Reebok ramps up ad spend, swaps tough sport for centralized ‘convention-breaking’ creative

Reebok unveils latest campaign, Sport the Unexpected

Reebok has increased ad budgets and centralized its marketing functions to capture the global ‘20-something’ market, ditching its tough-sport focus for a more irreverent creative platform that unifies its fitness and lifestyle businesses.

The ‘Sport the Unexpected’ campaign is a stake placed firmly in the ground by Melanie Boulden, Reebok’s global head of marketing and brand management, who joined the company 10 months ago from Crayola. The platform launches in the US today (11 March) with a ‘convention-breaking’ teaser more akin to fashion house films than sports brand 'gymspiration' — a radical departure for Reebok, which has spent the past five years capitalizing on tough fitness trends such as Crossfit and Spartan Race.

Created by Venables Bell, the campaign forms part of Reebok’s roadmap to growth in the burgeoning sportwear industry. It targets what Boulden classes as the “20-something” market: consumers with spending power who are too young to remember the brand’s early days as a radical challenger.

“We have amazing global brand awareness and 20-somethings know about us, but they don’t really know us: what we stand for, our history, our heritage,” said Boulden. “They don’t know that we are bold, they don’t know about our distinctive point of view and they don’t know that we are daring. The work is really focused on this consumer.”

The brand, which is a subsidiary of Adidas, has committed to Boulden’s vision by increasing marketing budgets to “levels of five or six years ago.” She arrived from the CPG sector determined to break the company’s rhythm of marketing Classics, performance, and fashion separately, because that’s now “how the consumer really thinks — she’s blended.”

‘Sport the Unexpected’ will act as the central creative banner that both brand and product marketing will sit under. Meanwhile, the swathe of localized content Reebok once produced will be distilled into a smaller number of “big stories” that can be translated and adapted by local marketing teams.

This centralized brand focus led Reebok to hire Deutsch, which claimed the agency of record mantle from Venables Bell (Boulden said the transition between the creative shops so far has been “seamless” and “professional”). The latter was brought on six years ago to establish that tough fitness positioning; now, the marketing chief believes the IPG agency to be the right partner in achieving her goal of establishing “one global voice” that can grow in volume.

Change is afoot internally, too. Boulden is building out the company’s in-house analytics team to flex creative and media spend where necessary for the duration of the campaign.

“In my opinion, every dollar counts,” she said. “I’m coming from CPG, where we don’t have margins like we do in this business, so I’m all about [the philosophy of] ‘we do not waste’ and investing in what the consumer sees. And I believe it's important to have people in your marketing organization dedicated to analytics — not only to assess the current work, but looking at the market and helping us analyze for the future, as well.”

The integrated media plan — as it currently stands — is weighted towards the irreverent films that aim to establish Reebok as an alternative voice bridging sport, lifestyle and pop culture. Media agency of record Mediacom has built a plan around social and TV; longer, 90-second cuts will be housed on Reebok.com.

The website itself will also get a revamp by the end of March; Reebok has earmarked e-commerce as an important vertical to develop, given that it does not have as many brick-and-mortar stores as its bigger competitors.

“This industry moves fast and these consumers move fast,” said Boulden. “We have the ability to assess a trend, quickly react and get product into market. We’re fast, but I know there are people even faster than us.

“Speed is how you market today and speed is how you connect with consumers today. We have to make sure a global ecosystem is in place for us to react quickly.”

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