PR Team: Ugg (Australia) and The Bromley Group (New York) Campaign: "Art and Sole" Time Frame: January-December 2003 Budget: $150,000Ugg boots are an unlikely fashion accessory. With flat, round soles, a sheepskin exterior, and beige coloring, it's hardly conceivable that these pieces of footwear are some of the most sought-after shoes on the planet. Ugg Australia, owned by Deckers Outdoor Corp., has made the boots since the early 1980s, but only recently have they become so popular. Underneath the boots' gruff exterior, the sheepskin holds wool that not only keeps feet warm without socks in frigid temperatures, but also keeps them cool and comfortable when it's hot and muggy. What's more, the cushioned soles have been described as some of the most comfortable around. In 2000, Ugg Australia teamed up with The Bromley Group to promote the brand and take the shoes - originally designed for surfers to wear on shore - to a more mainstream audience. The agency began sending them to movie sets for stars to wear between takes, but they were soon seen wearing them out shopping, and even to evening events. "We were pushing so aggressively with the fashion magazines that it became a fashion item," says Julie Nuernberg, a Bromley account supervisor. "It was a comfortable shoe, but it wasn't something that you'd wear with a mini out shopping." They set out to change that. Strategy Not only did the agency look to increase sales through celebrity placement and media relations, they also wanted to change existing notions that Uggs were simply winter boots. "We wanted to get it back to being a beach boot," Nuernberg explains. "The classic Ugg is a beach shoe." In addition, Ugg Australia wanted to raise money for charity with a celebrity auction. "Because we were so lucky to have a celebrity following, we wanted to do something that followed with the celebrity idea," says Nuernberg. Tactics Nuernberg and her colleagues began aggressively pitching stories to titles such as Self, which did a beach story with girls in bikinis. While pitching all types of consumer magazines, Bromley continued to send boots to influential fashion celebrities. For the auction, entitled "Art and Sole," Bromley sent 40 pairs of Uggs with bottles of MAC nail polish to celebrities so they could decorate their new boots. Results Twenty-five celebrities agreed to design boots for the cause. The auction raised $33,000 for Oceana, as well as money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. "We pitched that very aggressively, first in consumer books," says Nuernberg. "We got an exclusive with People and had an amazing placement in In Style with eight different boots." In May, Time's Style Watch section posed the question, "Is Ugg a year-round boot?" showing Spider-Man 2's Kirsten Dunst during the summer shoot and reinforcing that they can be worn in warm weather. Katie Couric declared that wearing her Uggs was like walking on marshmallows. Ugg has reported double-digit sales growth in the last six years, and 2002 showed an increase of 40%. However, 2003 sales have increased 300% over 2002. In June, the company's stock was at $6 per share, and in December it had risen to $29.50. The Christmas season saw American providers of the product sell out completely, and women invading retailers, desperate to get a pair. "It's as close to the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon as we can get," says Karen Bromley, CEO of The Bromley Group. Future Bromley will continue to conduct media relations for Ugg Australia. In the meantime, the firm will manage demand among publications and suppliers for more boots - the next shipment arrives in April.
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