Inside New Balance’s plan to overthrow the global sneaker hierarchy

“Put simply,” Davis told me, “Our goal is to be the undisputed third-largest sports brand in the world.”

Like most people in the athletic shoe business, Davis never mentions his competitors by name, but when he does allude to some “major partnership breakdown due to competition.” fight”, he seems to me to refer to the collapse of the partnership between Adidas and Yeezy – something less obvious. , and also unstated, is any acknowledgment of the enormous risk inherent to the very end of the athletic shoe market, where one can go astray and potentially bring in millions of dollars in sales. hundred million dollars.

In the 90s, As Asian labor scandals flooded the news, New Balance was reinvented in the United States by its new fan base. That means Jim Davis has to figure out what makes Generation X lazy people, not athletes, some of the most obvious fans of the company’s best-selling running shoes. grandfather.

Ed Haddad, who has worked at New Balance for more than three decades, said: “I think what has happened is that people in their 20s and 30s don’t want to wear the same pair of sneakers that a 12-year-old is wearing. Go. worked as an operations manager in the 80’s. “The generation was very young, 12 to 18 years old, they embraced Reebok and Nike and all the marketing and hype around them, and we became a become a good alternative to that.”

Davis seems to worry that these shoes are becoming vaguely cool – a boot for record store clerks rather than bankers, with an air of luxury and enough deterrent. The post-grunge culture shock of trading a pair of Doc Martens for Air Jordans. New Balance, perhaps more than any other athletic shoe company, reflects the character of its owner, who has no shareholders to answer for and has no interest in straying from the principles that have made it successful. company’s work. For example, it was Davis who refused to move all of the company’s production overseas. Davis is also behind the brand’s commitment to basic marketing budgets and its decades-long policy against sponsoring big-name athletes. (After signing LA Lakers star James Worthy for an estimated $1 million in the ’80s, they decided not to renew Worthy and the other athletes, choosing instead to adopt a philosophy. “Nobody’s back” and invested in product innovation.Despite these efforts, they still lost to Reebok and Nike in the basketball shoe market.) And in the ’90s, when pressure began to continue, Marketing the 990 as a classic sneaker, Davis doesn’t seem to accept what pop culture seems to want from him. trademark.

Haddad told me that Jim Davis, who declined to be interviewed, is wary of this creeping fashion nostalgia because of his long-held belief that New Balance should only be tied to its technical performance. , in the US market. After all, its greatest successes come from its focus on quality, performance and innovation: breakthroughs like the 574, 990 and W320, one of the first specially developed running shoes. specifically for women. Then there’s the fact that a lot of New Balance followers have fallen in love with the brand just because its sneakers really fit them.


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