How Reebok Can Sell Its Classics Brand to More Canadians

Reebok Classics Canada just made a big leap and joined the social media world. I figured that I would evaluate how they are doing in Canada, and where I think they can improve. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter at @reebokclassicca.

In the footwear and sportswear world, Canada is branded (fairly or unfairly) as the 51st state of the USA. This is a fair assessment for the most part, as consumers in Canada act very similarly to their American counterparts and are influenced by American marketing efforts (on TV, in sports, and in digital media). 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the USA/Canada border, and it isn’t uncommon for Canadians that live close to the border to cross to save money shopping.

As a whole, Canadians are subjected to a lot of the same marketing efforts either through American channels or with the same marketing material through Canadian channels. For sportswear brands, these striking similarities allow brands to do a good job of marketing to Canadians by simply copying American tactics and scaling down budgets. This is similar to the “shrink it and pink it” model that had “worked” until brands like Lululemon, and Under Armour addressed the fact that they could do a better job of serving women. Employing successful American tactics in Canada can work, but there is an opportunity to also capitalize on the differences between the Canadian and American markets. For Reebok Classics in Canada, those differences include the value of the Reebok brand in Canada and the importance of the NHL and the CFL to Canadians.

It’s no surprise that the Reebok brand has struggled since the late 2000’s but the brand that has had issues capturing American consumers since they were bought by adidas has done a great job of penetrating Canadian sports. The Reebok-CCM brand is one of the major players in the hockey equipment market (not to mention it is the NHL’s jersey supplier) and has the world’s top athletes representing the brand. From Sidney Crosby to Connor McDavid, the Reebok brand is all too well known to Canadian hockey fans, and if you can capture the minds of Canadian hockey fans then as a brand, you have appealed to the largest segment of sports fans in Canada. It’s also worth mentioning that the second largest league in Canada (by TV viewership), the CFL also has their jerseys supplied by Reebok.

When adidas purchased Reebok in 2006, they owned the NBA and NFL jersey contracts in addition to the CFL and NHL rights. Now, almost ten years later the brand’s annual revenue has dropped from 1.979 billion euros in 2006 to 1.578 billion euros in 2014. Reebok has had issues around the world and specifically in the USA, but one area its brand is still considered very premium is north of the 49th parallel. Reebok Canada has an opportunity to grow that brand, and one of the areas it can greatly improve on is with its Reebok Classics brand.

Tell the Brand Story Better – I was born in 1991. I lived through Reebok’s heyday, and yet the only story of the brand I remember was that they signed Allen Iverson. The brand that became Reebok was founded in 1895, but there never seems to be any mention of the brand’s history in their marketing. The Reebok Classics brand has to rely on footwear news outlets to communicate the importance of various silhouettes to their consumers.

Nike has done a phenomenal job of showcasing the history of its athletes and shoes through Michael Jordan, Steve Prefontaine, and even Bo Jackson. If Reebok wants to grow its Classics brand in Canada it needs to explain the significance of its products to consumers. The consumer needs to learn about Jackie Chan rocking the Instapump Fury, or that the Ventilator changed the game by installing airflow in sneakers. The Reebok Classics brand has been pushing out new collaborations, colourways, and iterations of their shoes and the products that have been released are phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the consumer doesn’t have the same connection with these shoes as they do with other brands. Consumers don’t know the story behind these sneakers, so there isn’t the same attachment and nostalgia. Nike has this in spades with its Jordan brand, and adidas’ long history with RUN DMC and Stan Smith are stories that resonate with consumers. Reebok needs to connect its story with its consumers. They can do this through social media, traditional media, digital media, and retail activations. By conveying the stories that make up the Reebok Classics brand, Reebok can create a connection with the past that brings back nostalgia for some and educates others. This opportunity to better tell the Reebok Classics story isn’t just an opportunity for Canada, but the Canadian team can own this opportunity globally.

Get to the People – Brands are realizing that sometimes they need to reach their consumers directly and provide them with an opportunity to celebrate a brand before they will spend their money. Take Livestock’s special engagement with Nike, Foot Locker’s House of Hoops – 5 Days of Drops, or the Wings and Horns x New Balance launch party as examples of great direct to consumer activations. These activations let consumers interact with like-minded individuals in a surreal shopping environment. Not every release or opportunity warrants these activations, but if executed properly these opportunities build a brand’s image in the larger sneaker and fashion community.

Even outside of the dedicated sneaker community, people want to learn and engage with brands that they appreciate. There are so many opportunities across Canada that Reebok Classics can activate around. Whether it’s educating consumers in a special activation at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, working with Metrotown’s amazing and new Sportchek in Burnaby to create a retail activation that showcases the “Be Ventilated” video with Kendrick Lamar, or launching a collaboration with Urban Outfitters that teaches young photographers how properly photograph sneakers the opportunities are endless. How the Classics brand chooses to connect with consumers is important, and the sales that come with that connection are what will keep the lights on, but if the brand chooses to try to grow across this large land mass without creating personal connections with consumers they will have a very difficult time attracting brand loyalists.

Utilize Reebok’s Assets for the Classics Brand – Reebok is “the original fitness brand” and has an incredible stable of Canadian athletes that it sponsors with its fitness, football, and hockey products. Athletes like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid represent the brand regularly at events and on social media. Cross promoting Reebok Classics products through Reebok athletes is a way that Reebok Classics can tell its story to consumers that may not be subjected to other marketing. By seeding Reebok athletes with Reebok Classics products and the necessary tools for them to effectively connect with the brand on social media Reebok Classics will be able to grow their social media following and brand awareness in Canada.

There are also some other cross-promotional pieces the Classics brand can take part in. Using the adidas Basketball Superstar collection as an example, the Classics brand could work with the NHL and CFL to create products that take inspiration from iconic teams. For instance, creating an Instapump Fury for each NHL team that uses the colours and logos of teams could drive sales and excitement around the Classics brand. Brands like Mitchell & Ness have been having recent success applying the logos and colours of NHL teams on non-traditional items like basketball jerseys. These products would appeal to the fans of NHL teams in addition to the traditional market that Reebok Classics captures.

Reebok has an opportunity to leverage their fitness and sport assets to promote the Classics brand across Canada. Classics has a story to tell and the opportunity to leverage these assets effectively began with creating the country specific Instagram and Twitter handles. Things are looking very promising for the brand that first put ventilation in sneakers.

Do you think Reebok Classics can grow in Canada? Do you think the ideas I’ve suggested could help them achieve a substantial growth in sales? Let me know what you think on Twitter.