Discover how New Balance has captured the Zeitgeist’s heart with the most original ads in recent years.
In the world of sneaker culture, a model’s success is influenced by various interconnected elements. The design, encompassing form, technology, and materials, plays a pivotal role, as do current trends, emerging subcultures, and celebrity endorsements. However, the marketing strategy, conveyed through advertising campaigns, represents a key element in gaining cultural resonance.
Over the past five decades, New Balance has achieved increasing success, thanks not only to its diverse range of iconic sneakers but also its ability to present them in a whimsical, engaging, and often ironic manner. This approach aligns with the mantra “Endorsed by No One” adopted by the brand in the ‘90s, emphasizing research, innovation, and product quality over celebrity sponsorships. It has been a pivotal strategy in evolving New Balance into a contemporary sneaker powerhouse.
Now, let’s delve into New Balance’s archives to discover some of the most iconic and groundbreaking advertising campaigns of recent years.
Appointment of Teddy Santis as Creative Director of New Balance Made in USA
On April 5, 2021, the brand announced to the world the new Creative Director, Teddy Santis, previously the founder and creative director of the New York lifestyle brand Aimé Leon Dore. And of course, they did it in their own unique style. Teddy Santis is depicted at the center of a scene populated by “daddy shoes,” set in a “work-in-progress” environment with open ladders and exposed beams.
This ironic homage underlines the brand’s historical association with producing “comfy dad shoes” often used for domestic chores.
Runners Aren’t Normal
In 1982, New Balance reinforced the concept that ‘Runners Aren’t Normal‘ with an iconic campaign, cleverly highlighting not only their extensive range of running shoes but also celebrating the diversity within the running community.
By the end of 2022, Teddy Santis revisited this iconic narrative in the context of the highly anticipated launch of the New Balance 990 V6. They created an engaging video campaign featuring a wide range of individuals, including the renowned New Balance enthusiast, Action Bronson.
An Unfair Comparison
The New Balance Rainier has experienced a resurgence, particularly due to a recent collaboration with Aimé Leon Dore, followed by the release of the mainline. When it made its debut in 1982, the Rainier represented a revolution in outdoor footwear, boldly stepping into a new category of lightweight and hybrid shoes that combined the required ruggedness of trails with the typical comfort and lightness of sneakers. With this innovative design, comparing this lightweight and robust shoe to the heavy and bulky outdoor footwear of the time was no longer appropriate, as emphasized by the presented New Balance advertising.
“I wouldn’t take money to wear these boots on Mount Everest.”
In the launch of the New Balance Rainier, the renowned mountaineer Lou Whittaker starred in the advertisement, jokingly stating, “I wouldn’t take money to wear these boots on Everest.” However, this was just a touch of humor from New Balance because Whittaker actually chose the Rainier for his historic ascent of the Great Couloir on the north face of Everest, a route never before traversed. Delving deeper into the story reveals that Whittaker explained the true meaning of the advertising slogan: every piece of equipment he chose was the result of meticulous selection, as a wrong decision could have been fatal. For Whittaker, the financial aspect was never a priority; instead, his priority was ensuring maximum safety and performance, leading him to select the New Balance Rainier boots, considered the best among the best.
The Intelligent Choice
Throughout its history, New Balance has used irony to underline the connection between its products and intelligence. This representation manifested in both the construction of the shoes, as seen in the 1992 ad for the NBX9000, and in the distinctive slogan “The Intelligent Choice,” as highlighted in Aimé Leon Dore’s ad campaign, which will be discussed later.
Worn by top models in London and dads in Ohio
To honor the enduring legacy of the 990 model, New Balance’s minimalist campaign presented the shoe against a white backdrop, accompanied by 19 legally approved slogans reminiscent of the original advertisements for previous shoe versions.
Slogans include phrases like “Worn by top models in London and dads in Ohio,” “Made differently from our competitors for a good reason,” and “How shoes should be made.” For sneaker enthusiasts, the new shoe is available in the classic gray, as well as black and blue.
Run Your Way
The New Balance Run Your Way campaign aimed for inclusivity within the running community, delivering a specific message: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a marathon runner or just a weekend jogger, if you log hundreds of kilometers following training plans or if you go for an early morning run before work just to enjoy the dawn’s first light—It doesn’t matter. Just run.”
For the New Standard campaign, captured by photographers Natsume Mito, Saki Shibata, Fumiko Aoyagi, and Shiho Takechi, the brand aimed to portray women living their everyday lives with positivity, just as they did in 1988 and continue to do today. The result was the sight of charming characters of all ages, with relaxed expressions and the 99X series model on their feet.
Launched in 1988 as a running shoe for use on asphalt surfaces, its comfort and design made it a bestseller for both men and women, especially those not so young anymore. The 2022 campaign once again played with its history of “Dad Shoes.”
Life in the Balance
In line with “New Standard,” the campaign for the launch of the New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 990v5 in 2019 featured a delightful and super cool elderly lady with her cane corso.
As always with Leon Dore, the tone of the campaign was exceptional, with the look book showcasing an elderly model who exudes elegance in any room, anywhere.
New Balance and Palace Go Back 10,000 Years
For the launch of their collaboration, New Balance and Palace put together a surreal advertising campaign destined to leave a lasting impression.
In a 1.5-minute video, it is said that we find ourselves in Flimby, a coastal village in the Cumberland district of the ceremonial county of Cumbria, England. But not in the present, rather in the Paleolithic era, 10,000 years ago. Two hominids receive a visit from a man who appears to come from the future.
He is wearing items from the capsule collection, which he calls “fire,” at least, that’s what one of the two variants of the NB 991 Palace is named. The two Paleolithic men naturally ask if they can use this “fire” to cook or keep warm. At this point, the futuristic man is stumped and decides to disappear just as he arrived, out of nowhere.
New Balance has brilliantly embraced irony in many of its campaigns, showcasing its connection with intelligence and originality. This approach is reflected in the shoe construction, as seen in the 1992 ad for the NBX9000, and in the distinctive slogan “The Intelligent Choice,” as demonstrated in the Aimé Leon Dore campaign.
Similarly, the brand has celebrated diversity with campaigns like “Runners Aren’t Normal” and honored its history of innovation in the outdoor sector with the revival of the New Balance Rainier, paying homage to Lou Whittaker‘s audacious choice to wear it during the epic Everest climb.
Finally, New Balance has kept its legacy alive by reimagining past campaigns to promote new models. The “New Standard” campaign and the collaboration with Palace, set in surreal eras, have showcased the brand’s creativity and originality.
In essence, these New Balance campaigns are not just advertisements but true narratives that have contributed to shaping the New Balance brand, bringing attention to it and positioning it as a leader in the world of sneakers and contemporary lifestyle.
Which campaign would you add?
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