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New Balance | Progress | Future plansLeft: Big windows and brand messages in the new offices. Katharine Tromp enjoying the view from the ‘party terrace’ at the New Balance head office in Claremont.
January 2016

New Balance:

Ready to run in 2016

2015 was a good year for New Balance. 2016 Promises to be even better: consumers have embraced the repositioning of the brand, globally they are leading technological inventions, and exciting new ranges are on the way. Plus, the focus will be on their cricket shirts until April, and then retailers will be stocking the new Comrades shoe

New Balance SA is starting 2016 on the forefoot: ready to run with exciting campaigns around high-profile events planned out of their new offices. They are eager to deliver product that they predict will cause envy in the market and are basking in the attention created by the first athletic shoe developed with a 3D printed midsole.

They ended 2015 on a high, moving into more central offices in Claremont with a view and a patio that begs for parties, and meeting targets ahead of budget. Large windows that now give all staff members a view of either Devil’s Peak or cityscapes create a pleasant backdrop for the branding and storytelling on the walls that speak of the brand’s heritage.

Cricket everywhere

Even the low-key introduction of the new Proteas cricket shirts into retail in October at the height of the IRB World Cup excitement, exceeded all expectations. Now its cricket, cricket everywhere with a gluttony of live matches for fans to show off their replica shirts: England is playing here until end February, and then the Aussies arrive for a short T20 World Cup warm-up series, leading into the T20 World Cup from 11 March–3 April in India.

The T20 WC jersey will look like the current replica, except with a new name sponsor that will be announced soon. The top-end replica, which resembles the players’ ODI jersey — apart from some features like the laser cut eyelets to increase breathability — is also available in a ‘non-alcoholic’ version without the Castle branding. The more affordable take-down is also available without the beer brand logo.

And in April the new Comrades shoe will be arriving on the shelves — this time in ladies and men’s colourways, featuring the latest Fresh Foam technology. “It is beautiful!” says marketing manager of New Balance SA Katharine Tromp, who cannot wait for the new ranges to land.

The 1080 range, their premium neutral cushioning shoe with the Fresh Foam midsole developed in their R&D laboratories “is looking absolutely magnificent,” she says.

“The colour palette is on trend, the silhouettes are right on trend, our range for Comrades is something to look forward to!” she enthuses about the new season’s ranges, which will also have a strong women’s element.

The fact that the brand is leading global 3D print innovation, is another exciting development that shows that New Balance is at the cutting edge of footwear development. The first prototype of the shoe was shown at the recent New Balance sales conference in Boston, where the process was demonstrated to delegates. “It is amazing to see — even though it is difficult to comprehend the whole process,” says Tromp.

This is the ultimate in New Balance’s ‘data to design’ production — in which data collected from athlete footstrikes are used to develop the most beneficial technologies. With 3D printing, individual midsoles can be printed to fit the exact specifications of an individual elite athlete’s foot.

Limited to pinnacle tier product — for now — futuristic applications open up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Locally, this development re-affirms the repositioning of New Balance as one of the world’s leading athletic brands, which started about two years ago. “Our change in strategy has begun to shown positive signs of success,” says Tromp.

The consumer segments they are now targeting are embracing where the brand is now, the measuring metrics they use indicate, she explains. “We use various metrics to measure consumer sentiment — we measure brand sentiment online and measure all the analytics of social channels. There has been a significant increase in traffic to our site.”

There has especially been a massive increase in online interaction from the metropolitan and game changing athlete consumers — exactly the demographic groups they target. “Our two targets are beginning to connect and engage with us as a brand.”

Clear consumer targets

She defines the New Balance met consumer as a city dweller aged 24-34, quick to pick up trends, very tech-savvy, quick to share trends with friends, and active online. “They enjoy our data to design philosophy and are very heavily focused in Gauteng. They are basically business professionals, for whom running is a part of life, but it is not all the sport they do, they are very interested in other sport and engage in the latest fitness categories.“

A contributing factor to the success of their marketing strategy and overall brand performance is their laser focus on who we are targeting, she adds. “Our strategic approach in development of content, where we serve this content and the mediums in which this content lives is very important in beginning and maintaining a conversation with our target consumer.”

The way they communicate the brand will have an overall effect on retailers, she continues. And the successful repositioning of New Balance on par with other leading athletic brands was all about communication through campaigns.

“Our top tier footwear is in line with the world’s best,” says Tromp. “It was just a question of changing the mindset, which came with restructuring the marketing campaigns, the stories we were telling and the product we were launching.”

Communication about the technology and R&D that goes into the shoe also help to change mindsets. “To position the brand as one of the top three in the world, you always have to position it on par with other top end products. But, we are confident we are right considering the position of the brand at the moment and how we’ve grown.”

Apart from the performance footwear, they have also experienced good growth in what they term omni-product — a cross over between performance and lifestyle shoes, with performance features like Fresh Foam or RevLite midsole technology in a lifestyle product. “Omni-product is a transition from performance into lifestyle, which makes it easy for the consumer to cross over from the performance category into the lifestyle category, in doing so the consumer remains wearing your brand from gym, to social, or even to work.”

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