New running brands have a tough job ahead of them if they’re to compete with the giants, but with the right people on board and a clear vision, it can be done.
Brand giants such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Asics, Brooks and Mizuno continue to dominate the world of running – and running shoes – so to break into the market is no easy task. The athletic footwear industry is huge – and it grew by three percent in the US in 2016, generating $17.5 billion, according to global information company The NPD Group (https://www.npd. com/).
But in recent years some new brands have pushed through and now rank highly with a bigger share of sales. Under Armour, who for six consecutive years averaged a quarterly growth rate of 20 per cent, managed to get to the top of the league table of sportswear brands in 2015 and 2016, coming second only to Nike (until being usurped by Adidas this year), according to marketing specialists NPD.
Now another brand is making some noise in the world of running. 361˚ are certainly not new to the game. The global brand which was founded in 2003 has its roots in the East and is one of the biggest sporting goods brands in China. Within its vision to become a global sports brand, the company expanded its business into the Americas, Asia and since 2016 in EMEA.
When they expanded into the US, they reached out and connected with experienced individuals and agencies.
In 2014, when they moved into the US, American running publication Competitor reported that ‘its management staff has vast experience in the US market— including several execs who formerly worked at ASICS just down the road from its office in Irvine.’
Now moving into Europe, the brand has settled on Amsterdam for its HQ. It seems like an obvious location for a European office with some of the best freight and logistics providers in Europe, an industry talent pool to hire from and presumably a preferred choice over the UK to provide some insulation against a hard Brexit.
They’re reaching out into Europe with a strategy of getting to the grassroots of running. In Germany they have seen real success in the independent channel, which they would like to replicate in the UK through a partnership with a newly formed agency – Run NRG (Run-NRG.com). The company wants to help independents achieve higher customer retention by not over distributing the product in the UK market.
Stephen Honight, Run NRG Sales Manager said: “We believe we have a unique proposition that will allow independents to sell a great performing 361° product to consumers and see the customer return to the store time after time for their second, third and fourth pair.”
Alongside Germany, products are currently distributed by specialist agents and distributors in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Israel.
361˚ was an official supporter of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The brand is working hard on marketing and sense of purpose (essential for brand success in 2017).
This year they’ve launched a campaign called ‘Beyond Your Expectations’ which explains the deeper meaning of its claim ‘One Degree Beyond’. To support the #BeyondExpectations messaging, they’ve joined forces with Kai Markus Xiong, who’s about to complete a challenge of Running the Silk Road (http:// runmysilkroad.com), a 12,000km run that started in March 2017 and covering eight countries, with an ambition of fighting prejudice and www.361europe.com/en/sensation-2 building cultural bridges between East and West. Kai was supported on his journey by 361˚ and at the time of writing he’s expected to get through up to 20 pairs of 361˚ shoes, including the high mileage model, Sensation 2.
Kai’s journey is similar in many ways to the challenges that 361˚ International faces, creating a bridge between East and West, overcoming prejudice by introducing an Eastern brand to the Western markets. Having a real passion for running and the mental strength to perform #BeyondExpectations – a mantra that means defining one’s own standard of success and performing even beyond those expectations.
General Manager of Europe, Jurian Elstgeest has set a goal of 400 high quality points of sale by the start of 2018 in EMEA. And the brand plans to introduce new categories of products, beyond running, in the next few years.