Outlook 2014: Kicking It Up!
Sensing good news afoot, tennis shoe manufacturers are offering more options for 2014.
By Kent Oswald
It’s a new year and time for optimism, at least in terms of the sales potential for tennis shoes. Sensing a change in consumer interest and spending, shoe manufacturers are offering more options in 2014—albeit still mostly within the stability/durability or lightweight/flexible parameters—and bumping up attempts to discover the sweetspot of fashion, function and feet (and finances).
The trends of the past few seasons to make greater use of color splashes continue. Also, as with the basketball and running shoes that dominate the sports footwear market, manufacturers are increasingly telling a tennis shoe “story” with external highlighting intended to draw attention to its technological structure and features. Prices, too, seem to have settled into a range consumers find comfortable. The story is not black or white, and the clock isn’t turning back to the halcyon days of tennis shoes as the definition of fashion, but good news does look to be on the horizon.
adidas.com • 971-234-2300
The German house is promoting the idea of technology and fashion with two new shoes in particular, the stable, durable and (naturally) stylish Stella McCartney Barricade ($125) and featherweight Adizero CC Tempaia ($120). Marketing support (in addition to being seen on the feet of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Caroline Wozniacki) will include use of social media campaigns, particularly around the majors, and in-store promotions. Customers visiting the Adidas website can customize the cosmetics, as well as width, linings and outsole configurations.
asicsamerica.com • 800-678-9435
Priding itself on finding the balance between proven consumer interest and solid bio-mechanical research, Asics expects to exceed retailer expectations it reports as already high by bolstering its line with the updated GEL-Solution Speed 2 ($130), the flagship of the Tennis Speed Collection. Created for a higher level of stability and responsiveness, the shoe will be promoted in print and with digital placements, by seeding the product with key influencers, as well as through in-store support. The SS2 will debut with distinctive color combinations, one for men and another for women; additional combos are planned for a third-quarter introduction.
babolat.com • 877-316-9435
Tennis-only company Babolat begins the year featuring its expanded Propulse 4 line ($120). New color combinations are offered for both men and women, and while known for its low profile, grip and durability, the company is hopeful it will be able to gain more attention for the line’s flexibility that supports quick movement in all directions. Marketing support will be an aggressive mix of TV, print, sponsorship, events, in-store merchandising and continuing engagement via social media.
diadora.com • 800-768-4727
Having been on the feet of such luminaries as Bjorn Borg and Gustavo Kuerten, Diadora has much to live up to. The Italian company re-launches a full shoe line (five models for men, four for women to be distributed via Dunlop) in the U.S. this year. Headlining are the performance-oriented, stylish Star K, and comfortable, durable Speed ProMe shoes. In addition to taking advantage of the brand equity created over the years, marketing will include tournament sponsorships, endorsements from top players, and aggressive dealer-incentive programs.
fila.com • 800-845-FILA
Fila expects the new Sentinel ($100), with its four color combinations for men and three for women, to continue the positive sales trends of the last few years with its ambitious match of playability, comfort and style—the colors align with the company’s sportswear, allowing players not just shoes that play well but the opportunity for a fully coordinated look. Sales support will rely on the company’s online presence, road shows, a new tennis micro-website, and by continuing to enhance retail partnerships to create in-store awareness, events and promotions.
head.com • 800-289-7366
Head’s new Sprint Pro ($130) for men and women—and a junior version ($80)—are lightweight shoes with durable outsoles, enhanced heel and midsole support, breathability and comfort. They are available in a choice of colorways and will be available for a cross-category promotion through July as $10 discount coupons will be included in cans of Pro Penn Marathon tennis balls.
Taking a bit more than a page from the dominant sports footwear category, California sports company K-Swiss expands its portfolio with the Ultra Express ($110). The lightweight, flexible, cushioned and anti-microbially lined shoe is (again, inspired by running shoe design) available in neon colorings.
newbalance.com • 800-253-7463
Boston-based New Balance launches its 1296 ($130) as an accompaniment to its current tennis standard-bearer, the 996 that Milos Raonic has been wearing. The new shoe will be available for both men and women in five different combinations and again incorporates the company’s vast experience with the demands of running shoes into a comfortable, durable fit for serious tennis players.
princetennis.com • 800-2TENNIS
The best-selling T22 ($89) continues to serve as brand ambassador in the footwear category. New colorways will be available and the shoe will play a big role in the company’s social media outreach, as well as in promotions such as the partnership with the Bright Pink organization. Additional models, new and updated, hardcourt and clay, are planned for a rollout in time to hit the shelves prior to the summer season.
wilson.com • 773-714-6400
The revamped, low-cut Rush Pro ($130) line has new colorways and more robust cushioning and durability; in its women’s version there is also additional support and stability features designed for differences with the female foot. Targeting a younger demo, the company will also be focusing marketing muscle on the lightweight, flexible and multi-hued Rush NGX ($100) series in junior sizes. •
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.