Recently named the new chief marketing officer at Saucony, Kathryn Pratt is tasked with providing strategic development and execution of the footwear company’s global branding initiatives, including brand positioning, direct-to-consumer, advertising, digital strategies, international growth initiatives and expansion of Originals, its heritage lifestyle business. Pratt reports to Saucony global brand president Anne Cavassa.
“Saucony has grown tremendously over the past few years and Kathryn’s deep expertise in global marketing and thought leadership will help us further develop and implement strategic initiatives focused on future expansion,” says Cavassa.
Pratt joins Saucony with more than 25 years of global brand-building experience, most recently at L.L.Bean, as director of brand engagement and outdoor discovery programs. During her decade-long tenure at L.L.Bean, Pratt held a number of leadership positions, including group VP–marketing for Kenneth Cole Productions and chief of staff to the global CEO of Young & Rubicam.
Running Insight+ caught up with Pratt on one of her first days on the job to gather insight on her new position.
Running Insight: Welcome to the run specialty side of the business. What appealed to you about Saucony to have you make this move?
Kathryn Pratt: As the pandemic-driven growth of running continues to evolve with seasoned runners running more and new runners finding their pace, there is so much momentum and opportunity for brands to progress, with Saucony playing a leadership role. The brand’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as sustainable practices, are values that resonate deeply with me. And as a 128-year-old iconic brand, Saucony is in a coveted, distinctive position, making the opportunities ahead even that much richer. I was only going to leave for the right opportunity, and Saucony was that.
How much did working with Anne Cavassa influence your decision?
The opportunity to work with Anne Cavassa and the Saucony leadership team is also impressive. Everyone is inherently competitive and driven for growth and we all believe in the transformational power of running and in the brand purpose: To inspire all humans to live their best life by providing access to running. Our shared passion and vision create a culture of camaraderie that’s really inspiring.
Other than finding out where the lunchroom is, what are some of the first things you will do – or have done – in your new position?
I’m working closely with Anne and the team as we craft the five-year brand strategy. There is significant growth potential and we’re in the process of defining the key choices we’ll make to deliver heightened brand awareness and to scale our global business. Another key priority of mine is to get to know the full marketing team — their roles and ideas and who they are as individuals. We have a breadth of experience, from new perspectives to seasoned marketers, and I deem all are critical to the success of the Saucony brand.
Where do you view Saucony’s position in the run specialty market in 2022?
This is such a unique time in the running industry and a time of great opportunity for Saucony — a brand that continues to push the boundaries to break through, differentiate and appeal to consumers. Saucony is a challenger brand. That’s a great position to be in since it forces us to innovate, to focus, to prioritize and to disrupt.
What are the strengths you plan to be building on?
Saucony has 128 years of heritage, authenticity and innovation at its core. We know that when we innovate, we elevate — the running experience, the community and the industry. We know that our runner-inspired technologies, including Speedroll Technology and high-performance PWRRUN PB foam cushioning, is resonating with all levels of runners looking for an edge when performance matters. As the landscape for plated shoes powered by highly responsive foams continues to evolve, we are positioned to steadily outpace our competitors as the go-to brand of choice for maximum performance. This, coupled with our authentic community connection and an omnichannel approach, will drive continued growth for the brand through 2022 and beyond.
What perspective does your background at L.L.Bean bring to Saucony?
Both brands gained great traction during the pandemic, as people looked to running and other outdoor activities to stay fit and relieve stress during such challenging times. Saucony’s belief in the transformative power of running continues to prove itself during this running boom — and now we have the opportunity to keep new runners engaged in the running culture and to further develop a strong sense of community.
What will your focus be in your first months/year on the job?
To immerse myself in running culture and its place in the life and minds of the consumer, regardless of whether they’re high mileage runners or every day active individuals. We will seek new ways to authentically connect the Saucony brand to their lives, building a more personal, emotional relationship.
Sure, to understand the foundation of the business — the styles, the various selling channels, the similarities and differences across our global regions and the key areas of growth. This foundational knowledge will help us become stronger marketing partners within our global organization.
What can run specialty retailers expect from you in your role there?
Run specialty is a critical part of the consumer journey; so many friends and family members have told me they are loyal Saucony consumers because of a sales associate’s recommendation years ago.
What impresses you about the channel?
For a new runner, going into a running store can be intimidating. Running retailers and their teams on the floor provide the guidance, solutions and confidence every runner needs to live their best life. Retailers are a direct connection to our consumer, which makes our partnership with them so critical. We are committed to further investing our time, resources and shared passion in making our retail partners successful.
What is your running routine these days?
Running has always been a part of my cross-training and it has become increasingly so in the past several weeks since I’m surrounded by so much passion for it. I’ve committed to our team that I will get into trail running this fall. I’m sure my dog, Ollie, will appreciate that, too!
Finally, will we see you at The Running Event in November in Austin?
The Saucony team will definitely be there; it’s been an awesome platform for us to showcase the brand and new styles. Most important, it’s an opportunity to spend time with the running community and our retail partners. Each year the team tries to outdo themselves so I’m sure you’ll be impressed by what we’re planning for this year.