The title of this post was going to be,
New Balance “Fearlessly Independent” is the Most Non-White Campaign Ever & That’s Okay
I changed it because it’s not the most non-White, but at a time when New Balance remains in the mind of many what it was last year this campaign called, “Declare Your Independence” is a strong push away from Trump and the conservative nature of the politics that has hounded New Balance. Last year New Balance introduced some of the best sneakers in the history of the brand, but they didn’t really accomplish what they wanted which was more of a crossover into lifestyle and beyond the Tiki Torch crowd. I mean I wrote this post at the end of 2016 and on several occasions throughout 2017 when I attempted to introduce a New Balance silhouette I was reminded of NB’s “whiteness”:
With the connection to Donald Trump and the backing of TPP the brand remained the shoe of White people. They should have excelled on product alone, but that didn’t happen. I mean it wasn’t a bad year for the brand, but in the mind of the masses New Balance is 1906 and not in a good way.
In an attempt to take control of their narrative the brand in conjunction with marketing teams from ACE and VML created a campaign that highlights the diversity of the brands’ influencers and how the various aspects of the company’s history is similar to how people have to fight to overcome their circumstances and society. The aspect that is most intriguing to me in this campaign is the use of the brands’ history and how the “independence” of the brand is the “American” story of committing to hard work and dedication in the face of big business and conformity. This is an important step for New Balance which has an indelible connection to Steve Jobs… and well, Tiki Torches.
When the primary face of your new footwear and campaign is Francisco Lindor and Brenda Martinez there is an obvious attempt at targeting a specific group. The brand doesn’t stop there. They have a diverse roster (no Black people though…) of influencers being utilized in an IG based campaign with several divisions:
Declare Your Style – Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor arrived in American at age 12 from Puerto Rico unable to speak English. Now a confident and charismatic All Star, Lindor’s never forgotten his Puerto Rican roots and remains true to his strength of character and unique sense of style — something he brings to everything he does.
Declare Your Drive –Paul Rabil is considered by some to be the #1 lacrosse player in the world. Deeply passionate about growing his sport, he is involved in the business of lacrosse as much as playing it; constantly growing it and doing everything he can both on and off the field to drive its future.
Declare Your Future – Dedicating herself to learning every aspect of the game, American soccer player Rose Lavelle made education of equal importance in her training. Instead of dropping out of college to go pro, Lavelle kept her academics on par with her sport and conquered both.
Declare Your Character – Jurgen Klopp has always had soccer in his blood. After spending 15 years as a professional player, he found his true calling in inspiring others to greatness as the manager of one of the world’s most storied football clubs, Liverpool FC.
Declare Your Path – Middle-distance world medalist runner Brenda Martinez grew up with humble means in a California community. Her passion started through a running club despite only having cut-off jeans and shoes too big for her feet. Martinez hosts running camps for young girls to give them the chances she didn’t have growing up.
Declare Your Victory – PJ Ladd has been innovating in the world of skateboarding since he was 8 and growing up in Boston. Despite long months of unfriendly skate weather, Ladd continued to practice under adverse conditions, using the inside of his father’s auto body garage for refuge.
Declare Your Craft – The film features a New Balance worker stitching an athletic shoe at the company’s Lawrence, MA factory as a nod to the brand’s long-standing commitment to maintaining a portion of its manufacturing in the United States.
*The anthem video’s soundtrack is by Los Angeles-based NVDES, a multi-genre art music project by Josh Ocean that creates songs through freeform creative jam sessions that allows each song to have its own unique elements.
Last year adidas’ rise to prominence coincided with some of the best marketing the brand has done in the last 30 years. This campaign by NB isn’t overt in marketing footwear and apparel. It’s the right mix of imagery, depth and emotional connectedness to drive interest in the campaign and the brand. The spots feel genuine. The sports are non-traditional in the focus on soccer, baseball and lacrosse. New Balance is digging into the niche where they don’t have to fight as hard to reach people. The brand is trying to change the narrative and it will be interesting to see where this is headed over the course of the year. If they stick with this campaign and refresh it consistently each month then we could see New Balance shift some of the focus and become what I predicted at the start of the year in this article:
Someone at New Balance paid attention. I take postdated checks.
Note: The video and campaign was delivered so well that I forgot to talk about the new shoe (which I don’t like), the Fresh Foam Lazr Hyposkin. You can do better than this New Balance. It’s the right price, but it feels like more of the same. Play with the history in this shoe… and you win.