it? Not really.
So why are we seeing it so much everywhere?

The success of the Dunk Low 'Panda' is certainly not the result of a single factor but the result of a well thought-out marketing strategy by Nike.
Going back to the years before 2019 (and remaining in the last 10-15 years), the Nike Dunk was not particularly in the spotlight at the Swoosh brand. During this period, almost all the releases of the model were releases in the Skateboarding branch aka Nike SB.
Examples include the Nike SB Dunk Low Marty McFly from 2015 or the Nike SB Dunk Low DJ Clark Kent x Primitive 112 from 2013. The 'De La Soul' pack had also celebrated its 10th anniversary and was re-released. The hype wasn't really there though. These were still connoisseur releases.

In 2019, the famous designer Virgil Abloh collaborated with the Oregon brand to create the Ten, a collection of 10 iconic sneakers revisited to transcend the catalog of the brand and add this fashion dimension that was in the shade.
Remember that this collaboration took place in a context where adidas and Kanye West had taken a very large share of the market with the line adidas Yeezy. The Ten will be a real rebound for Nike in this competitive context.
The Ten doesn't include any Dunk though. However, the partnership did not stop there and Virgil worked with Nike on other models and colorways afterwards.
A big skateboarding fan himself, the designer gave us a 3-pack of Nike Dunk Low x Off White (not SB) that reignited the flame of the Low-Top basketball silhouette in December 2019.

From that moment on, Nike's strategy slowly fell into place (although at the time we didn't quite realize it).
In 2020, Nike will release a very limited and controlled number of Dunk Low and Dunk High. Almost all the releases will be labeled SP for Special Project and will therefore be available only at Tier-Zero accounts, that is to say the most selective and in very limited quantities.
To quote some of the most outstanding ones :
- the Nike Dunk Low SP 'Syracuse', 'Kentucky' & St. John's pack.
- the Nike Dunk Low SP 'Veneer''Ceramic' & 'Plum' pack
& more

All of this of course led to higher secondary market prices for the silhouette and thus a high perceived consumer value. The price of old Dunk releases even started to rise in this marketing momentum.
This skillful use of scarcity will gradually create an unsatisfied demand on the model.
In parallel, Nike has also completed its releases with new variants of the Dunk as the Women's Nike Dunk Low Disrupt and other major collaborations with Ben & Jerry's, Ambush or Comme des Garcons.

The era of the Nike Dunk

In 2021, we enter a phase 2 where the demand is at its peak and Nike opens the floodgates. I remember at the end of 2020 that a lot of rumors were swirling around the fact that Footlocker was going to sell Dunks for the new year. Those rumors turned out to be true and eventually applied to a lot of Nike retailers: 
JD Sports, Courir, Foot Locker and most independent shops. 

From 2021 to now, the Nike Dunk releases have not stopped falling: Dunk LowDunk HighDunk SB, collaborations and even Dunk Mid.
The craze was massive, and all the first releases sold out quickly.
Nike will put a second layer of hype with Virgil Abloh during the summer of 2021 with the Off-White x Nike Dunk Low Collection "The 50".
This one of a kind pack released as an exclusive access only on the SNKRS app, has declined the dunk in multiple combinations of materials and colors never seen before.
The phenomenon has slowed down slightly since the end of 2022 but Nike still releases them at a steady pace.

The case of the Dunk Panda : why are we seeing it everywhere?

In addition to this progressive marketing strategy that brings back the hype to its maximum on the silhouette of the Nike Dunk, the swoosh brand will push the Panda colorway in a very smart way.
The case of the Nike Dunk Low 'Panda' is very interesting in all these strategies because it is an exception compared to other colorways. And this choice is clearly voluntary from Nike.

First of all, the nickname Panda comes of course from the black and white colors of the pair and their positioning on its structure.
This simple, effective, easy to wear and speaking to the majority colorway is totally part of the success of the pair.

Secondly, the silhouette of the Dunk Low is one of the most iconic at Nike. This low-top version remains understated, minimalist with a very classic swoosh branding and inserts. Initially used on the basketball courts, the pair is now fully present in the streets and is easily wearable on an every basis.
Then, the price of course: the pair was released at 99.99€/£85/110$ in 2021. This is a very reasonable and competitive price in the sneaker market, especially when you consider that the perceived value was well above that following the previous year's strategy. Also, if we compare this to an Air Jordan 1 High at 150/160€, we click with our eyes closed.

Regarding the premeditated choice of Nike on this Panda, the colorway was from the beginning intended to have a 'Never sold out' status also called 'Carry-over'. Nike had communicated to some stores this information suggesting that restocking would take place several times.
Then why is the Nike Dunk Panda so expensive on the secondary market ? Because Nike manage to control the supply and the demand on the market.
The choice was clear : they wanted to sell this Panda color in mass by scheduling restocks in time and in different regions of the world
This gives Nike maximum flexibility to play on the scarcity both on the number of restocks and on the quantities put on sale. This strategy is still in place as there was a restock a few weeks ago (and a new one is coming).

This bottleneck mechanism has once again pushed up the price of the Dunk Panda on the secondary markets during the whole year of 2021, which has risen to nearly 300€, i.e. 3 times its value.
The resale platforms have not stopped putting it forward, offering continuous availability on their side and absorbing a maximum of pairs from the primary market. That's why the price of the Dunk Panda has been so expensive for a period of time.
The price of the pair has been declining since December 2021 as the market was flooded with this edition. Nevertheless, all the restocks have sold out instantly and at the time of writing this article the pair is not available anywhere at official retailers.
The Nike Dunk High 'Panda' had a different path rather quickly. High silhouette and less appreciated by the general public, it was also taken by storm in the first waves to remain in stock more recently.

Finally, social networks have of course played a key role in the communication and viral effect of the model. Influencers, fans, bloggers, content of all kinds is available through all media platforms on the subject.

A pair for the whole family and for all tastes.

As if that were not enough, the Nike Dunk Panda has been released in many variations since 2021.
First a full family sizing for all ages, 'Next nature' versions using more recycled materials, and to top it all off the colorblocking Panda is also available within the Nike Dunk by You program which allows you to create your own Dunk.
In the off season, many people have used it to copy and paste the famous Dunk White & Black and get it through this program by you.

Like it or not, the Nike Dunk Low 'Panda' will undoubtedly remain in the annals. It proves once again the ability of brands to play on the life cycles of their bestsellers to put them on pause and to revive them with thoughtful and well orchestrated marketing strategies.
It remains to be seen now if the Dunk Panda will move into the Timeless products like the AF1 'Triple White' and never disappear from the shelves again or if it is just part of a cycle that has been greatly extended.

If you want to get a pair of Nike Dunk 'Panda' for yourself or as a gift, feel free to visit the different release pages about it.

Pics credit : all by moresneakers