Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Balance believes WHERE the shoes are made matters

Over at the New Balance headquarters in Brighton, Mass., the ad campaigns have traditionally focused on the shoes’ performance and their appeal to athletes.

But performance is taking a backseat these days to where the shoes are actually made. Unlike its competitors, New Balance can claim that a substantial chunk of its shoes sold in the U.S. (about 25 percent) are made or assembled here.

And the company is striving to put that fact in the spotlight with its latest campaign, developed by Arnold Worldwide of Boston.

See the website at newbalance.com/Made-in-the-USA

New Balance kicked things off with ads in May, along with in-store signage. That was followed by ads that appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, urging other companies to follow New Balance’s lead and produce more goods here in the U.S.

There’s now an ongoing Facebook campaign, telling people which companies they “like” actually use domestically produced goods.

And last week, New Balance uploaded a series of short, humorous videos showing their workers “competing” against their rivals’ U.S. factory workers in basketball, table tennis, table hockey and a hot dog eating contest. The “winners” in these solo contests are a foregone conclusion.

“We do have American manufacturing workers and frankly, none of our competitors do,” Kevin Tripp, marketing manager for New Balance’s domestic manufacturing operations, tells me. “Instead of doing it in a way that comes across as serious or self-serving, we thought (this) would be fun. … Since our guys and girls are going up against nobody, we win hands down.”

These spots are notable in that they don’t feature athletes or models. Like the Sports Illustrated ads, these videos feature workers from one of New Balance’s five New England factories. (The company employs 1,300 at plants in Brighton, Lawrence and in Maine.)

“We have played the ‘Made in the USA/domestic pride’ story before, but not to the extent that we have done it this year,” Tripp says. “We really want to put a stake in the ground and tell the story consistently moving forward.”

New Balance’s promotion of its manufacturing capabilities comes amid a growing interest in the United States among consumers in buying domestic products, and a number of high-profile disasters involving overseas suppliers.

There are also a couple political elements: New Balance is trying to protect tariffs on imported sneakers during ongoing international trade talks, and is also trying to persuade Congress to require the U.S. military to buy American-made shoes for recruits.

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