Asics' New Ad Aims to Show Brand Isn't Just for Runners

Popular Running Brand Looks to Gym, Zumba and Crossfit Enthusiasts for Growth

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For many Asics is synonymous with running. But now, the brand is hoping to stake a claim in the booming training category.

On Thursday, Asics will introduce its training line with a 60-second spot titled, "What's Next?" The ad, created by agency Vitro, showcases a dozen elite athletes who pull up, push up, lift weights and sprint while carrying heavy objects or dragging parachutes. It will be accompanied by print and digital marketing, as well as in-market promotions, and is meant to introduce the idea that Asics is about more than just running.

Until now, the brand has been a bit player in the training space, controlling less than 1% of the $1.7 billion category, according to Matt Powell, an analyst with SportsOneSource. The training line includes six footwear styles and two apparel collections. Each style of footwear is intended for a different type of activity, such as short interval workouts, dance, barefoot training and variable training, like Crossfit.

Eventually, Shannon Scott, director-marketing and communications, said she expects training will be Asics' biggest business, after running. Last year, Asics' running-footwear business accounted for $900 million in sales, according to SportsOneSource. Asics spent $15 million on measured media in 2012, according to Kantar Media.

Ad Age: Why branch out from running now?

Ms. Scott: As we look to grow broader as a company, we looked at categories that have a natural affinity to what our consumers are all about. They're all about performance. The technology in our running product is applicable to a training product. We're dissecting each category in training and building a product for that. There's a huge untapped market for innovation. Training covers such a broad range of products right now -- everything from a lift trainer to an in-studio Zumba shoe.

Ad Age: How did Asics determine this would be a good fit and a smart move for the company?

Ms. Scott:The two categories where we're seeing growth, outside of running, are training and basketball. Participation in gyms is also climbing back up, and that industry is getting a lot healthier. We did a lot of research with participants, signed some new athletes in cross training categories and got their feedback on where the trend is going.

Ad Age: What do you hope this campaign will accomplish?

Ms. Scott: The spot is designed to announce Asics is going to be a big player in this category. There are a variety of different products and activities represented for males and females. ...The cool thing about the spot is that it's the biggest shoot we've undertaken, as far as the number of athletes. There are 12 elite athletes; we shot in three different locations. There's every discipline of sport represented. We all know that to get as good as they are, they have to train behind the scenes. We picked their brains about what they do to get ready for their sport. They each gave us their workout routines and we fit it together. ... Even though we've got a ton of runners out there, they'll relate to this.

Ad Age: How does this push impact your marketing budget? Ms. Scott: Long-term, [training] is going to be a very substantial part of our business, behind the running category. We're lucky enough to have seen increases in our marketing budgets year over year. And we were able to carve out a nice chunk for the training category. We're also investing in the team and resources.

Ad Age: You're coming into that market behind some of your competitors, like Reebok in the Crossfit space. Will you be able to gain significant share?

Ms. Scott: We approached it by really doing our due diligence into products and categories we thought would be successful for us. We didn't just go into one category -- we're not planting our flag just in Zumba or studio or Crossfit. We'll be a strong competitor by offering multiple products.

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