Quiet New Balance to Get Off Sidelines

Major Boost in Ad Spending Planned as Footwear Maker Aims to Chase Casual Runners

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- In a bold bid to double its sales by 2012, New Balance is tripling spending behind a push that appeals to runners by reminding them how much they occasionally hate running.
New Balance ad

New Balance is making its pitch to the casual fitness-minded runner.

The footwear marketer's first campaign from Onicom Group's BBDO, New York, portrays the relationship between runners and their sport as a hot-and-cold romance, a pitch it hopes will help it boost sales with 18- to 29-year-olds.

A print piece, summing up this approach, says: "Today you almost broke up with running. Today running shook you out of bed and into the deep, dark cold. Today, once again, around mile 2, lungs full of air, pupils full of sunrise, you remembered, 'Oh yeah, this is why we got together.'"

The effort comes as New Balance has been losing share to Nike within the running category, a slide it attributes to not spending enough to keep its brand out in front of consumers. Executives there are hoping to change that by vowing to triple ad spending in 2008. New Balance spent $19.7 million in U.S. measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

'Noisy category'
"It's been a really noisy category, and we have been fairly quiet," said Norma Delaney, New Balance's global advertising and media manager. "Our competitors have not been quiet."

New Balance has traditionally maintained the loyalty of hard-core runners, but in this campaign is hoping to broaden its appeal to casual fitness-minded runners and also younger athletes who may view running as something of a necessary evil they endure while training for their real sport.

Christine Madigan, director-global marketing and brand management, said that, in testing, the new spots resonated best with high-school athletes and competitive athletes who tended to view running "as a punishment."

The casting of running as means to an end echoes a pitch used by Under Armour and Nike in recent pushes behind new lines of cross-trainers. In its running-specific pushes of late, Nike has been focusing on Nike Plus, an iPod-integrated shoe that offers up music, as well as mileage and timing information, as motivation.

Focus on shoe technology
New Balance's ads also focus on their shoes' bells and whistles, which are decidedly lower-tech. One print ad boasts "Rock Stop Technology," designed to reduce discomfort from running over rocks, and something called a "Lockdown Liner," which grips the middle of the foot for a custom fit. Another ad touts a "stability system."

The work breaks March 27, during the NCAA basketball tournament, and is expected to feature the marketer's widest-scale TV, print, online and in-store pushes to date.

New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini has said he wants to double global sales to $3 billion by 2012, a major reason the company ditched its small independent shop, Boathouse, for BBDO's global network following a competitive review last fall.
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