August 31st, 2010 By Jack Morton
Harkening back to its brand’s heyday of fun, bold and provocative messaging, Reebok is undergoing a ree-vitalization of its brand (pardon the branded word coinage) with the help of two product lines: EasyTone and ZigTech.
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of hearing Rich Prenderville, Reebok’s director of global brand marketing, speak at this month’s installation of the Ad Club’s CMO Breakfast Series. Prenderville briefly walked the audience through the company’s long history, revealing a brand that, until recently, was characterized by disparate messaging and myriad brand marks.
While Reebok legitimately lays claim to being one of the world’s oldest sporting shoes companies (in the 1890’s J.W. Foster and Sons, its original parent company, created the first known running shoes with spikes), Reebok first experienced meteoric growth in the 1980’s alongside the nascent aerobic fitness movement, marking both an influx of women into sports and exercise and the acceptance of athletic footwear by adults for casual wear. And this winning formula underlies much of their marketing strategy today, it seems.
Their most recent campaigns for EasyTone, produced by DDB Berlin, center on well-toned female butts, surrounded by bright colors and doing a variety of activities. Similarly sexual, a viral video campaign for ZigTech featured naked (aside from ZigTech sneakers) athletes and celebrities doing exercises.
The aim, says Prenderville, is to redefine Reebok’s positioning and differentiate it from its competitors. Nike, for instance, embodies a type of athletic asceticism, evidenced by its tagline: “Just do it.” Adidas, Reebook’s sister brand, represents athletic aspiration and achievement of heightened goals: “Impossible is nothing.” These brands, Prenderville says, convey participation in sports as something for the elite, unattainable to everyday people. Reebok’s new messaging, in contrast, aims to focus on a different perspective of sport: fun.
The shift back toward attempting to ‘own’ the fun of fitness, Prenderville explains, was precipitated by success in an unlikely experiential venture: mixing circus acts and fitness. Teaming up with Cirque du Soleil, Reebok launched a new gym workout called Jukari Fit to Fly, which combines suspension and cardio training. The program was originally launched across Equinox gyms in 14 different cities.
Beyond Jukari and sexy ads, though, what will Reebok do to ree-‘own’ fun fitness? What experiences will it create – both in-person and online – to indelibly link its brand in the minds and hearts of consumers with the fun of sport? The path is uncertain, but I know it’ll take more than imagery of nice butts and legs to win this guy over from the aspirational aims of their elitist counterparts.