Building a deep connection with consumers by enabling their creative expression.

Neato has worked with Vans since 2013. Our work has focused on the development and implementation of marketing strategies, and initiatives that are designed to fuel creative expression. 

Our projects have included Artist Workshops, customization competitions, in-store activations, and national campaigns, such as the Vans Vision Walk. 

These projects represent Vans Brand Marketing efforts across the country. They make it possible for the brand to build and maintain meaningful relationships with their target audience in key cities. 

Our success has been rooted in our thorough understanding of the Vans brand, deep insights into the target audience, and a solid connection to the communities where we activate.


Creativity has been part of Vans DNA since its early days. Over time, enabling creative expression became Vans purpose. Creativity is a theme that you hear lots of brands talk about but mostly in one way conversations that consumers are rarely interested in listening to. 

Vans decided to take another path, rather than celebrating their own creativity, they celebrate the creativity of their audience. 

Young people have a desire to acquire skills and have want to create tangible things but there are barriers. There’s a collective struggle with imposter syndrome. Simply getting started can feel overwhelming. 

They welcome brands who will provide resources and help them develop skills but doing it in a genuine and authentic way is tricky. How does a billion dollar, global brand credibly show up in a city’s cultural epicenter? 

Young consumers demand authenticity and Vans has spent decades establishing theirs. It was important we approached this with care.

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All initiatives come to life through collaboration with young cultural influencers and local creators. Identifying the right people and cultivating relationships with them is an important part of our process. These individuals help us personalize our programs to each city, and connect us with a wider audience. Our partnership with them provides mutual credibility and validation.. 

Some of the people we work with become more deeply involved with our programs and are designated as Brand Ambassadors. They help us stay connected to local culture, and provide a local face to a global brand.

Vans doesn’t dictate the content of the activations. Our relationships with young people in each city gives us a chance to stay in touch with what’s locally relevant and where we can help. There’s a mutual exchange of insights with our local creators. Together we create experiences that are centered on the needs of the community. 

These programs inspire people to make things, support them with the tools and guidance to turn an idea into a reality, and help to bring together like-minded people from throughout the city. People who connect with one another at our activations often go on to create collaborations of their own. 

The Vans Brand, it’s relationships, and its products are credibly interwoven into the framework of each program. 

Vision Walks
The Vision Walks were a series of photography city guide immersions designed to empower people with photography skills. In cities around the US, we connected fans of the brand with well-known photographers, who led the group on a tour of their favorite parts of the city – taking photos along the way. The photographer taught the group tips and tricks to elevate their photography skills. All 230 student participants over the course of the tour were given a new pair of Vans UltraRanges to credibly promote Vans’ latest shoe designed for long range comfort. The walks included several shareable moments to inspire consumers to share content on their broad reaching social channels.

Artist Workshops
Vans segment their creative purpose across four pillars: art, music, action sports and street culture. Neato designed a brand-focused program to give young people the tools, stage, instruction, and inspiration to express themselves through activities that fit within these pillars. Over the course of the 3 year program, Neato has executed artist workshops across the country, featuring artistic icons like Jay Howell, Giovanni Reda, Ray Barbee, Ellen Rutt and OJ Hays, and interacting with over 870 student participants.

Retail Marketing

We worked with Vans to create moments of excitement around both new and existing stores. Our goal has been to position the stores as hubs for the creative community to come together. Example in-store activations include live shoe design competitions, local band performances and photography workshops. 

Through the SESSIONS program, Neato transformed 5 Vans Retail stores nationwide into intimate studio environments for students to exhibit their raw talent and express themselves through music. Over the course of the program, we interacted with over 400 collegiate attendees and supported the music of 146 student performers. 

The College Customization Studio empowered student artists to showcase their creativity with a blank Vans shoe as the canvas. We interacted with over 210 student artists and brought out over 920 student supporters to witness their creativity and vote on their favorite shoe design. 

As of late, a new direction in programming needs targeted a demographic beyond students by integrating us into the existing Retail footprint by supporting the Drill Chore Coat product release and national Checkerboard Day initiatives.

Checkerboard day
Neato executed an in-store photo experience that raised awareness for Checkerboard Day and engaged consumers with a simple act of creative self expression. We authentically engaged our audience through photo booth installations and community mosaic pop-ups in select Retail stores around the country to support the annual Checkerboard Day mission.

Drill Chore Coat
To support the Drill Chore Coat product release, Neato designed the Vans Stitch Shop, an in-store experience aimed to tap into customization culture. We brought in influential artists focused on the coolest trend in customization – chain stitching – to support the Vans brand messaging of inspiring creative expression. Participants were empowered to individualize their Vans gear (Drill Chore Coats, shoes and more) in real-time, to represent their unique style.

Neato worked together with retail associates in 3 key Vans stores across the country toward the common goal of encouraging consumers to purchase and customize the Drill Chore Coat.

Student Market Managers

Student Marketing Managers (SMMs) are well-connected and driven students in target markets nationwide. They are the local faces to the global Vans brand, and act as our eyes and ears in each city, helping us identify  the right opportunities to integrate the Vans Brand and Product into local youth culture. They aim to build brand awareness in their communities by cultivating valuable relationships, promoting and executing Vans brand events, and facilitating brand product integration into key existing events. 

SMMs provide an opportunity to bring awareness to new Vans products on the ground in their markets. In the past, they’ve helped with product launches for ComfyCush and UltraRange through seeding promotional materials to targeted student groups, creating experiences centered around the product launch and surprise gifting deserving students on campus with a new pair of shoes.   

We empower our SMM team to source localized experiences that integrate the brand on campus in meaningful and authentic ways. SMMs have direct access to student creatives nationwide to provide platforms to share their creative self-expression with their community

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DIY / Hardcore

Partnering with Vans for the broader brand DIY/Hardcore program, we created experiences that celebrate the true spirit of DIY culture by inspiring and enabling local youth to showcase their creativity.  

Our SMMs were integral in building local relationships and providing local insight to identify the right partners for the experience. We worked together with SMMs to create 12 curated events nationwide ranging from basement punk shows to on campus upcycle customization workshops to tattoo focused events, resulting in memorable experiences for over 800 student attendees.

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    Student Artists

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    Influencer Engagements

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    Activation Attendees