Nomis and Agency Aim to Put a Stone in the Big Guys' Shoes

Big-Picture Gambit Includes Pop-up Stores, Emphasis on Product and Catchy Creative

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If you're an ambitious, results-oriented creative type, could there be a sweeter assignment than Nike or Adidas? How about this: helping a relatively tiny competitor tackle those masters of the sports universe. It's a fitting inaugural brief for New York-based agency Johannes Leonardo, formed by ex-Saatchi New York fire-starters Jan Jacobs and Leo Premutico (Johannes and Leonardo, get it?) in November with backing from WPP.

Premutico and Jacobs were last seen winning recognition aplenty for print and TV work on behalf of P&G (Super Bowl scene-stealer "Interview" for Tide and the Cannes Grand Prix-winning "Stains Don't Stand a Chance" campaign) and others. Now in a temporary space in Tribeca with a group of seven young staffers, they've served up a big-picture opening gambit with founding client Nomis, a maker of premium soccer shoes based in Premutico's native Australia.

Simon Skirrow, a former Adidas designer (who co-developed the company's best selling Predator shoe) formed Nomis (Simon, get it?) in 2004 on the basis that he could make a better soccer shoe -- one that performed better in all conditions, and that generally put the, er, athlete's foot first. Sound like he's kicking a big matzo ball squarely at Adidas' and Nike's heads? He is. And Jan and Leo aren't exactly coy about the confrontation. (If you ask, they'll talk at length about the industry's focus on making lighter boots and its alleged link to broken metatarsals and blisters, as well as a Football Association inquiry into the damaging effects of modern boots and the Australian player, Harry Kewell, who traded an endorsement in favor of playing in Nomis boots and lots of other soccer-shoe related things.)

"We know most people who try on these boots buy them," says Premutico. "So we simply wanted to get people to look past all the hype -- logos, flashy boot designs, big sponsored names -- and concentrate on the most important thing, the quality of the product." Hence, "Ask your feet," JL's suitably direct brand program, a key component of which is the "8 Steps," a set of criteria for prospective shoe buyers. The steps are outlined on the Nomis site and most strikingly in JL-designed Nomis pop-up stores. There, customers can learn about and buy the product and, in a dramatic illustration of step one (put a Nomis shoe on one foot and another shoe on the other), actually take home one right shoe. If you likey, you buy the other one. If not, you've got a seriously over-designed chew toy for Mr. Wiggles. The -- sorry -- kicker? The first store, in Berlin, is across the street from Adidas, and a cheeky set of footprints leads from there to Nomis' front door. The Right Boot store will travel to different cities and the JL partners say a U.S. launch is imminent.

If the message here isn't pointed enough, the agency's eye- and ear-catching first spot sharpens things up nicely. "Damn Boots," directed by Nexus Productions' Woof Wan-Bau, shows a budding soccer star traveling his endorsement-laden career path inside a golden dream boot. His journey is scored with a Dem Bones remake, lyrically altered to demonstrate how "the logo's connected to the boot, the boot is connected to the friction, the friction is connected to the blister ...," all of which is of course connected to the end of the celebrity dream. It's a giant step away from the other guys' aspirational athlete approach. "Our focus is on a new breed of player who looks past brand names and towards the best performing football boot," says Jacobs. "We can't match them in media budgets, but we can in thinking -- even if we can't use big names in our spots. Isn't that now becoming clutter in itself anyway?"

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and
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