THE SOFTER SIDE
Byline: Karyn Monget
People portrayed in easy — if still somewhat active — lifestyle situations presents the image retailers and manufacturers want to portray in advertising and marketing campaigns this year.
The idea, they say, is to shift away from the hard-bodied look of a serious athlete and convey a more casual mood. The ads show people who appear to have just finished exercising and are relaxing in various environments, which range from the gym to parks, mountains and bike trails.
In fact, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association recently suggested that the number of sports apparel items bought by men and women could be increased by portraying casual or lifestyle situations in advertising.
What is being described as “attitude” also is a major element of the newer approach.
Jack Neff, senior vice president of Reebok apparel, Stoughton, Mass., summed up the “new attitude” this way: “Attitude is conveyed through posture, dress and a look. We don’t want to portray a female athlete or a couch potato. She’s a combination product. She’s self-confident, and there’s a strong essence of her as an individual.
“We also know that when the apparel is hooked up with the footwear, it contributes to creating an attitude,” said Neff. “It’s hard to get an attitude just looking at a shoe or a shirt.”
At Mervyn’s, Hayward, Calif., Margaret Donohue Barr, women’s concept manager, noted, “Because of the new attitude, we are in the midst of changing our entire advertising strategies to address more lifestyle needs.”
Barr said ideas haven’t been completed, but she noted that a new approach in advertising was tested in November, and reaction was “very positive and successful.”
She described the newspaper ad as a “playful, interactive” scene photographed in a studio in which several men and women wear active looks by Everlast.
Hilary Chasin, vice president and retail brand director at Lady Footlocker, a sporting goods retail division of F.W. Woolworth Co. here, said, “We are taking a more integrated approach in marketing our women’s apparel and footwear. No element stands on its own now.
“It’s been an incredibly successful formula for us, and we have been able to merchandise exclusives,” she said.
Chasin noted that a national print campaign with a tagline that says “Do What Comes Naturally” will kick off in February. The ads will show women walking in the street wearing athletic footwear and apparel from Nike, Fila and Guess Athletic, among others, she said. The color theme will be neutrals.
Chasin said the athletic chain now merchandises head-to-toe combinations in all of its national print ads, point-of-sale materials and even a 1995 calendar that portrays women in various fitness activities.
“The calendar is a celebration of women, a showcase of female athletes in fitness activities that combines an image of body and spirit,” she said.
Scenes from the calendar include a woman leaping off a flight of stairs, hiking in a park and standing alongside a bicycle on a bike trail. The calendar is a co-op effort with major vendors and includes Reebok, Fila, Nike, Avia, Umbro, Adidas, Russell, Moving Comfort, InSport and the Jansport a division of VF Corp.
Joan Charles, women’s apparel buyer at Oshman’s, a sporting-goods chain headquartered in Houston, said, “We just got into photography this year, instead of sketches to get our message across in ads and point-of-sale materials.
“The message is to show someone who has just worked out and is relaxing — not a hardcore woman who’s sweating. We also want to show a certain attitude, and not just something you would wear to work out in a gym, but also out on a Saturday afternoon.”
As for manufacturers, Steve Lineberger, president of the Hanes and Hanes Her Way casualwear businesses at Sara Lee Corp., noted hangtags featuring photos of lifestyle scenes are being used for the first time this year.
“It fits with what our positioning is today — more of a casual lifestyle approach,” said Lineberger, noting the visuals show men and women biking, walking and playing with children.
Alan Shapiro, vice president of marketing at Jacques Moret, commented, “We purposely stayed away from a hardcore fitness approach. The image cannot be so esoteric that women cannot understand it.”
“In our ads, we try to show vibrance and a wholesome, healthy lifestyle,” said Shapiro. The Moret firm launched a three-month campaign this month of outdoor ads at two dozen bus shelters in Manhattan. The tagline says “Work It Out,” and shows a women leaping through the air wearing a fuchsia and blue leotard and bike shorts.
Mary Ann Domuracki, president of Danskin Inc., said the firm will continue to feature its Team Danskin group of female athletes in national print ads this year, but the mood will be more laid back.
“The idea will be to show them more in lifestyle poses in softly layered items like fleece and jersey,” said Domuracki. “It’s very much how women today are dressing for the gym, and we want consumers to be able to connect and identify with our ads.”
She added, however, that the concepts for the ads will continue to be gleaned from the world of dance, an influence which also crossed over to a highly successful ad featuring ice skating champion Katarina Witt.