"Running is a struggle," says Christine Madigan, director of global marketing and brand management for the Boston-based company. "It's always a struggle. And the idea of this struggle is the heart of our brand platform."
The new national campaign is called "Love/hate. This is the new balance," and launches this week during the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS.
"We've always stood for performance and authenticity," Madigan says, "and we still stand for that 100%." But with the ambitious goal of doubling its $1.63 billion in sales in the next five years, it was time to reach out to a new audience, especially high school athletes. "Running may not be their main sport, and they may not even like it. But they know that if they want to win at basketball or lacrosse, they have to excel at running. Better running makes you a better athlete, and they know that."
So the new ads, aimed at a core 18-to-29 demographic, include its three targets: Elite runners, fitness runners, and those high-school athletes who are working on their speed.
While the total footwear market in the U.S. is estimated at $44.4 billion, growth in performance shoes--one of New Balance's strong suits--has slowed. Instead, younger buyers have been snapping up lifestyle shoes, and the company has been aggressively expanding its offerings in that area, including the upcoming NB Inside for women. The company also owns PF Flyers and Dunham.
And while returning to this core of authenticity is essential for the company if it is to meet its ambitious growth goals, it has also been exciting. "This campaign came out of insights from consumers around the world, and it resonated with everyone," Madigan says. "You want to run, and you want that high, but there's always this internal struggle--this battle in your mind."
All ads build on what the company calls a "visual red world, representative of the runner's struggle--filled with temptations and obstacles at the start but with an end result of euphoric accomplishment and 'love'."
One of the print ads, for example, sounds like it fell out of some Dr. Phil dialogue on dysfunctional romance: "You and running have found a way to keep your relationship fresh. You plan a day in the country, take the road less traveled, and find yourselves an unbeaten path. And then beat the crap out of it."
"Today you almost broke up with running," reads another. "Once again, around mile 2, lungs full of air, pupils full of sunrise, you remembered, 'Oh yeah, this is why we got together.' Man. Tough love is complicated."
Print ads are running in Runner's World, Running Times, ESPN the Magazine and Running Network. In addition to the five TV spots, the campaign also includes an online component, with banner ads and interactive elements on ESPN, SI.com, CBS Sports, active.com and Max Preps.
Events and sponsorships include Major League Lacrosse, Komen Race for the Cure, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and the Summer X Games.