Reebok moving on from sports to fitness: Steve McPherson

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Steve MacPherson, Brand Director, Reebok Asia Pacific and Reebok India

Mired in controversies following an unearthing of alleged scams at the top-management level, Reebok India has had a stressful year. Trying to regroup itself, the apparel and lifestyle company has come up with a new positioning and a comprehensive advertising campaign. In an interview with Pitch, Steve MacPherson, Brand Director, Reebok Asia Pacific and Reebok India, delves more into the plans and how the company is not looking at expanding its current number of stores and how it wants to make the existing ones profitable and successful. Excerpts:

Reebok has come out with ‘Live with Fire’ campaign as its new brand positioning? What does it translate into?
With fitness consciousness on the rise we are addressing our consumer needs by sharpening our focus towards fitness. The ‘Live with Fire’ campaign is a rallying cry to our consumers to live life to the fullest. The campaign urges people to move and be active as we believe that movement is the path towards becoming mentally and socially stronger.

The fitness needs and choices of each individual are different. Keeping this in mind, Reebok has created a special line of apparel and footwear for training, walking, running and in-studio activities like yoga, dance and aerobics, coupled with the appropriate accessories for each activity. Our objective is to provide all avenues to a consumer to fulfil their fitness needs. No other brand is a one stop shop for all things fitness.

After losing steam following a major scam last year, what is the immediate priority of Reebok?
The immediate priority is to pave the way for a healthy future in the business and provide the best to our consumers in terms of product and engagement. The year 2013 is a brand new start for Reebok and we are moving towards a positive future. Our objective is to excite our consumers through innovative products, clutter breaking marketing and by injecting new life into our retail environment. We are staring this year with our fully integrated marketing campaign – Live With Fire, which we are announcing through the Reebok training footwear, RealFlex Transition2.0. The campaign rolls out with a 360-degree launch plan covering TV, Out of Home, Digital, Print and Events and Activations. On the retail front, we are introducing a new retail concept ‘Fit Hub’, wherein the stores take inspiration from CrossFit boxes and gyms and are staffed with fitness and product experts that will help you find the right gear for your workout.

How are you engaging the consumers and what else you are doing for promotion?
We at Reebok believe that consumers must be actively engaged on a regular basis in order to develop a relationship between the brand and the consumer. Our engagement activities predominantly revolve around the social media space. For example, to promote our Toning product – EasyTone, we created a unique virtual meets real application called the TMA (Tone My Avatar) on Facebook. TMA allowed the users to create their own fitness partner and follow a set of exercises done by their virtual avatar to burn calories and tone their body. Another example would be the creation of the First Ever Online Flash Mob, ‘Flex a Move’. Through this application, Reebok has merged the need to usher in fitness in consumer’s lives along with the products’ key attribute of flexibility.

For the new RealFlex campaign, we are engaging our customers through social and digital media as well as really focusing on retail spaces. On the digital front apart from our on-going social media push we are also launching a brand new application ‘Ignite the Fitness Fire’ available on android and apple devices. The application will urge the users to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the fitness passion with Reebok. By downloading the app from Google play or apple store, a person will be able to catch the fire (symbolically) on their phone if there are in any fitness zone. We have activated 10, 000 such fitness zones across India to widen the reach and use of the app and take the Fitness message across towns.

Reebok is planning to start a comprehensive advertising campaign in the month of April during the upcoming IPL T-20 cricket tournament? What is the campaign going to be all about? What are your other plans for IPL?
IPL will be driven by a strong BTL and Digital Campaign. Firstly, we will be tying up with top malls in key IPL cities to promote the merchandize. Secondly, We will be taking our athletes like Gautam Gambir to Reebok stores in Kolkata and doing similar asset activation programs across other cities as well and thirdly, we will create a lot of excitement amongst our 2 million strong Facebook community with new engagement tools and contests.

What are you doing on the ATL and BTL front of advertising and engagement?
Reebok’s new marketing campaign takes innovation a notch higher with exciting initiatives packed across all media tools ranging from TV, out of home, to digital media and events. In the OOH spaces we are cutting through the clutter with larger than life Real Flex 2.0 moving cut outs. MS Dhoni, undoubtedly one of the greatest cricketers ever to grace the field will be an integral part of our campaign, a big part of our print, digital and OOH push.

On social media, we are launching the application ‘Ignite The Fire’ in an effort to inspire our consumers to move out of their comfort zone and move towards a fitter and healthier lifestyle. In terms of TV our TVC airs on March 15 across India. We are looking at placements across top shows and integrations with the best movies and music channels.

Beyond RealFlex, we also aim at pushing all categories of fitness at the grass root levels through associations with gyms like Fitness First and Sport Fit by MSD.

How has the brand evolved over the years and how has been the last one year like for Reebok amidst controversy?
Reebok is focused on growing in the business in the coming years. We would like to move on from whatever happened in the past.

Earlier, we were predominantly a sports brand, sporting a fun with fitness attitude. Now we have sharpened our positioning and moved into the fitness zone in a bigger and more exciting way. However our sports heritage still remains through extremely strong tie ups with 3 IPL teams, ICC, ambassadors like MS Dhoni, Gautam, Irfan and Yusuf and more.

Tell us about the new range of shoes which has been launched recently – Real Flex transition 2.0?
Real Flex transition 2.0 is a technology driven shoe complimenting the movements of an athlete. These shoes are fitted with 53 flex nodes on the bottom of the shoe that respond to an athlete’s movement and help your feet flex naturally. The minimalistic upper creates a sock like feel allowing the foot to breathe during a workout. The nodes at the bottom of the shoe provide the athlete with stability and protection required during training. It is undoubtedly the next big thing for fitness buffs.

After pruning many of your stores in India, two third of your 800-odd franchisees have agreed to switch to a new arrangement with the company? What is it like?
The change was one that was necessary and was made keeping in mind a long term growth strategy for Reebok. At this juncture, I am glad to say that we are on track with our targets for the Spring Summer season for 2013 and I am hopeful that we will continue to grow and expand in India.

How many outlets do you have in India and how many would you like to add on?
We currently have close to 500 stores. The objective is not to add more stores to Reebok but to make the existing store profitable and successful. With that in mind, we are moving towards an exciting and strong 2013.

Steve MacPherson, Brand Director, Reebok Asia Pacific and Reebok India

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