When New Balance launches its new advertising campaign in the UK later this month, it will mark a relaunch
of the athletics brand’s marketing in Europe and the first outward signs that it is evolving.
Historically, the brand has taken a low-level approach to marketing, using endorsements rather than the high-profile sponsorships or TV ads favoured by rivals, Nike and Adidas.
But this is changing following the arrival of chief executive Robert DeMartini, who joined in April last year. DeMartini comes from a solidly packaged goods background, holding senior marketing and management roles at Procter & Gamble, Gillette and Tyson Foods. Indeed, he cites being involved in the launch of Gillette Fusion – because of the global scale – in 2006 as a highlight of his career.
So it is no surprise that he is increasing the brand’s marketing spend. According TNS Media Intelligence, it spent $19.7m (£9.9m) last year. Although he will not confirm exact amounts, he says he is “tripling its annual investment in a sustainable way”.
In December last year, he appointed BBDO New York to handle its advertising and later Omicom sister company Phd for media planning and buying (MW April 3).
DeMartini admits that moving from packaged goods into sportswear and apparel is a big shift but he says there are parts of his previous career that can be applied to his new role – the need to make New Balance “relate to consumers as individuals” being a key similarity.
While New Balance has been successful in recent years – it is second in the US market in retail terms – De-
Martini says it has “not done a good enough job of defining itself”, which is why he bought in an advertising agency. He adds: “It was not as consistent as I wanted.”
A relationship with running
The answer is the Love/Hate campaign, which launched in the US in April and rolls out across Europe from this month. It aims to re-establish New Balance as a brand with running at its core. DeMartini adds: “We still have fashion and lifestyle but running is the basis.”
The ads are based around a runner’s relationship with the sport, which swings from hatred when running
keeps them away from other things, to love during the euphoria of finishing. One execution, called Bench, is about a man who has ended his relationship with running but sees runners everywhere.
DeMartini explains: “Love/Hate is an insight that relates to all runners but also to wider consumer groups.”
The campaign will target different types of runners – dedicated, fitness and competitive who “all have different motivations but a shared struggle with running”. New Balance aims to help reduce the hatred and “grow
the love” through its innovations in footwear, apparel and equipment.
An encouraging first year
With a renewed focus on branded apparel due in the third quarter of 2008, along with the new brand platform and a positive consumer reaction to new products, DeMartini says he is encouraged by his first year.
Although he may find life slower outside of the relentless drive of the packaged goods market, it is no less competitive. With its rivals spending considerably larger sums on marketing, New Balance’s voice has been drowned out in recent years.
DeMartini is confident his strategy will help the brand reconnect with the consumers it has allowed to drift away in recent years, although he adds cautiously: “There is a long way to go.”