SBD/July 28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

New Balance Launches New Ad Campaign Around Barefoot-Style Running Shoes

Many runners are “experimenting with running barefoot or with so-called barefoot shoes,” and New Balance is “making a case to runners” with a new campaign to promote its NB Minimus collection, according to Andrew Adam Newman of the N.Y. TIMES. In one new spot, an actor “running on a trail in the woods at night comes upon a clearing with a strip of glowing coals.” After giving a “watch-this nod to a raccoon, his first step is accompanied by a sizzling sound and the actor yelping, followed by a silent step as he smiles, a pattern that repeats for several steps before the camera reveals that his left foot is bare while the right is shod in an NB Minimus shoe.” The commercial “closes with the hissing sound of the runner lowering his bare foot into a bucket of water, a close-up of the shoe, and the tagline” for the campaign: “Like barefoot only better.” In another spot, the “same single-shoe-wearing actor trots into a convenience store, where a store clerk first chides him for his prohibited bare foot, then admires the sneaker on the other.” The spots, via Arnold Worldwide, Boston, are scheduled to begin appearing today “on networks including ESPN, Comedy Central and the Discovery Channel.” Newman notes the increases in retail sales of running shoes for the first half of the year “come not from traditional models” but rather “a new crop of pared-down running shoes, whose sales are up 283 percent.” The NB Minimus line -- like “the similarly stripped down Nike Free Run, Saucony Kinvara, and Brooks Green Silence -- looks like a standard running shoe.” But rather than the “typical half-inch, the Minimus rises only one-sixth of an inch at the heel, and the shoes are considerably lighter than most running shoes.” However, New Balance is “cautioning runners with stickers on the boxes of NB Minimus shoes that the ‘product increases the strain on the foot, calf, and Achilles’ tendon’ and ‘should be introduced slowly into a running exercise routine,’ starting with only ‘10 percent of overall running workouts and very gradually increasing time and distance’” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28).
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