With Meb’s victory, Skechers notches a marketing win

With Meb’s victory, Skechers notches a marketing win

There was one big winner in yesterday’s marathon that didn’t wear a racer’s bib — Skechers USA, whose new shoe is off to a running start.

Men’s winner Meb Keflezighi completed the 26.2-mile course in a pair of Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 racing shoes, slated to hit store shelves this fall. The fortuitous endorsement deal is expected to boost Skechers’ foray into performance footwear.

California-based Skechers launched its performance division in 2011 with the GOrun line of shoes and signed Keflezighi as a brand ambassador, a deal that was extended in November through 2016.

“Their performance shoes have not been widely distributed, but … running magazines have given them high marks,” said analyst Matt Powell of Princeton Retail Analysis. “But I think after this win, a lot of retailers are going to take another look.”

Known foremost as a casual, lifestyle footwear maker, Skechers passed Boston’s New Balance to gain the fifth-largest share of the overall athletic footwear market this year at 3 percent of total dollar sales, behind industry leader Nike (with 46.2 percent), Jordan, Adidas and Asics. But among performance running companies, Skechers is ranked 17th with just a 0.14 percent share.

“It usually takes a while for a new brand to get accepted,” Powell said. But, he added, “Obviously if someone can win the Boston Marathon in (Skechers), they have a good performance shoe.”

Keflezighi’s win is a “huge opportunity for us to elevate the brand’s perception,” said Rick Higgins, vice president of merchandising and marketing for the Skechers Performance Division. “Slowly, but surely, our strategy has really been executed superbly since Meb came on board,” he said. “We’ve transitioned from just being a lifestyle shoe company to now being taken serious in the performance shoe category.”

Skechers released its initial GOmeb Speed racing shoes in late 2011. Yesterday’s Boston Marathon was the public’s first look at the third iteration, and the company launched a new “Go Meb, Go!” advertising campaign around the GOmeb Speed 3 on Friday in the Hub.

Skechers likely will take another look at that campaign given Keflezighi’s performance yesterday. “I’m sure that we will throw in a few mentions of his Boston win,” Higgins said.

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