How to Conquer the Classic Trainer Market.

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A British Classic.

The market value of apparel and footwear in the UK reached 62.3 billion Euros in 2016. It’s big business and as we shift to a nation adorning a more casual attire, our love of trainers is unwavering. Shoe brands, like any other brands, should create the right experience for their consumers - and perception is paramount.

Did you know that back in 2010, according to Wikipedia, the Reebok Classic footprint was the most commonly found at a crime scene in the UK? Nope? Nor did the global team in central Europe - but it just goes to show how differently, compared to the rest of Europe, we Brits shop our trainers here in UK and how seriously we take our perceived style. Thankfully, Wiki paints a much better picture nowadays.

When we describe our agency approach I’m not always sure that clients believe just how honest we are. If we see something that doesn’t work (or indeed does work!) with a valid and strategic reason, we’ll always say so - in a good way. The Reebok Classics campaign is a great example where we placed strategy over execution…

With a European lead, our brief was to launch a lifestyle campaign for the Classic shoe here in the UK within the existing retail distribution channels. However, product appeal was limited to a specific stereotype. ‘Classics’ (as we knew it) had a reputation for being a cheaper alternative. The directive was too reliant on lifestyle, constraining mass appeal and, more importantly, the product line was not diverse enough to appeal to everyone.


What Wikipedia said...

Classics are a brand of training shoe made by Reebok.The Reebok Classic trainer was launched originally in 1987. It is an extremely popular brand-name shoe, especially in the UK with young people ("geezers" and "Chavs").

"Reebok Classics - You cannot claim any Geezer status without these, must be gleaming white, gold stripes are best down to yellow or orange which are considered a bit pikey by the Geezer hierarchy".

Arctic Monkeys also highlight the popularity of Reebok Classics amongst the common British 'chav' in the opening line to their song, ‘A Certain Romance’:

"Well they might wear classic Reeboks, or knackered Converse, or trackie-bottoms tucked in socks."



Tasked with a challenge to overcome, we felt that Reebok needed to re-define what it meant to be a ‘Reebok Classic’ in order to significantly shift perception. It needed to be about product elevation not lifestyle. So what qualities should a Classic shoe have before it’s deemed, well... a ‘classic’? In this instance, there were 3 elements that we defined to badge the ‘Classic’:

– Provenance

The place of origin or earliest known history of something.
Used as a guide to authenticity or quality.

– Heritage

A sense of history that is or may be inherited; qualities such as cultural traditions, that have been passed down from previous generations.

– Pedigree

The background or history of a person or thing, especially as conferring distinction or quality.

All three present the ‘Classic-ness’ needed to re-inject style over historical reputation.


The Strategic Approach?

Make Classics all about individual products, NOT a collective lifestyle. This allows specific product to appeal to different audiences whilst still remaining true to the NEW Classic philosophy.

It allows new consumers to buy into one particular product without fear of being labelled with another product’s ‘stereotype’.



–Date of Birth:

All Classics product should proudly display its year of birth, that moment of creation. This allows consumers to align the product with a specific period of popular culture. It also clearly defines it as ‘retro’.

–The Story:

All product should have a story to tell about either a specific period, event or person within a period of popular culture. This ‘story’ is its reason for being an authentic Reebok Classic.


This is achieved by displaying the traditional Reebok Classic branding and demonstrating its historical context.


Brimming with Heritage.

Strategy often underpins something that already exists. It’s simply about knowing which pieces of the puzzle to trade on, which brand story to tell and then how to execute it simplistically. After all Reebok invented the concept of aerobics, brought us basketball technology with the Pump and has some of the most inspiring, yet unlocked, heritage in the market.


Here’s How.

The Phase II.

When originally released in the 1980s as a technical runner, the Reebok Phase II was the most advanced running shoe available of its kind.  The Phase II featured advanced technology, which included a high abrasion rubber outsole for durability, a heel bridge for greater support, suede overlays, a mesh toebox and middle panel and a woven classics logo.

The original shoe is a genuine Reebok Classic.


The Paris Runner.

In 1984, an unknown Welsh runner called Steve Jones ran the Chicago marathon, coming in at 2:08:05: breaking the world record of Australian, Robert de Castella. It was his first competitive marathon. This time remains the lowest of any British runner. Steve went on to become a running legend, as did the Paris Runner which he wore in that race.


A Final Thought.

By drawing on heritage, a great brand like Reebok only has to unlock its story to engage new audiences. In the last five years consumer spend on running trainers alone increased by more than £100m (2016 Footwear Trends - Jake), so it’s a story worth telling.


Written by Jo Scott
Managing Partner, Truth Creative.

Discover how storytelling can help your brand - contact Truth on 0161 238 9780 or email our business development director at


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