A week after the 2018 edition of The Running Event (TRE), members of Saucony’s sales, product, marketing and leadership teams began filing into the Saucony Showroom inside the company’s Massachusetts headquarters. For the next two hours, the individuals traded perspectives, observations and ideas about the recently passed four-day industry gathering in Austin, TX.
Led by Pamela Preuss, who’s been running Saucony’s trade show operation for more than a decade, the group engaged in a candid discussion about Saucony’s presence at TRE and how the brand captured mindshare in a lively environment featuring more than 250 exhibitors. There was also a deep dive into feedback from retailers – the good, the bad and the ugly about Saucony’s performance in the run specialty channel – as well as a frank review of competitors’ presence at the show.
“We do this in the moment, so it’s fresh,” explains Don Lane, whose first order of business upon being named Saucony’s chief marketing officer last November was hopping a plane to Austin to be on the trade show floor.
That December 2018 meeting represented Saucony’s first step in its year-long march to TRE 2019, an earnest review that has since fueled the brand’s presence and messaging at an annual gathering Lane calls “the pinnacle event in our industry.”
“We need to get TRE right,” he says.
As 2019 unfolded, Lane defined two key priorities for Saucony at TRE 2019.
First, he wanted to reinforce the company’s new “Run For Good” brand platform. Launched on Global Running Day in June with the world’s first Instagram relay race, Run For Good celebrates the positive that comes from running. According to Lane, the three-word mantra informs virtually everything connected to the brand’s marketplace presence — from its external partnerships and activations with retailers to its marketing and product development.
“It’s not a tagline,” Lane says of Run For Good, “but really a north star for us because we believe what we do will be as important as what we say.”
TRE 2019 represents the first time Saucony is bringing the Run For Good campaign to life on a trade show floor and Lane says the brand’s messaging around the platform will intensify throughout 2020.
One of the run specialty channel’s linchpin brands, and certainly one hungry to gain market share, Saucony’s second objective was to showcase its innovative spirit and offer a glimpse into its future. To that end, Saucony is debuting the Endorphin Collection at TRE 2019, three distinctive footwear models slated to hit the market in summer 2020.
Raising the Endorphins
Developed in collaboration with Saucony’s elite athletes yet built with the everyday runner in mind, the Endorphin Collection blends bold aesthetics – “These are a real step forward for us in terms of design,” Lane says – with technical punch. The Endorphin Pro and Endorphin Speed, for instance, both feature a Pebax-infused midsole called PWRRUNPB that is the lightest midsole Saucony has ever brought to market.
“We’re talking some seriously advanced tech inside these shoes,” Lane says.
With TRE 2019 closing in, Saucony leadership began reaching out to corporate, sales and field staff as well as its roster of elite athletes about TRE participation. About 20 Saucony-related staff will attend TRE, including executives, tech reps (so-called “Shadows”) and elites Molly Huddle, Parker Stinson and Jared Ward. With that comes the process of coordinating flights, hotel rooms and TRE access.
Minding the Details
At the same time, Saucony plotted its presence on the floor. For its 150-square-foot booth, the company’s internal graphics design team crafted visual displays in line with the company’s Run For Good platform. Other creatives, meanwhile, completed a video for booth televisions showing the latest Run For Good initiatives and products.
“We had a lot of discussions about creating a space that is inviting and one people want to stay in,” Lane says.
Inside the booth, brand leaders decided against showcasing Saucony’s entire product line, choosing only to display the Endorphin Collection, select trail footwear and new colorways.
“We’ve gone with the reductive approach because we want to show we’re a brand looking forward, not backwards,” Lane says. “We have something to say and we’re going to say it clearly.”
Amid an assortment of easy-to-overlook details like ordering booth electricity and furniture, Saucony also plotted its booth Happy Hour, including ordering Koozies featuring Rod Dixon’s noteworthy quote: “All I want to do is drink beer and train like an animal!” There’s also the process of scheduling meetings with retailers, media and other industry partners.
“TRE is the place we can build and strengthen relationships with our run specialty partners by being very clear about who we are and where we’re going,” Lane says. “We want to show we’re engaged and investing in the run specialty channel.”
Bringing the Message Home
With Saucony’s overall brand message in place and show details coming together, brand leadership looked to accentuate those key talking points.
Sharon Barbano, head of Saucony Trail Strategy and a former U.S. trail running champion, finalized details for the 30-minute Saucony Dirt Power Women’s Panel on TRE Thursday. The four-member panel, which includes Saucony president Anne Cavassa and ultrarunning star Marcy Schwam among others, will share tips on taking running from the road to the trail as well as how running stores might encourage more women to find their “dirt power.”
“We’ve seen significant growth in trail because we’ve focused on it and that will continue at TRE,” Lane assures.
In addition, Saucony creatives completed a full-page ad for the TRE show program. Showing the forefoot of one Endorphin Collection shoe, the ad invites attendees to stop by the Saucony booth for a “sneak peak” at the all-new Endorphin Collection and chats with Huddle, Stinson and Ward about the collaborative process that led to the development of the footwear.
“It’s both creating awareness for new product, but a call to action as well,” Lane says of the ad.
The presence of Huddle, Stinson and Ward also enables Saucony to reinforce its Run For Good message. The three are not only notable athletes, Lane reminds, but individuals who actively engage with the world around them. Ward, for instance, teaches statistics at Brigham Young University, while Huddle is involved with charitable causes like Project Purple and Team for Kids.
“They are great symbols of who we are in the world,” Lane says.
Saucony will then reinforce that message with the Run For Good Award at the TRE banquet. Spurred by Saucony’s Run For Good Foundation, a long-time initiative committed to battling childhood obesity, the Run For Good Award recognizes a retailer who inspires children to take up the sport through community-based youth running programs.
“The Run For Good Award is another way we can highlight the good that comes from running,” Lane says. “Even more, though, it’s a way to publicly recognize the great efforts of a run specialty retailer.”
When the Austin Convention Center eventually empties on December 5, Lane hopes retailers leave feeling the energy and momentum building at Saucony. After all, it’s been a year-long effort to underscore just that point at TRE.
“I hope retailers believe the best is yet to come from Saucony,” Lane says.
Are You Ready for TRE?
Five pre-show planning tips for retailers attending The Running Event.
Retailers: a little planning can help you maximize your trip to The Running Event.
- Create a schedule. Identify breakout sessions you plan to attend and outline where you need to be and when on each day. Leave some wiggle room, though, so you can react to anything particularly intriguing.
- Establish priorities and a plan. Pinpoint vendors you need to see on the trade show floor, perhaps even creating a “must see” and “like to see” list. Note any specific questions you want to ask.
- Make appointments. Especially for those “must see” vendors, contact the brand beforehand to schedule a meeting. This way, you’re assured of face time and better positioned to have a productive conversation.
- Prepare your pitch. Eager to get a new brand into your store or deepen ties with an existing vendor? Prepare a packet that shares store background, key data and photos as well as ideas for highlighting the brand in your store. This will show you’re serious about being a valued partner.
- Split up. If you travel to TRE with other store staff, divide and conquer. Plan to attend different breakout sessions, divvy up the to-do list and challenge each other to find notable products or new ideas.