I visited the OR Winter Market 2017 yesterday, January 10, 2017. It is a strange year, and a strange show. Next year, 2018, OR moves dates to a better time for the industry. This year, I saw Saucony, Brooks, HOKA, Altra all there. NB did not have a booth, HOKA was back from a year hiatus, and I went to the Brooks Business breakfast.
Here is what I learnt!
The Brooks Business Breakfast is one of the most important events I attend all year. It would be nice if other brands did something to show their brand such as this. The access to Jim Weber in past, and now, Dan Sheridan, GM of North America and Anne Cavassa, Director of Communications at Brooks running is worth the early time schedule.
What did I learn? Brooks learnt from the annus horribulus that was 2016. With the bankrupcties of Sports Chalet, The Sports Authority in the first half, Brooks had to regroup. Their fourth quarter pulled them out of the doldrums, and the Ghost 9 has kicked butt. Brooks is focusing on runners, ALL runners. Their new $100 product launch in the fall should be very good, and should attract another runner than the normal performance running genome. But, remember, Brooks is focused on performance running.
I also like Anne Cavassa’s committment to providing new website, and building content relationships to help bring runners to run specialty. Anne Cavassa is the Chief Customer Experience Officer. Anne gets it. Her team is rebuilding the Brooks website (opening this Spring), focusing new content on stories about runners and their love of the sport, and focusing on developing content for their running community. Well developed content and assets encourages the consumer to return to sites and develop a conversation with brands. Anne Cavassa realizes that having a vibrant website that has interesting content and assets helps build the business. Both Sheridan and Cavassa highlighted that their Brooks running product is dialed in. The communications and marketing help push runners into the brand’s dealer partners.
It was the responsibility of the brands to do this in the 1970s-2000s. In the late 2000s, running brands got spoiled, with double digit growth no matter what they did. That time is gone.
Dan Sheridan, EVP, GM, North America at Brooks, is a nineteen year veteran of the brand, has seen the good days, bad days and current days. He seems enthused and committed to pushing Brooks to new heights, as does Anne Cavassa.
Watch our FB videos, Instagram video and listen to upcoming soundcloud audio on Dan Sheridan and Anne Cavassa.
Saucony was showing new product at the Sperry booth, one of their Wolverine partners. Sharon Barbano, long time communications czarina of Saucony was there, showing off new product and keeping a presence at OR.
Salomon had Brett Holcombe, (he also works with Suunto) and both Salomon and Suunto, with adventure and trail, also have a running pedigree that makes sense for OR and last week, I saw Suunto at CES.
HOKA ONE ONE was back, with a smaller booth. Their 20 foot booth was busy and Isaac Avaleer was on hand, with the sales team, to show off the very vibrantly growing brand. HOKA ONE ONE is an example of how focus on the core values of running: support local running stores and events, support core of sport and providing great product.
The product is key. To change some of the Media deity Marshal McLuhan, the product is the message. Without good product, the brand goes no where.
But, communications from Brooks, Salomon, Suunto, HOKA ONE ONE, and brands not here, like New Balance, and adidas, are on the rise.
I like their attention to social media, with training, footwear pictures, video and focus on great assets on mobile. I would caution all brands not to cut out any platforms, such as print (shoe review, events, special issues), which can provide runners, who are creatures of comfort, some reinforcemnt of the messaging needed to stand out in this crowded market.
The brands that support the content needs of their specialty partners will not only help the sector grow, they will see growth. Brands are now responsible for that content, as brands want store staffs on the floor more of the time, not focused on social media and content development. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Time to catch my next plane, watch for upcoming pieces!