Fila hires John Barnes to boost football credibility

Fila has signed a deal with John Barnes, the Newcastle United football player, to wear its boots and endorse its brand. It is also launching a boot for the World Cup using Chelsea’s Romanian defender Dan Petrescu.

Stuart Ryan, Fila UK marketing director, says Barnes’ long football career makes him a good fit with the brand’s repositioning as a supplier of high performance products rather than fashion-led streetwear. He says the players will supply Fila with performance or “wear-test” reports.

The company is launching a 2.5m ad campaign featuring Barnes and West Ham striker John Hartson, devised by Billington Jackson Advertising. Outdoor will include bus sides, posters in the London Underground, and 48-sheet sites, which are a departure for the brand.

The press campaign, which breaks in March, focuses on special-ist magazine titles to reinforce

Fila’s positioning as a quality sports supplier.

Petrescu, who is playing for his national team in the World Cup, will be endorsing Fila’s new boot, to be launched in time for the tournament. It is called the Tornado and is a carbon kevlar boot – a lightweight product which does not lose its shape when wet.

Fila is also extending its women’s wear portfolio to include tennis and fitness ranges. These will launch in June, supported by advertising.

The company is planning to expand its retail presence to 50 merchandising areas within stores in the UK by the end of the year. It currently has 11. Ryan says: “Retailers are looking for an alternative to Nike and Reebok as there is growing fear of their unpopularity.”

Fila hired Mike Baxter, former Nike sales director, as managing director last July. It appointed Ryan, former Nike sales manager, a month later (MW August 14 1997). The company has opened a design arm in Portland, Oregon, the site of Nike’s global headquarters.

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