Airwalk expands global focus

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Alternative footwear marketer Airwalk will launch its first truly global ad campaign in November, with creative that will shift away from its "pulp sports" focus to concentrate on style and fashion.

The campaign, created by Lambesis, Los Angeles, will consist of three TV spots and 30 print ads and will run from late November till next May.

The ads will have an international theme that reflects Airwalk's aim to continue its growth in Europe, where it has spent $17 million in marketing this year in an effort to reach its sales goal of $100 million.


In the U.S., Airwalk will spend close to $38 million on marketing next year, with about half that earmarked for media. Airwalk will continue to support event marketing, specifically through sponsorship of youth-oriented cultural fests like Lollapalooza.

"What Nike is to athletics, we want to be to music," said Greg Woodman, Airwalk VP-marketing and sales.

Airwalk, with an extensive product line that ranges from designs inspired by racing cars to shoes made of tennis balls, is surging as the alternative look becomes increasingly trendy. Sales have rocketed from $16 million in 1993 to $200 million last year. Airwalk expects to reach $250 million in sales in 1996.

Its $40 million marketing budget makes it the fifth-largest spender in the footwear industry.

Airwalk made its first media buy on broadcast TV in July with a schedule on Fox, part of an integrated marketing campaign that returned the brand to its urban sports roots without abandoning its edgy creative approach.

The pulp sports spots, directed by John Glen of "James Bond" fame, also aired in European markets. The ads featured grungy skateboarders and BMX bikers in hair-raising plots reminiscent of "Bond" films.


"Our previous campaign vigorously attacked the style angle, and we were successful in expanding our brand equity in that arena," said Mr. Woodman. "But we spent nothing on the sports side of our brand, so we wanted to return to our roots and make a strong, colorful, technical statement."

Airwalk has just split operations between two divisions: action sports, encompassing skate/snowboarding and biking products; and active casual. Each division will have its own sales, marketing and distribution staffs.


Still, negotiating a compromise between its fashion and sports sides will present a significant challenge in honing a cohesive Airwalk identity, especially with rivals beginning to ramp up marketing and positioning themselves as the cool brand of choice.

Vans--Airwalk's chief rival with sales of $117 million for the fiscal year ended in May--recently launched an ad effort from Vital Excess, Redding, Calif., that was directed by noted photographer and film director Larry Clark.

Nike last month teamed with Foot Locker for a co-op print ad to tout its skateboarder shoe, Air Choad.

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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