Saucony Finishes Strong With Its 'Find Your Strong' Strategy

Athletic Brand's New Campaign Is Aimed at Forging Connection With Specialty-Runner Consumer

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The ad opens with a series of people waking before dawn and getting dressed in running clothes. "It's never been about the shoes," says the voice-over. "It's always been, and will be about, those who run in them." The two-minute spot, called "Ready," will be released this spring via social channels and select digital media is from Saucony, and is part of the athletic-shoe marketer's "Find Your Strong" strategy aimed at forging a connection with the specialty-runner consumer. Taking the strategy a step further, it's releasing an inspirational 22-minute documentary called "Finding Strong."

Saucony's 'Ready' will be released this spring via social channels and select digital media.
Saucony's 'Ready' will be released this spring via social channels and select digital media.

The film focuses on running worldwide and how it can change life's trajectory. It tells stories from five countries, the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Africa and Finland. The film has premiered in New York, Boston and Austin, and 10 to 15 screenings will take place in key markets. It will be released digitally in late March or early April.

"We want to elevate the brand and get out there and connect with consumers. We will advertise, but for us the things that are unique are what really influence a crowd," said Chris Lindner, CMO of Saucony. Olson is Saucony's agency of record.

Since the original "Find Your Strong" ad launched in 2011, the brand has seen total followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram jump from 10,000 to a projected 1 million in 2014, according to Mr. Lindner. Social media also helped spread the message of its "Find Your Strong" project, personal stories of why people run. "The message was whether you run to get physically stronger or for other reasons, people were finding strength from running … We didn't say, 'Be like Saucony.' We said, 'Find your strong.' People really internalized that and shared their stories with us," said Mr. Lindner.

Saucony's "strategy to put less emphasis on mass and more on core [running] was a good one for them," said Matt Powell, analyst at SportsOneSource. "And certainly once they establish themselves more strongly on the core shops, they have the ability to cautiously roll out to the more mass side of the business."
Mr. Powell said the overall running business is up 6.6% for the year and that participation levels are up.

Within the core, or specialty, running group, which refers to brands carried in specialty running stores, Brooks is still the No. 1 brand. SportsOneSource only tracks Saucony for the entire running-footwear market. Among the entire running-footwear group, Nike is the dominant brand with 59.2% of market share from February through December 2013, compared with 2.6% for Saucony, according to SportsOneSource data.

Saucony was acquired last year by Wolverine World Wide, which does not break out sales for specific components. The Saucony brand is part of Wolverine's "performance group," which also includes brands like Merrell, Chaco and Patagonia Footwear. The group saw sales rise 67% in the most recent third quarter to $254.1 million, making up 36% of the company's total sales.

Mr. Lindner saidthe brand's focus in 2014 will shift to the "fitness" runner, the scholastic high-school runner and women, with an apparel line this fall with a campaign in August.

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