By  on June 16, 2008

The Wacoal Sports Science Corp. subsidiary of Wacoal Japan is counting on creative marketing and advertising to bolster its sports bra business in the U.S.

Launched in the U.S. market in 2002, the maker of CW-X performance apparel for men and women introduced a line of high-tech CW-X sports bras in 2005, which now accounts for 34 percent of overall wholesale revenues, said John L.A. Wilson, president and chief operating officer of Wacoal Sports Science. He would not give total annual sales volume but noted sales have increased 50 percent annually and the firm was ahead 36 percent as of April. The company's total yearly wholesale sales are more than $20 million, according to industry estimates.

The total annual wholesale sporting goods market in the U.S. is $70 billion, of which $30 billion is generated by active apparel, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association. About $1.2 billion in wholesale revenues is comprised of performancewear, and a sizeable part includes sports bras and tops.

An unorthodox viral ad campaign initiated in May on is getting attention for the firm's CW-X sports bras. Plans are to continue the campaign on Web sites catering to active sports enthusiasts, as well as continuously running a whimsical ad on the site, Wilson said. He added that since the company does not have megabucks for ad campaigns, it's also combining the viral campaign with search engines, as well as print ads in fitness magazines for women such as Women's Health, Runner's World and Shape.

The interactive viral ad was created by the Walrus advertising agency with an all-female creative team that wear-tested the CW-X sports bras to come up with ideas. Titled "The Apology Letter," the ad focuses on a female runner reading to men and women who usually stare at her bouncing breasts. She tells the gawkers they will "no longer have a free show due to her new extra support CW-X bra," Wilson said.

Interactive features include informational animations on product benefits, while a click will set off oral descriptions. The main character says, "My new CW-X Sport Support Bra keeps my breasts so firmly and comfortably supported that now I can run without my boobs bouncing all over the place. Which is great for me, but not so good for certain other male runners passing me in the other direction, construction workers on 14th Street, the hot dog vendor on 4th Street and that lady who always stares at me in the women's locker room." Voice-overs include, "Oh! I hate that bra," from characters such as a construction worker."The approach is a real departure for us, but we wanted to be a little edgy with our message that excessively bouncing breasts are bad for a woman's comfort and physiology, not to mention her psyche," said Wilson, noting that parent company Wacoal is familiar with support and comfort since it sells 35 million bras a year. "The ads target athletic women seeking technologically advanced sports gear that enhances performance and helps them achieve their goals."

Wacoal has the patent for CW-X, which applies the principles of kinesiology — the study of human movement — in a line of athletic apparel that functions in concert with the human body, Wilson said.

"The holy grail for sports bras is for a woman to find a sports bra that supports her well but is very comfortable," he said. "Sports bras are a natural progression for CW-X, conditioning wear with the X symbol which stands for infinity. In performance wear, Wacoal's Conditioning Web technology supports joints and muscles to bolster performance, minimize fatigue and help prevent injury. Through encapsulation in our webbing system, we have built targeted compression technology into each [bra] cup separately, so it provides a soft support system. There are five points of inner webbing technology built into each cup. We can make the cups more supportive through different layering techniques as you go up in cup sizes."

The sports bra collection, which is rendered in CoolMax, Lycra spandex, polyester and polyurethane mesh web, and Healtha, which has wicking applications, features seven styles and is sized 32A to 40DD. Colors include rose pink, periwinkle, white, black and black with pink or turquoise trim. Retail prices are $40 to $65 for sports bras, and coordinating running tights are $65 to $115.

So far, total distribution is 1,200 specialty sporting goods stores in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., including 950 doors in the U.S., said Wilson, who has been in the sports apparel industry for two-plus decades, serving in positions such as president of Sara Lee Corp.'s Duofold business, now part of Hanesbrands Inc., international director for L.A. Gear, and a marketing director at Reebok.

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