We’ve spoken previously about retailers rolling out their back-to-school campaigns, but the new campaign for Foot Locker brings up an issue we haven’t raised: Leveraging a product brand to increase traffic to the retailer.
It’s a common approach and there’s little inherently wrong with that as a tactic, but it never solves a brand problem. Foot Locker is now attempting to increase foot traffic by launching spots featuring Nike shoes being gawked at by students in a classroom.
Nike shoes, of course, are available at a variety of retailers, including Nike’s own outlet stores. If the ads have any point of view, it’s that Nike makes for good fashion among the teenage set. From the point of view of the consumer, that only means they’ll go looking for Nikes, not rushing to a Foot Locker.
Foot Locker is a lost brand right now, which is one reason why standing on the shoulders of Nike leaves Foot Locker slumped. It could make it work if Foot Locker’s brand tied into Nike’s, but neither what the Nike brand is really about (being a winner) or the point of the spots (fashion) fits into the relatively meaninglessness of Foot Locker’s brand.
Foot Locker was one of the first specialty retailers focused on sports and was once the market leader. While it is still a major retailer when it comes to athletic footwear, competitors Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sports Authority are increasing sales, while Foot Locker’s are decreasing. (Dick’s recorded a 6.8% increase in sales in 2009, while Foot Locker’s dropped 9.1%.)
Foot Locker hasn’t refreshed its brand since it first emerged on the market, and that’s a problem. It now feels downscale and unfashionable to audiences, which makes it a particular problem for reaching younger generations.
Foot Locker, like any retailer looking to create preference, must ensure its own brand means something powerful to audiences before it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its product brands. And a relationship between them is key.
Otherwise, “class is in session,” as Foot Locker says, will be held elsewhere.