Sneaker Maker Sets New Balance in Uniquely American Footwear

It doesn’t take much to win a hot dog eating contest or game of air hockey if no one else shows up to compete. That much is made abundantly clear in a new online video series from New Balance. The sneaker maker challenges its competitors to show up with their own U.S. factory workers for a throw-down, but there are none to be had.

Each video features a New Balance employee at one of the company’s five U.S.-based factories in a solo sporting event of sorts that pits “our U.S. factory workers vs. their U.S. factory workers.” The punch line is a current score: “New Balance proudly employs more than 1,300 U.S. factory workers. Our competitors? 0.”

Arnold Worldwide shot and produced the short video series at the company’s manufacturing plants in New England, highlighting an employee playing ping pong, basketball, air hockey, or eating water-soaked hot dogs all by their lonesome. “The best concepts we found were the ones that we could either conceivably lose them against nobody like air hockey or that you would win so definitively against somebody like ping pong,” says Mike Howard, VP and creative director at Arnold Worldwide.

While New Balance has always been making some (but not all) of its shoes in the United States, the 75-year-old company is just beginning to boast its made-in-America standing through marketing.

“Made in the USA has always been an important thing, but something that they’ve been relatively reticent about,” Howard tells ClickZ.

“They’ve never really leveraged it, and certainly could have along the way. What’s interesting from a cultural perspective right now is made in America has come to mean something quite different than during the Carter administration,” he says. “What people are starting to understand now, certainly both domestically and globally, is that stuff that’s made in America now is good. It’s good stuff, it’s crafted stuff, it’s stuff that is subject to the regulatory rules that we’ve set here. And I think that that’s a really big shift where made in America is concerned.”

New Balance wants consumers to know that “one out of every four pairs of shoes sold in the United States is made or assembled here.” That theme and idea was seeded earlier in the campaign being shepherded by Arnold Worldwide in another video called “American Makers.”

The first phase of the campaign was backed up with digital and print ads, but because the new video series is more social in nature the ad budget will follow accordingly, says Maggie Smith, VP and marketing director at Arnold Worldwide. “We put all our efforts into social, so the full buy surrounding this campaign was on Facebook,” she adds.

“With this particular series, the way we thought about it was a challenge quite frankly. We have 1,300 workers, our competitors don’t have any,” says Howard. “The implication that we certainly intended here is bring it, please bring it on, to our competition.”

“We’re trying to champion and align ourselves with those who are doing things that are done right here in America. But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that we could have fun with the idea of making things in America as well…Have some fun playing with the notion ourselves so that everything doesn’t sound like we’re taking ourselves incredibly seriously, and that’s where these videos came in,” says Howard.

“As you see Apple start to make things in Texas or Motorola bring production back here to America, it’s important for us to stake our claim as a company that’s been here all along…You’re joining a party that we’ve never left and we’re happy to have you,” he adds.

“Doing what we do, it’s lovely to actually work on something that we all genuinely believe in. And it changes the way you approach that work as well,” Howard continues. “It’s so great to get up and pitch ideas that you have so much commitment and passion for. As a creative in advertising, certainly you want to have more of those. And I think in absence of them, you want even more.”

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