We are in the middle of the second running boom in the United States. The National Sporting Goods Association reports that sales of running/jogging shoes increased 23% percent in 2012 when compared to 2011. Running represents about a third of the overall sneaker market. Serious runners purchase on average three pair of running shoes a year. The running industry continues thrive despite a sluggish economy.
Participation in running has seen a steady increase in recent years. Running participation (ran at least 6+ days/yr) was up nearly 4% overall in the last year. Adventure running has experienced explosive growth. Events such as Tough Mudder have increased in popularity. Adventure running grew 34% last year. Marathon entries have more than doubled over the past 20 years. More and more women are taking up running. I see it in the size of our local high school’s girls cross-country team. Women accounted for 8.6 million finishers in road races in 2012 compared to 6.8 million men.
The running shoe market is highly competitive. The top running shoe brands are ASICS, Brooks, Nike, Saucony, New Balance and Mizuno. Brooks has experienced impressive sales and market share growth in recent years. This was fueled by a shift in marketing strategy. For years, Brooks had tried to be a total athletic company like Nike, selling football cleats and a wide variety of sports apparel. Their athlete roster included Dan Marino, James Worthy and Jimmy Connors. They tried to compete with Nike at their own game. That turned out to be a losing proposition.
About ten years ago, Brooks Sports under the leadership of CEO Jim Weber made a strategic decision to focus on performance running shoes and gear. Brooks eliminated football, basketball and tennis products. Distribution was focused on top running and specialty retailers. This has proven to be a winning strategy.
Many marketers mistakenly believe that more products sold to a broad target audience is the key to growth. Brand Strategist and Author Al Ries in his book “Focus” outlined the premise that long-lasting success depends on focusing on core products and resisting the temptation to diversify. Brooks has successfully executed a focused strategy.
Brooks has developed a simple slogan: “Run Happy.” which defines the brands connection with employees and runners Employees at Brooks live and breathe “Run Happy”, through expression of brand values:
- Serve People
- Lead Thought
- Play As a Team
- Compete Every Day
- Have Integrity
- Have Fun
- Be Active.
What is your favorite brand of running shoes?