In a bid to boost the exposure of its burgeoning running business, K-Swiss has inked a four-year deal with the option to extend with the World Triathlon Corp. to produce a line of co-branded Ironman shoes.
According to K-Swiss Director of Sports Marketing Erik Vervloet, the company approached the triathlon organizer last year, prior to the October race in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, about producing a shoe that could endure the rigors of the event. “I asked them to let us make a shoe for the athletes, but there was no deal made then,” Vervloet said. “The deal was made on the performance of the shoe [after the race].”
Vervloet said the Ironman logo will be a huge advantage for gaining traction with consumers because running and triathlon enthusiasts have such respect for the race. “How many logos do people tattoo on their skin? That says something about how people feel about Ironman,” he said.
Still, the company plans to use a cautious strategy when introducing the product to consumers.
Vervloet said this year K-Swiss will seed the product to professional triathlon athletes and may offer products for sale on its Website late in the year. Then, in 2010, the line will be rolled out to specialty running stores.
“The easy way would be for us to link up with a big-box retailer and throw it out there,” he said. “But we’re not going to do that. [In 2009], we’ll be at every Ironman event and we’re putting that on our athletes. We want to prove it first with the athletes. If it works for them, it will work for the average runner.”
Vervloet said the running shoe will eventually retail for $105 to $120, while a trainer will sell for $90. Several lifestyle products will also feature the co-branding, including a high-performance compression sandal at $50 to $55 and a casual sandal at $30.
“We plan on expanding this brand to cover a range of shoes,” Vervloet said. ”Then we’re going to take the innovation we’re doing and cross it over to our other running products. We want to be a full running [brand], and this is a piece of the running puzzle for us.”