Adidas Energy Boost

 

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A couple of pictures of the shoes:

energyside energytop energybottom energyback

 

Let me know if you have any questions about the shoes, anything about how I’m testing (or have been asked to test them). Also follow adidas for updates:

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An Ad That I Love Vol. V

Yay! A shoe commercial! Athletic shoes are probably the most advertised, they don’t quite have the same sort of market as say dress shoes or sandals. Running shoes particularly have to have pretty good marketing campaigns to really move the product. There is a strange sort of mentality I feel in general consumers that athletic shoes have to strike a balance from wear-ability and kind of do-ability. Put it this way, the ads have to make it feel like the average joe can do something but at the same time promoting this this brand will make you do this amazing thing. This has as much to do with brands as it has to do with the individual ads.

A good example of this is Nike Air Jordans*. While there is a huge portion of the target demographic that may buy Jordans for more of a status symbol (which it definitely is among some groups). There are others that actually use them for basketball and I would imagine they can channel a bit of MJ magic when they lace up the sneakers. I can freely admit that I’ve been sucked in more than once to such schemes, like when I bought an ab wheel or when I got myself a decent road bike when I really just needed help with regular core work or needed to ride regularly to be better on the second leg of triathlons.** In any case, on to the ad!

*It is important to note that many wiki articles have some significant issues with its content. This article is the first that I’ve seen that has the caution regarding “written like an advertisement, needs to be re-worded to be more neutral”. Wikipedia is fascinating because it really has pooled together the collective resources of millions of people to put together a fascinatingly (and mostly accurate) knowledge base. It is not without it flaws, it will be telling in the next couple of decades whether sites like Wikipedia will remain free or the choke-hold of information by the corporations will bleed into limiting the internet as it is apt to do. 

**Which I do need to ride my bike more regularly to build up the appropriate leg muscles and get into a better rhythm while pedaling. Like I need to take a spin class or read a book. I think it is one of those things where I need to observe and speak to a good cyclist to get a better feel for what I need to be thinking and doing. I know that I learn and perform much better when I can take pieces of information, test them, and add them to a larger picture. What is that saying,” some people are thinkers and others are doers”? I just gotta wrap my head around the former to perform the latter. 


Firstly by just sheer aesthetics and first reactions:
I love the kind of exaggerated Kung Fu movie type dialog (especially the laugh) and that the athlete in question seems to just stumble in and doesn’t say a word the entirety of the ad. The kind of unexpected and humorous twist also helps to reinforce the catchphrase for the shoe “Like barefoot, only better”. I also like the name “Minimus”. Just kind of throws the barefoot/minimalist movement (which I have written about at length) right into the face of the audience and kind of rubs it in your face.

On the boring/technical/not very accurate analysis:
New Balance is very strong in the running shoe industry. The company still trails Brooks which holds a pretty significant market share in the demographic despite the presence of major shoe manufacturers, Nike and Adidas.*** The ad is part of a series of short ads promoting the Minimus not only that is a useful and effective alternative to running barefoot but also lends to the idea of trail running (becoming much more popular) and a sense of adventure when you go out running (who knows what you’ll encounter). The red color is distinctive but not too flashy and the character has a big New Balance logo right on his shirt which is a great tie in for the little amount of time New Balance is shown directly over the course of the 30 seconds or so. The main character, as it stands, is bearded, white, and generally gives off a kind of innocence that I think plays well to a running demographic that (for males) generally run 25-40. Do remember though, that women are the big demographic in the running community so it is kind of hard to say where exactly this is addressed in the ad. Still, just a terrific ad.

***Which is in itself a fascinating battle because you can break it down to market share in specific sports. Nike traditionally has a stronger market share in basketball while Adidas has a much stronger role in soccer. But it is not as if they have ignored the other sports, there is too much at stake in order to abandon the other sports and just focus on the ones that they are most known for. So millions of dollars in resources are spent to maintain margins (Nike has the likes of Manchester United in soccer, Adidas has the likes of superstar Derrick Rose in basketball, etc and so forth). But these battles for overall market supremacy leaves space for companies like Brooks (running) or Umbro (soccer) or even more ambitious Under Armour (which now has shoes) to carve out very strong market share in specific niches. Did you read and understand all of that? Congrats, that is bare bones, Strategic Management.

As always, let me know if you have an Ad that you love and maybe I’ll feature it here!

Bonus!

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Quick update in my crazy racing calendar. Competed in the KCCC 5K with a finishing time of a little over 22 minutes. Not feeling very good during the run, it was a bit hillier than previously anticipated and it was quite hot with a starting time around 8:30AM. Still it was very exciting to participate in my first Corporate Challenge event and I’m looking forward to the other ones that are still to come this year. I have not made the half-mara team but I completed the first of two tryouts of the 3v3 soccer team and will be considered for a spot on the triathlon team. Fingers crossed!

Also completed my first triathlon of the year in Columbia at the Tri-Zou, a sprint distance event on campus at the University of Missouri. While it was a nice course and set up was great (another fantastic job from the people at Ultramax), I did not do very well due to the bike leg and the complications with the swim leg. The first leg was held in a pool which has some serious complications as far as logistics for the 800 or so participants. The 400 meter swim was set as a snaking path along the lanes in the pool but meant that one person at a time could enter the water every 10 seconds. While I don’t think there is a way to avoid this given the circumstances, I was very bored and very ancy waiting for over an hour after the first people started before I could even enter the pool and get my race started. That also meant that I would be outside when it was only getting hotter, later as the morning wore on. In any case, I faded a bit on the bike and had a rather poor run (what is generally my best leg) but a good learning experience. It was a fun weekend regardless and shout out to Nathan, not only for letting me crash at his apartment but also beating me in the race and all in the shadow of graduation from law school. Amazing! And best of luck on the upcoming bar exam!

As for me, I’ll be licking my wounds and prepping for the KC Triathlon in a little under two weeks. See you later space cowboys!

Race Jitterbug

Going to be a  pretty busy next couple of weeks. Tomorrow morning is my first race of the season the “fastest growing race in the Midwest”, Rock the Parkway Half Marathon. There was a controversial decision made last year to drop the 10K component of the race so there are only two races tomorrow, Half Mara and 5K. Half Mara has been capped at 4,500 runners and 5K at 2,500. I think there were a few hundred charitable spots open too and some invitationals so somewhere around 7,000 runners, it should be a good time.

Getting the pre-race jitters a bit, due to the fact I don’t feel like I’ve trained quite enough to be fast and the mounting pressure because I found out that this may will be my only shot at setting a time to make the Corporate Challenge team. The field is a bit more competitive for the half marathon than the 5K in the Corporate Challenge as companies can only send two men and two women in each 10 year age group instead of 5 year age group as in other competitions. Blah.

My strategy? Lots of water, and trying to stick with a fast pacer. I’ve been training by myself for a long time so I kind of prided myself on not using a pace team during the race.* But we’ll see, there are a lot of pace teams tomorrow in 5 minute finish time increments. Will be interested to try to stick to one of them and see how it goes.

*Or music. And depending on the weather that may change tomorrow as well. If it looks like the rain will stay away, I might pull out the iPod and listen to something.

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know the results soon enough!

Faith in Retail

We are right in the middle of a yet another swingin’ holiday season which means good times for most retailers as US consumers are out and spending. Stores have spent the last month or so bringing on additional seasonal staff for help as the customers increase and taking on extra inventory (if possible) of all the hottest toys and gadgets that have been aggressively pushed out of various manufacturers’ warehouses. This is capitalism at its best, with money circulating through the system, employment numbers dropping (if only temporarily), and the public generally optimistic, a perfect storm of sorts for a sluggish domestic economy.

In the midst of this, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of university students are prepping for mid-year commencement ceremonies and steadying themselves for what looks to be a bleak outlook in some fields. Business majors come a dime a dozen in today’s competitive landscape, specializations outside of Accounting or Finance will be the ones with the most sobering realities. What once was dreams of managing global strategies or working as part of sharp, new age analytic teams will be hammered down to a longing for middle management in just a couple of years.* There are several avenues that people are taking to avoid this, which I support wholeheartedly. One is continuing education. In the current academic model, we have what many experts are referring to as the “Higher Education Bubble” more specifically focusing on student loan debt. This will dramatically change the education landscape within my lifetime but as for now students who are already X amount in debt, may as well tack on another two or four years for a masters or doctorate. As one professor told me quite frankly, “It’s a paper chase. Get the bachelors, get your masters, and then consider the doctorate to set yourself apart.”

*Much like creativity in grade school students being squashed out for test score superiority in what is laughably referred to as a great evaluation system for school effectiveness. Probably address this in more detail in a later post, but for those curious, I found this presentation to be right on point.

Another popular choice among business students is entrepreneurship, which is deliciously entertaining in my opinion. What better way to make a living than taking all the business school education which, frankly, is tailored towards corporate integration, and use it to launch small businesses? It is fantastic that there are more and more entrepreneurship classes being offered and more information and help than ever before for new business makers. Locally, Henry Bloch (of H&R Block) made the largest single donation to UMKC to fund the construction of an Entrepreneurship and Innovation building. I see this as a positive direction for encouraging more dynamic ideas and economic growth here in Kansas City. Much like endurance races gives people a feeling of accomplishment and control, much of the same feeling can come from owning your own business, plus money! But what I want to focus more on in this post is the plight of the Marketing major.

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I will be graduating very soon and will look for full time, sustainable employment, not unlike many new graduates and frankly more than 15% of Americans. I would wager that it is not altogether uncommon for Marketing majors to end up doing sales. Many career paths for Marketing majors actually write in 2-5 years in sales before moving up to the next level. What they don’t say is that enthusiastic high school graduates have about 4 years jump in that particular field. Now, sales is like waiting tables. I’ve waited tables, you present your stuff, if you are friendly, work hard at building relationships, sure you’ll do alright. But when it comes to marketing strategy or marketing analysis or consulting, that seems a far stretch for the new graduate. I understand the mindset, you can’t form a strategy for the product until you’re out in the field with it. Learn intimately who is buying the product, where you are selling it, how you can sell it and put in your time as a peon before climbing the ladder and helping make decisions. I don’t mind that system too much. But I hate retail. People are terrible. I think I’ve said it before, everyone should be required to spend a year waiting tables and/or working in retail. That way we can bring up a new generation that is not horrible to service people.*

*I want to be clear here. This is not to say that there are not horrible people working the service industry or in retail. In an earlier post I wrote about how waiters have had their jobs broken into smaller and smaller parts so that it is easier to put in a replacement in what is already an industry of high turnover. This leads to less specialized skills and an overall regression of the level of service at many businesses. Still, customers can be really, really terrible people and that is generally not warranted. Generally.

Recently I have been interviewing a couple of local small business owners in Kansas City, more specifically, of two running shoe retailers; the Running Well Store and Gary Gribble’s Running Sports. This was to fulfill a two part need academically; one for MGT 301: Business Communications project in which I needed to interview someone and do research about a company I was interested in and do the paper/presentation bit. The second was primary research for ENT 460: Creating the Enterprise, where we need to write a business plan for a new business venture (mine is a minimalist/barefoot training program). I had the pleasure of speaking to owner Gary Gribble for about an hour a couple of days ago and was pleasantly surprised with the interview.

I came in with a general outline on business and business practices for a local footwear retailer but was treated with quite a bit more. Gary is a very kindly man and willing, as most people are, to share some knowledge with those who are asking. To put it simply, men like Gary Gribble restore my confidence in the US retail system and makes sales look a bit better as an alternative. Gary had a passion for teaching but while student teaching he came across what he called “an unacceptable situation” where one teacher would teach with passion and hard work and the other just went through the motions. Both were teaching the same subject and both received identical bonuses at the end of the year. This pushed Gary to change to some other career that he saw as more fair, sales.

Sales rewards you for hard work and it is probably the job most easily measurable; Did you make a sale or not? Gary Gribble’s stores gross somewhere around $7 million annually and his philosophy is focused on customer service. He places a lot of emphasis on employee training and trying to make the store a great place to work, even paying his sales staff almost 50% higher than mass retailers. He has seen negligible turnover because of it. Furthermore, there is a focus on tying into the local community. Not only is there support of local races but advertising at a lot of them. Also lending help to the local high school cross country teams in order to build a continuing customer base. Doctors, podiatrists also have a sort of exchange agreement for runners so it is a fascinating network for Gary Gribble who seemed to take a particular amount of pride in being tied into the community.

I don’t think you have to be a business major to see the beauty of this system.
1) Niche focus for which you have a passion (Running)
2) You’re not big, so you have to have something that makes customers want to come to the store (Expertise and Customer Service)
3) Build resources around those core competencies (Employee training/set guidelines)
4) Maintain resources (Employee retention, environmental scanning)
5) Growth strategy? (Community building strategies)

It reads like a simple case study out of any general business text but I think you see it so lacking in a business industry and environment that has a cost-cutting, aggressively expanding focus. I find it so refreshing to meet successful business people who are down to earth, hard working, and customer-centric. And all of that without an online store. Gary said he wanted people to come into the store to get that customer service, he (correctly) summarized that the internet is a cold place and you really need to come in and try on shoes or clothes before you buy them. It gives me hope for a future of friendlier, more ethical, and less imperial business environment. As we become closer and more connected to foreign peoples and cultures, I hope that it forces business to be less about domination and more about cooperation, a strategy that sadly is not as popular in business schools today.

Minimalist Footwear

First things first. Minimalist footwear is footwear designed to promote a forefoot strike and give the foot a better feel of the ground. Essentially mimicking what you would run like barefoot. If you don’t believe me, try running barefoot across your house, just a couple of steps. Do you land on your heels?

Proponents of this movement suggest that we tried to promote heel strikes because heels were hardier and then built an industry around that. Increasing heel height and cushioning and attempting to fix new things such as over-pronation, caused by those same shoes. Linked at the bottom is Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run a New York Times Bestseller that really brought the movement mainstream.

Over the last couple of years there has been a red-hot debate about Minimalist or Barefoot running practices and shoes. I’m not really going to get too deep into it (especially because I’m a little biased) but also there are scientists on both sides with some pretty substantial evidence through lab practices. What we do know is this:

-The minimalist/barefoot movement is still pretty small, representing <7% of all runners and a much smaller market share of the entire athletic footwear industry.

-Growth rate and adoption rate to minimalist/barefoot shoes is pretty substantial. 283% according to SportsOneSource (NY Times)

Athletic footwear companies cannot ignore those kind of numbers, especially since the target demographic seems to fall in line with a more health conscious group that is also open to alternative ideas. (Essentially a hipster. Imagine someone who works at Trader Joe’s or some local coffee shop (not Starbucks*), who eats organic fruits, veggies, late 20s to late 40s, median income around 40K. Got that in your head? Okay now make that person exercise more than 3 times per week and you got the average barefoot enthusiast.)

*I heard a joke the other day by some comedian on Pandora that went something like: “Starbucks is not a coffee shop, they sell milkshakes. Coffee is that black stuff dads used to drink so that they would stay awake and not fall into machinery. They would stick that under your nose and you’d say ‘Yuck, what is that?’ THAT was coffee! Starbucks sells you a drink that is half sugar and with foamy whipped cream on top that is blended beyond recognition and comes in twenty different flavors. THAT is a milkshake!”

Nike got on the bandwagon several years ago with their “Nike Free” which was a superlight shoe that was super flexible which promoted a more natural running motion. Since then, other companies have introduced their own particular minimalist shoes, notably, Brooks Pure Project, New Balance Minimus, Saucony‘s line (Hattori looks cool). One of the more recognizable brands in the market is Vibram FiveFingers and has gained many a fan with their unique shoes*. The individual toe pockets not only help get a better feel for the ground but also make the design so unique as to really capture the attention.

Vibram Ad “You Are the Technology”

I really wanted to write this post because of the big shoe company that I didn’t mention above: Adidas. While Adidas does have adizero and Climacool. It is their new Adipure trainers that really bring up an interesting case. For those of you who don’t want to click on links, Adipures share the same separated toe pockets and laceless design similarly found on a variety of Vibram models. To be fair, Adidas was not the first to introduce a similar design, Fila released their “Skeletoe” shoes attempting to jump into the market at a lower price point. This is admirable and should be noted as a sound business strategy for many businesses trying to get break into a particular industry or product area. However, Adidas is pricing more similar to Vibram and touting the shoe not as a running shoe but rather an indoor training shoe but featuring similar benefits. Interestingly, Vibram has sued Fila  saying that they copied the FiveFingers design. It will be telling if they also sue Adidas.

I’m a big fan of FiveFingers. I ran all my races this past year in them and they have worked out really great for me. (I’ll be posting later on my shoes and experience.) Personally, looking at the industry, I think Vibram just needs to file the paperwork to sue and then drop the suit. This pits the name against the big boys and doesn’t really have to win to show off the product. Furthermore, as the industry rises, quality control is very important and it is only going to get bigger. So again, Vibram’s efforts to promote anti-counterfeits is a real positive base to build from.

To sum it up:

Minimalist/Barefoot running is a rapidly growing trend that is bringing a huge part of the running shoe market in conjunction with the rise in participation in endurance events. All major athletic shoe companies are getting involved by introducing new lines of minimalist shoes. If you exercise regularly or enjoy running, you should check out more info.

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I’m putting together a business plan related to this industry for my Entrepreneurship class. So I might “editorialize” on this subject as I gather more information about it. Apologies in advance.

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Marathon Wrap-up

Sorry for not sitting down and writing a post for the last couple of weeks. A little bit of a crazy time with the marathon and my older sister’s wedding here in town. Will try to be more on top of it as the semester passes into the final month or so.

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The Kansas City Marathon was held October 15th and I was fortunate enough to have my parents in attendance for some of the race to get some pretty good photos/film footage. The race had approximately 11,ooo total entrants in all events (5K, Half-Marathon, Marathon, Marathon Relay, Kids Marathon) which solidifies this race as among the fastest growing in the nation.

I got some assorted photos/videos from various sources and cameras. I had to resort to my phone camera for a little bit so I apologize for the randomly poor quality (especially the sound, yikes) but hopefully as I get a little more experience, I can provide a bit better quality.

As I said during the video, I finished the marathon in under four hours, making my goal! I did have to walk a bit towards the end because my legs were really, really sore. Overall I walked probably about two miles of the 26, which isn’t too shabby but hopefully will get better as my running career goes forward. I do walk through water stations, cause I find I don’t get as much water if I’m jogging through. The weather was absolutely perfect throughout the day, starting temperature somewhere in the lower 50s and didn’t get much over 60 degrees by then end of it. Here my official splits as timed by the good people at Ultramax who were running the chips for this event.

Bib:                           1239
Division: Male      18-24
Division Place:     28/62
Overall:                 352/1553
Splits:
5K:                         27:08
10K:                      50:01
13.1:                   1:46:52
21Mile:              2:59:46
Overall:             3:52:40

Overall pace was 8:53 per mile. But the observant eye will see that I took nearly an hour to run the last five miles of the race. As a comparison, the race winner, Jae Yung Hyung, averaged 5:41 per mile and finished in under 2 1/2 hours. I don’t think I’m ever getting to that level, but I felt really good about my races this year and this kind of crowning achievement to end the season. There is room for improvement (as always) and in the next few weeks I’ll start gearing back up for next year.

Until then, I’ve been eating a lot of terrible food and not exercising much at all. Neither will help the results of my upcoming routine blood work, but oh well, I got to eat a Kobe burger!

Burger & Sweet Potato Fries

I’d also like to say a quick congrats to Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Bruhn. I wish you both the best in the years ahead and look forward to seeing you soon. Good luck in all your marital adventures!

Cerner 15K 2011







A recap of the inaugural Cerner 15K at Livestrong Sporting Park, Saturday September 24, 2011.

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It was a pretty solid race, I met some nice folks who were around and I felt pretty good throughout. This was kind of a last official tuneup before the upcoming Kansas City Marathon, October 15, 2011. The bag check thing though, after thinking about it a little more, is not the biggest deal. I prefer it because I don’t have to deal with carrying my keys and I can keep my extra stuff near to the race finish (camera, extra change of clothes, a little pocket money, etc). I should start running more with a fanny pack, especially for longer distances. With the marathon coming up I might have to wear one (I did for my first marathon in 2005) but we’ll see how they have everything set up. I’m going to try hard to get another body around for this race, but that might prove to be a bit tricky as the marathon is a long race and the it starts pretty early on a Saturday morning.

That being said, I know I’ve just been posting a lot of racing stuff and not a lot of business stuff, but I’ll be getting back to that soon enough, especially since I will have more free time due to a fundamental change in the operation of the country club. Hope you enjoyed this set of videos, (I’m still toying with how to present them regularly), let me know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions.