Sports Authority is banking on consumers unplugging this holiday season and enjoying "the gift of sport."
In its first national TV campaign in several years, a 30-second ad will roll out Sunday featuring imagery of real amateur athletes highlighting holiday gifts in the footwear, apparel and team sports categories, according to Paul Okimoto, chief marketing officer of Sports Authority.
"We saw a chance to run counter to the technology and inspire people to unplug and give a more meaningful gift of the gift of sports," Mr. Okimoto said in an interview. "It's not about winning or losing or the best athletes. It's more about the sports, and it's really the traditional emotional connection with sports."
To create the ad, targeted at active families and recreational athletes, the retailer partnered with Factory Design Labs, headed by CEO Scott Mellin. Factory Design became Sports Authority's advertising partner in July, and Mr. Okimoto said Sports Authority "couldn't be more pleased with the work they've done." Denver, Colo.-based Factory Design Labs has worked with brands such as The North Face, Callaway, Vans and Oakley.
"This does not require an operating system, or a user name or a password. And there will not be better versions of these games coming out next year. There's nothing like the gift of sport," the new ad states, including the tagline "All Things Sporting Good."
The sporting goods retailer has not had a strong TV presence in many years aside from partnering with vendors for promotional content. Sports Authority spent just $4 million on TV advertising in 2012, according to Kantar Media, compared to $50 million by rival Dick's Sporting Goods.
Mr. Okimoto said the time is right to leverage the "All Things Sporting Good" tagline, a phrase Sports Authority had picked a few years ago but moved away from. After he joined the firm in April and sifted through prior research, Mr. Okimoto said "it was evident in the research that led to 'All Things Sporting Good' led to all things true. We realigned our team members to define our brand and get us back in the conversation."
Mr. Okimoto, who previously worked at RadioShack, said 15- and 30-second spots of the ad will run through six weeks. On-air radio, print, circulars and online efforts will complement the TV ads. Variations of the spot with the same theme will "evolve the campaign" into the first quarter. In total, Mr. Okimoto said, the spot launches a new three-year vision for the brand, and he expects it to help reinvigorate the Sports Authority brand in the eyes of consumers in 2014. (The spots will be available on the brand's YouTube channel.)
The marketer will release outtakes from shoots with the amateur athletes in the first evolution of the campaign. "We're going to leverage those outtakes to see them on YouTube and ultimately get to where we can inspire user-generated content in 2014," said Mr. Okimoto.
Sports Authority went private in 2006 via a $1.3 billion leveraged buyout led by Leonard Green & Partners. Michael Foss was appointed CEO of Sports Authority in June, replacing Darrell Webb, who retired.
Mr. Okimoto declined to provide the firm's revenues but said it is seeing a "positive trajectory" tied to same-store sales growth. He said there are "numerous areas where revenue is up" and that he has "high expectations for the fourth quarter and beyond."
Sports Authority also announced a $500,000 Gift of Sport holiday giveaway sweepstakes, which runs through Dec. 25. Five grand prizes will give winners a trip to live sporting events of their choice valued at $25,000 each.
With 475 stores in 43 states, Englewood, Colo.-based Sports Authority competes directly with Dick's Sporting Goods, which has 527 stores in 44 states.
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