Brooks Running, My One True Love
Posted on February 14, 2015
This Valentine’s Day–a day most noted for sugar highs and pun-riddled commentary (does my cadence make your heart race, too?)–I’m ready to openly confess my love to my new running partner, Brooks Running. With so many shoe brands competing for my attention, Brooks is the only candidate ready to settle down for the long haul and truly get to know me. The rest? It’s obvious, they just want to take my money and run.
To paint the full picture of why I love Brooks so much, I’ll have to bash my ex for a moment. There was a time when I was head-over-heels for Nike. My first running shoe–the Pegasus–proved to be a great neutral shoe, and for two years I never considered straying from them. (Runners–come on, is there anything more unfaithful than trying out a new pair of shoes when you’ve already found your sole mate?)
Nike is just so damn seductive; it reels you in with glitzy marketing and that sexy, swoosh-y branding. You’re dazzled with shocking design and bold colors as you browse the shoe displays and racks of shorts and tights. Just try and resist thinking, “Damn, Nike. I want to get in your pants.” Impossible.
It knows newbie runners are excited, vulnerable consumers, and positions itself as the preeminent running brand. (But seriously, Nike, it’s tough to get cozy with you and those freakishly over-sized, steroid-induced mannequins watching my every move, threatening to pound my face in if I walk away with anything but Nike gear. That’s next-level-creepy, guys. Make it stop.)
Here’s my issue with all that marketing BS. I mentioned above that Nike positions itself as a great running brand–and that they are; I love all the Nike gear that I own. From the time you and I were sporting diapers and onesie PJs, Nike has had its eye on us–plotting their market dominance through celebrity endorsements, design and taglines emphasing status and belonging (buyer psychology shit), and hawking gear to us through high school and college sponsorships. Their goal is to impress you enough over fifteen-to-twenty years so that while you’re honing your active lifestyle and start making purchasing decisions, you think of Nike without hesitation.
Let’s think about the brand from a runner’s perspective, though. Nike is a soccer brand, a basketball brand, a football brand, a golf brand–an athletic apparel brand.
Nike is not a running brand; it’s an also running brand.
That said, Nike doesn’t know its ass from its elbow when it comes to running. They take fabric technology and performance learnings from other sports and apply them to running. It’s called economies of scale, and it is why Nike is able to continue to be Nike.
Once I realized this, I began my search for a company that was capable of understanding the runner. The runner’s struggles, injuries, community, in addition to the needs, wants and goals that are uniquely defined by the runner lifestyle. Not the athlete lifestyle–the runner lifestyle.
Enter, Brooks Running Co.
I started looking into Brooks–where they came from, where they’re going, what drives them, etc.–and was blown away by my findings. The story of this 100-year-old company is fascinating, and quite the case study on branding, leadership and putting customers first. These guys are now sole-ly a running brand, and here’s why I love them.
Once upon a time, Brooks did it all. Brooks Sports, as they were known back in the day, manufactured bathing suit shoes (come again?) and various types of athletic cleats, but maintained a rather “meh” market share. Facing bankruptcy, they cut their product line significantly to focus on runners and began the climb to #1 in the running shoe market.
Brooks has both beauty and brains, and that’s a serious turn-on. They look beyond flashy shoe appearance (but still produce competitively good looking shoes) and strive to understand and improve runners’ experience. Instead of trying to pad company margins by offering custom shoe options, Brooks works science and technology (read: magic) into the end product to protect runners from injury.
Brooks knows how to win a guy over and make him feel like a rock star. Shortly after I made my transition to Ghosts, one of Brooks’ ad agencies asked to license one of my images in their new “Thank you running” campaign. I was totally stoked because, duh, that’s fucking awesome. The print ad and trade show display are below:
A few days later, Brooks’ Brand Creative Director, Chris Tobey, reached out again to license 15 additional images from Tanya’s and my Instagram feeds to use on the trade show booth.
All (rightful) gloating aside (*wink*), and of utmost importance, Brooks makes me feel like I’m important to them and that I’m more than just another sweaty runner. Isn’t that ultimately what you want in a partner?Brooks Running, My One True Love by Zack Sylvan