How Inventive Brand Experiences Are Powering New Balance's Success

At this week’s ANA Digital & Social Media Conference in San Diego, New Balance’s Allie Tsavarides and VMLY&R’s Becka Vigorito and Craig Elimeliah took the stage to dive into how inventive brand experiences are powering New Balance’s success.

From tapping AI to spot trendsetting streetwear, to using running miles logged on Strava as currency to pay for beers, New Balance takes a challenger brand mindset to everything it does. The brand is investing in experiences, technology and social to continually surprise its consumers and spark conversations that build real community. Allie, Becka and Craig discussed how they’ve tackled cultural moments like New York Fashion Week and the London Marathon to delight consumers and own the brand’s fearlessly independent ethos: 

  • As marketers and advertisers, we all have the same playbook. We’re all trying to have the same relationship with consumers. We’re all trying to speak to consumers’ values. With New Balance, we’re really trying to focus on the consumer in a way that reinforces their values through relationship with the brand. And ultimately differentiate ourselves.
  • Increasing brand equity is just one piece of the puzzle. Success happens when you understand exactly where brand experience and customer experience intersect.
  • When we think about innovating as a challenger brand, we have to think smarter, and spend a little less.
  • For New Balance, standing out has meant shifting budget into high risk investments versus predictable investments. The goal is always to show up in unexpected ways.
  • When we built the Runaway Pub – where runners could use running miles logged as currency for pints of beer while training for the London Marathon – we knew we wanted to create value for our specific community of runners.
  • It’s not about doing something in culture that’s overt or obvious. It’s about focusing on those things that build relationships. In the case of the Runaway Pub, we focused on the human truth of our running community, becoming part of their training regimen and supporting their hard work.
  • We always want to show up in surprising ways, even in expected environments. For example, we released an ad showing the sneakers that are “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio.” The irony of the NB 990 is that it is becoming iconic in a fashionable way, and flexes across a wide spectrum. It was a traditional execution, but the creative idea drove impact.    
  • Commitment doesn’t come easy. New Balance invests in 20% ideas. That means that 20% of the brand’s annual marketing budget goes towards risk and innovation. We believe in the value of high risk / high reward ideas.

Notable quotes:

  • “We want to celebrate our consumers in unexpected ways. And we want to show up in culture, but do it in a counter-cultural way.” – Allie Tsavdarides, Global Consumer Marketing Director, New Balance
  • “You have to know when to break out of the playbook.” – Craig Elimeliah, Executive Director, Experience, VMLY&R
  • “We’re chasing culture like everyone else is chasing it. So we have to make it ownable for New Balance, and lean into the innovators who have worn New Balance since day one.” – Becka Vigorito, Managing Director, Client Engagement, VMLY&R
  • “We innovate for distinction. As a challenger brand, we have to think smarter. We’re creating an association with our brand that’s truly unique and memorable. And we’re doing it in an irreverent way.”– Allie Tsavdarides
  •  “We’re in it together. We succeed together and fail together. We’re all completely invested.” – Becka Vigorito