Experiential strategy sets the right tone for sneaker launch

Jenny Shanley, head of US PR for Reebok, explains that the toning shoe category is hot despite the tepid economy, noting that some analysts have called it a $100 million category that is expected to continue to grow.

Client: Reebok
Agency: M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment
Campaign: EasyTone launch
Duration: June – November 2009
Budget: $23,000

Jenny Shanley, head of US PR for Reebok, explains that the toning shoe category is hot despite the tepid economy, noting that some analysts have called it a $100 million category that is expected to continue to grow. Reebok entered space last summer with EasyTone, and AOR for sport and lifestyle brands M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment (M&C) helped raise awareness through key media outreach and education.

“Feeling is believing,” explains Shanley. “It's tricky to explain what it does because it looks like an everyday walking shoe. We wanted to bring the technology to life through experiencing it.”

Strategy
The team pitched the shoes to fashion, lifestyle, and consumer media. Two events were also planned to allow journalists to try the shoes in situations that might resonate with women, including cooking and walking around town.

M&S SVP Sandra Carreon-John says the events were held in New York City in order to draw the most media.

Tactics
Pitches focused on technology, benefits, and looks. The team targeted print and TV, as well as mommy, fashion, and health bloggers.

“EasyTone Cook Your Ass Off Night – Cook and Tone” was held in June at the Institute of Culinary Education where editors from mainstream publications, such as Vogue and Glamour wore the shoes for several hours while cooking. A walking tour of popular downtown Manhattan bakeries, dubbed “Reebok Cupcake Crawl -- Taste and Tone” followed in October, which was covered by bloggers and other outlets.

Bill McInnis, a former NASA scientist who created the shoes' technology, attended both events and conducted interviews throughout the campaign.

Reebok executives were also on hand at both events to talk about the shoes. For the cupcake event, Kelly Bensimon and Jill Zarin of The Real Housewives of New York City were hired as ambassadors.

Results
Shanley reports EasyTones have consistently had more than 30% sell-through across retail channels, adding that they were among the top-selling shoes at Lady Footlocker for seven weeks running.

“Typical good sell-throughs are high single digits—up to 10%,” she explains. “Thirty percent is phenomenal.”

Shanley adds that sales through Reebok.com have increased twentyfold since the campaign launch.

The events drew about 40 media members total. Impressions exceeded 1.7 million in outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Lucky.

Future
Reebok will continue to work with M&S. Shanley says there will be “huge PR efforts” around Reebok's expansion in the toning category this year.

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