Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Athlete's Foot Gives Its Brand a Kick

Hoping to add a little spring to its step, The Athlete's Foot began a rebranding effort earlier this year. The venerable athletic shoe and sportswear retailer has opted to move away from its name (which is also an itchy fungus) and toward the acronym, "TAF."

To help consumers become familiar with its altered name and new logo, the company offered a free drawstring backpack as a gift-with-purchase during the back-to-school shopping season. Consumers who spent more than $75 received one of 11,000 free backpacks.

"If the branded item makes sense to the overall strategy, then it can help build a brand," says Darius Billings, director of retail brand marketing and merchandising for NexCen Franchise Management, parent company to The Athlete's Foot. "For TAF, we have committed to a strategy of serving the everyday athletes of the world – the student athletes, the before-breakfast athletes, the after-work athletes and the weekend athletes. To do this, we need the TAF brand to speak their language and live in their world. A TAF coffee mug isn't necessarily going to do this, but the drawstring bag can, because it is an important element of the everyday athlete."

It was a perfect fit because it jives with TAF customers' athletic routines, says Billings. "For the student athlete, it's their second bag, the first being their book bag," he says. "The drawstring bag is something that travels with them to practice, to competitions and to games. For after-work athletes, it replaces the briefcases at 5 p.m. And so the brand, which aims to serve the everyday athlete, is also a part of the everyday athlete's life."

The bag helps the brand raise awareness in an organic way. A simple gift-with-purchase "may not seem like much, but next time you're near a weekend soccer tournament, a 10K run, or a pickup basketball game, look around." Billings says. "The drawstring bag is everywhere. It only makes sense that TAF should be a part of that space."

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