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Asics SA|subsidiary| Jordan & Co(Left)Stefan Heinrich, Asics Director of Emerging Markets and Brian Kerby, MD of the new Asics subsidiary in South Africa.(Right)Dawid Visser, Rykie van der Merwe and Brian Pollock of Jordan & Co. at the launch of the Asics Springbok jersey. Visser and Van der Merwe will be joining Asics SA.
July 2014

New era for

Asics SA

The new Asics SA subsidiary have moved into their offices and are on track to start operating from October onwards. TRUDI DU TOIT asked them what will change for the brand

The final quarter of this year will be the beginning of a new era for Asics in South Africa. As a full subsidiary, the brand will spread its footprint across all sports. It has already taken the Springbok rugby team and national netball team into the fold and with the back-up, larger team and support a subsidiary enjoys, it will be growing its footprint in performance running and other sports as well.

Although the Asics distributing contract with Jordan & Co officially expires at the end of the year, the new subsidiary will be taking over most functions and launch the new ranges from October onwards. Last month, they moved into their new offices in Blackriver Office Park, and key members of the former Jordan & Co Asics team are gradually moving across to join the subsidiary.

The October handover period was agreed on to coincide with the global launch of the Asics spring/summer 2015 ranges, which will be launched in South Africa at the same time.

“There will be a lot of synergy and continuity,” says Kerby. There will also be some overlap as the 2014 winter product, which is still Jordan’s responsibility, will still be sold till the end of December. “We kick in from October with spring/summer 2015, for which the subsidiary will take responsibility.”

The handover has been very amicable and the transition has been very smooth, says Stefan Heinrich, Asics Director of Emerging Markets. “Jordan was very cooperative, because they wanted the best for the brand.”

Jordan & Co have done wonderful job with what they achieved with the brand, adds new Asics SA MD Brian Kerby. “They have been distributors for many years and have performed very well.”

But, while Jordan is primarily a footwear distributor, Asics has evolved into a brand that is a lot more than footwear. “It is strong in apparel, and strong in diverse sports, not just running. Things move on and we got to a time where it made sense to have distributorship in a fast developing market, which is growing rapidly.”

A bigger team, enjoying a lot more support as part of a large corporate, can investigate so many more opportunities than a distributor is able to penetrate, he explains.

“We have assembled a very strong, young team with good experience and lots of enthusiasm,” says Kerby. Some of the new team members already attended the Asics Europe 2014 conference in the historical city of Dubrovnik, where they got a lot of positive feedback.

They will be phasing in their full team of about 18 people over the next few months. The operations, marketing and sales structures will be in place by October and Spencer King have been managing the Springbok contract for Asics since it was signed a year ago.

“We expect to see a significant penetration of other markets — rugby, fitness, women, apparel, accessories, etc.” adds Heinrich.

They will also be exploring opportunities further into the African continent, says Kerby.

While the sell-in of the Springbok jerseys had gone well, they believe it is important to make sure that Asics doesn’t neglect its market leadership in running — but also becomes #1 or #2 brand in several other areas.

“One of the of key goals is to investigate the women’s market,” says Heinrich.

They will also be exploring opportunities in training shoes and clothing, which he believes offers big potential. Running apparel is another potential growth area. Running will remain their main market focus, he says, but they will also look at other sports like hockey, cricket, athletics, rugby etc.

Internationally Asics has a strong following in hockey — in leading markets like the Netherlands it is the market leader and sponsor of the national team, as well as a sponsor of the German team. In Australia they are the kit supplier to the national cricket team.

The Springbok rugby sponsorship is about getting the brand out there, says Kerby, who believes this will result in spin-offs in certain areas (See Springbok jersey launch article p38).

“Consumers will be alterted to the fact that Asics is more than a running brand. If you are an Asics convert because of the brand’s performance in running, you will remember that the shoes you run in perform well when it comes to buying boots.

In tennis, a top player like Gael Monfils helps sell product, as retailers confirm that consumers come in to ask for a specific Asics outfit that Monfils had played in, says Heinrich. Locally, the brand benefits from the high profile of international athletes — especially since we don’t have iconic tennis players in South Africa, adds Kerby.

Traditionally, Asics has been seen as a premium running brand with volume sales and core business at higher price points — but they can’t afford to be just be in premium price points, says Kerby. “Europe has given us a lot of help to provide well-priced items across the board to get volume sales going.”

The Asics lifestyle brand Onitsuko Tiger will also be getting a boost from marketing and personnel investment from the international office. “We’re appointing the right people who can converse and integrate with these consumers,” says Kerby.

There will be a number of interesting of developments in the 2015 spring/summer ranges, he promises. A major running campaign will focus on all the different areas of running and the philosophy that mixing different types of running makes you a better runner — featuring shoes for long runs, trail shoes, road running, speed work, training in the gym.

“We are making great new training aids and apps,” adds Heinrich. These are serious training apps that give feedback on your performance, which you can share with a community, but they are not gimmicks that tell you to pick up your pace or play music, he explains.

Kerby is very excited about the opportunities that opened with the establishment of the Asics SA subsidiarty. “The opportunities around this brand are immense,” he says. “I’ve always believed in the motto: do what you can control, leave what you can’t control. Do what you do best and ensure that you stay market leader.”

“We believe in ourselves, we believe in our products,” echoes Heinrich. “Our success lies in making people aware of our brand and just getting them into our products.”

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