This is the beginning of a series of columns by me, Larry Eder on the show I love, the Running Event. Due to unforseen circumstances, I had to cancel my trip to TRE19, so I am sitting in the GVA cafe in Morgan Hill, CA and sharing my thoughts on this wondrous event. I will miss you all, especally the many times I give Joe Rubio trouble at the Hilton bar, or enjoy a cocktail at the various watering holes at the show and around Austin. I have never missed a TRE, and hope to see you all again in Austin in 2020.
So, I am going to pen a few columns on the big themes I have been hearing all year….
Here is the truth. Brooks should have gone to the great running cemetary in the sky in the 1980s, somehow, it stayed alive. In 2019, It battles several brands, who stay focused on performance running, a $2 billion a year business. Brooks buried ASICS about five years ago, as the iconic brand lost its focus, and now, leads running performance. But, as Brooks management knows, one is only as good as their last shoe sale…
1. At the end of the day, it is about making TINY changes on great shoes.
A while back I asked a buddy, Mark Bossardet (now at Under Armour), what makes a great brand. He told me, one must ask just one question: “Where is their Adrenalin, where is their Pegasus, what shoe will be the brand statement shoe?” Brooks has gotten it. They have developed a series of shoes that look good, feel good and are priced well.
Remember what our friend, former ASICS marketing guru Gary Slayton would say: “If you have a great shoe, evolve it little by little. ASICS focused on tiny, tiny changes, so that the original focus athlete got it, and then, new ones would try it.”
2. The retailer is always right.
One of the guys I must see at TRE is Rick Wilhelm. Wilhelm is the VP of Specialty running, and he knows his culture. Now, here’s the lesson. Wilhelm hears the good and the bad. In this role, he has to know the problem before others and he has to ask the tough questions. Rick Wilhelm is like Brooks intelligence service. If a brand does not have someone like Wilhelm, good luck.
Also, consider this. Brooks does 2 parties in Austin. Keep it fun, keep it light. Listen.
3. Runners are everywhere, but do not loose the focus.
Sure, Run Happy has been there. But Brooks loyalist love it. And they come in all shapes and sizes. That is why they stay with RNR series, Coaching awards and PR Invite. Brooks can not be everywhere, but when they go somewhere, they do that project well.
4. If one wants to be successful, one must be nimble, but one must focus on the channel.
The story is there. When Jim Weber came in, almost 2 decades ago, he let his top client go. People thought he was nuts. Seriously, nuts. But that change allowed Brooks to focus on the prize, high end running.
5. Human capital: keep the staff happy.
One fascinating thing about our business. The people who can make fine shoes and deliver fine shoes can fit into my eighth grade classroom at Saint Blaise in Bridgeton, Missouri. Dan Sheridan, EVP, Chief Operating Officer, has been at Brooks for nearly two decades. Derek Lactoan, who just moved to a sales position, was the long time PR guy at Brooks. Derek sent us fun shoes, in fun, thematic approaches to keep the media thinking about Brooks.