No Man's Land

Feb 24, 2009

Novak a Falcon On Court

During the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic unveiled his new signature ‘Falcon' range for adidas He also wore the gear whilst playing tennis on an aerial court in Melbourne's iconic State Theatre.

Positioned appropriately on centre stage, the natural performer played tennis on an airborne court against a flying opponent, and when finished was greeted by a real life Falcon to help him launch his new range.

"I have played tennis on many courts around the world, but never on one that was airborne," says Novak Djokovic. "It was a fun and exciting way to help launch my own signature range for adidas here in Melbourne, and having a Falcon on hand to help me was an extra bonus."

Part of the new CC Genius Footwear and Edge apparel lines, the Falcon range highlights Novak Djokovic's unique style of play and his dynamic personality. The defending champion will wear the new products for the first time at the Australian Open, which starts on January 18th.

"The CC Genius is just the shoe I've been looking for," says Novak Djokovic. "It's light but has great grip and allows me full movement around the court without compromising on stability and I'm thrilled to lend my name to the first CC Genius shoe. I chose the Falcon as my signature line as I believe my style of play is just like a falcon hunting. I live for great matchups against strong opponents and this is now reflected in my apparel and footwear on court."

The Novak Djokovic Falcon footwear range has been created in five different colorways for the four Grand Slams and the year ending Masters Series Cup. The Serbian will also have two extra apparel Edge colorways for his night matches for the Grand Slams in Melbourne and New York.

The white Edge tennis polo incorporates the Falcon logo on the left hand shoulder while the olive green stripes colour is carried through to the matching shorts. For night matches Novak will wear an all black Falcon combination featuring silver stripes to match his specially designed silver CC Genius shoe with Falcon logo. The Edge apparel incorporates key adidas technologies ForMotionTM and ClimaCool® to ensure the best possible fit, feel and comfort during those epic on-court battles that the Australian Open is known for.

The CC Genius Falcon shoe has been designed with Novak's unique playing style and foot movements in mind, with a new SPEEDCUT® technology used in lateral strips on the upper to give added forefoot support. The sole provides excellent grip on hard courts but also enough give and ankle support to facilitate Novak's breathtaking slides. Cushioning is key to making this a truly comfortable shoe with ClimaCool® aeration technology which allows Novak's feet to remain at an optimum performance temperature despite the sometimes sweltering heat in Melbourne.

The Novak Djokovic Falcon range of apparel and footwear is available in retail worldwide. Recommended retail price for the CC Genius is $130, while the Edge apparel Polo is $50 and Bermuda is $50.

Additional information on adidas Tennis

  • adidas is the proud sponsor of some of the biggest names in men's and women's tennis including Novak Djokovic, French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic, Paris Masters Series winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Davis Cup winner Fernando Verdasco, French Open runner-up Dinara Safina, Sania Mirza, Bob and Mike Bryan, Caroline Wozniacki and many more.
  • adidas offers four types of tennis shoes, the Barricade V, CC Genius, CC Feather clay court and CC Feather grass court.
  • adidas is the market leader in tennis footwear and apparel offering Barricade, Feather, CC Genius, Edge, Competition and adilibria ranges.
  • adidas Tennis introduces its new racket offering for 2009 allowing players worldwide to follow in the footsteps of tennis legends Ilie Nastase and Ivan Lendl. Three racket ranges have been engineered for the 2009 season catering for a range of players, from tour and club players to recreational. Each racket is named after our benchmark Tennis shoes, Barricade, Response and Feather, and share similar characteristics.
  • adidas provides a unique support program which its tennis players can take advantage of. The adidas Player Development Program counts Sven Groeneveld and Gil Reyes among its staff and provides training tips and hitting partners to nutritional advice and off-court mentoring.

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Feb 16, 2009

adidas Makes a Racquet

Needing a new racquet for your bag this Spring? Well look further than the normal Prince, Wilson, Head, and Babolats of the tennis world. Making a return to the racquet party is footwear and apparel giant, adidas, who re-enters the market since the days of Ivan Lendl.

adidas Tennis introduces its new racket offering for 2009 allowing players worldwide to follow in the footsteps of tennis legends Ilie Nastase and Ivan Lendl.

As the leading tennis footwear brand in the world, adidas is excited to re-introduce performance rackets creating the ultimate package of tennis products for players worldwide.

"Building on our footwear and apparel success adidas tennis feels the market is right for the return to racket production," says Simon Cartwright, Vice President of Global Tennis. "We can now provide tennis players with everything they need to take part in one of the most popular sports in the world. Consumers can be assured that our new rackets will match the high levels of product quality so long associated with the adidas brand."

Three racket ranges have been engineered for the 2009 season catering for a range of players, from tour and club players to recreational. Each racket is named after our benchmark Tennis shoes, Barricade, Response and Feather, and share similar characteristics.

Barricade Response

Four Barricade models have been created; The Barricade Tour is designed for the "Tournament Player." It is the heaviest at 330g and the stiffest of the new adidas rackets, ideal for fast swinging players who can generate their own power and look for additional control.

The Barricade Tour Light is 30g lighter, suiting good juniors, but it offers the same control with every swing. Both the Barricade Tour and Tour light come with and 18/20 string pattern to give excellent control and a crisp feel.

The third racket in this range is the Barricade itself; a lighter and less stiff version of the Tour racket with a 16/19 string pattern to ensure a forgiving and playable racket for competition players. The Barricade Junior, meanwhile, satisfies the needs of young budding tennis stars.

All rackets in the Barricade family feature the adidas POWER STRUCTURE TECHNOLOGY (PST). Three structures at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock act like the claws on the Barricade shoe to improve torsional stability. This technology transfers to adidas rackets by adding weight at the same points, putting pop into your shots and increasing the sweetspot.

The Response racket has the perfect combination of power and control for most club players. The higher frame height gives greater power while the stiffness and string pattern bring control.

The Feather is the lightest of the adidas Tennis Racket range just like the Feather shoe. However the Feather actually has the thickest frame offering a little extra power for the recreational or older club player seeking an easy to handle racket.

The Barricade range of rackets will retail for $185.00, and the Feather racket for $165.00, while the Response comes in at $145.00

adidas rackets, which are made by leading tennis manufacturer Keentech, will be sold through adidas own retail as well as tennis specialist stores worldwide. The rackets are available in the United States beginning February 1, 2009.


Jan 31, 2009

Under Armor Earnings Fall Short


Under Armour Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit sank 51 percent and the sportswear maker is staying mum on its 2009 outlook as it tangles with a slumping retail environment.

Earnings dropped to $8.3 million, or 17 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That’s compared with a profit of $16.9 million, or 35 cents per share, during the same period a year prior.

Sales during the fourth-quarter grew 2.5 percent to $179.3 million.

The earnings were on par with Wall Street’s forecast. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 17 cents per share on revenue of $179.7 million.

Baltimore-based Under Armour (NYSE: UA) said sales were impacted by a slowdown in its U.S. wholesale business and increased cancellations and returns. The company was also impacted by unfavorable foreign currencies. On the flip side, Under Armour said its footwear business more than doubled in 2008 to $84.8 million in sales.

CEO Kevin A. Plank said Thursday the company remains optimistic on its long-term growth opportunities, but for now is hunkering down to weather what looks to be a tough 2009.

“There’s been a lot of discussion where the consumer is heading,” Plank said on a conference call with analysts Thursday. “We are very aware of the challenges facing all brands in this environment.”

Under Armour began to see sales slump in the last 35 to 40 days of the year leading up to the holiday season, Chief Operating Officer Wayne Marino said in an interview Thursday morning.

"Under Armour has probably never had this type of challenge before," Marino said. "But we've got strong brand equity and very, very strong price integrity in this market."

Under Armour’s success in “2010 and beyond will be significantly impacted by the decisions we make in 2009,” Plank added.

The biggest test for the 13-year-old company this year will be its entry into the nearly $5 billion U.S. running shoe market on Jan. 31. The line of six shoes are priced between $85 and $120. Plank told analysts the returns on Under Armour’s running shoe foray won’t be immediately obvious.

“You’re not going to be able to define the success of our running footwear by Monday,” Plank said. It’s an “11 to 12 month launch that will be defined at the end of 2009.”

Aside from the launch, Plank said Under Armour is “cautiously optimistic about 2009” and is looking at the year with the “appropriate degree of conservatism.”

The company will not open any new retail stores during the year.

Executives would not give a 2009 outlook “because of the volatile environment” when pressed by analysts Thursday.

Meanwhile, Under Armour also announced it secured a new three-year $180 million credit facility with PNC Bank (NYSE: PNC). The facility replaces an existing $100 million credit line the company had in place.

For 2008, Under Armour had net revenue of $725.2 million, up nearly 20 percent from last year. The company’s profit dropped 28 percent to $38.3 million. Inventory climbed in the year by $16 million to $182.2 million.

Inventory at the end of the year included $15 million in running footwear. The company’s inventory growth would have been flat without the running shoes, said Chief Financial Officer Brad Dickerson.


Under Armor Not Cutting Workforce


In a week when more than 100,000 people across a broad swath of industries have lost their jobs, Under Armour Inc. has no intention to cut its work force.

The sluggish economy, however, will play a role in the Baltimore sportswear company’s future hiring plans. That was the word Thursday from two top executives after fast-growing Under Armour released its fourth-quarter results.

“We know we have to bring in new people,” said Brad Dickerson, Under Armour’s chief financial officer, in an interview. “It’s much more focused [now] on where we bring those people in.”

While Under Armour executives say they will spend 2009 evaluating its core operations, the company still has plans to outline additional product lines in future years. Those launches are what will fuel the company to continue hiring where needed, Dickerson said.

A soccer clean, also known as a "boot", and line of basketball sneakers are likely to be the next launches.

Under Armour employs more than 2,000 people globally, including 1,100 in Maryland.

Unlike many of the country’s biggest consumer-focused brands that are bleeding red ink and shedding jobs, Under Armour still remains profitable.

The company reported Thursday its fourth-quarter profit dipped by 51 percent to $8.3 million.

“[W]e’ve got strong brand equity and very, very strong price integrity in this market,” said COO Wayne Marino in an interview.

Just this week, retail giants Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX), Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Target (NYSE: TGT) unveiled massive restructuring plans.

Home Depot plans to cut 7,000 jobs, Starbucks is closing 300 stores and slashing 6,700 positions and Target is eliminating 600 jobs at its Minneapolis headquarters.

Last week, discount retail chain Filene’s Basement announced it would close three Greater Baltimore locations.


Under Armor in Super Bowl


When Pittsburgh and Arizona square off Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII, it will be the finale to weeks of anticipation and media coverage, and one Baltimore company is looking to again cash in on the buzz.

After paying big bucks for a Super Bowl television ad last year to announce its cross-trainer shoe — then seeing its share price fall partly in response — Under Armour is taking a grassroots approach this year in Tampa to marketing its new running shoe on the sporting world’s biggest stage.

The athletic apparel company’s senior vice president for brand, Steve Battista, said a television ad this year just didn’t fit into the strategy for the shoe’s launch Saturday.

“Remember last year, no one had ever even seen what Under Armour [non-cleated] footwear looked like,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The Super Bowl is great for that.”

Instead, Under Armour sent a team of salespeople and athletes to market the new product at the NFL Experience — the Super Bowl’s fanfest at Raymond James Stadium — through activities and athlete demonstrations. Visitors can test out the new shoe in a 40-yard dash and in training sessions, or browse Under Armour’s retail section which will include the new shoes on Saturday.

The Ravens’ Troy Smith, the Redskins’ Santana Moss and the 49ers’ Vernon Davis (a University of Maryland alum) will be among the handful of athletes at in-store promotions and autograph signings on launch day in Tampa. Moss, along with the Bears’ Devin Hester and the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, will promote the product on local and national media outlets, and Under Armour will give away 10 Super Bowl tickets at Tampa-area stores.

Elsewhere, specialty partner Fleet Feet will host an event in Chicago beginning at 11 p.m. Friday — one hour before the launch day — where customers can test shoes on a late-night run and opt to buy the shoes after midnight. Under Armour is also running an event at Hibbett Sporting Goods in Atlanta with Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, whom the company sponsors, as a continuation of a promotion there during the football season.

No launch events were planned for the Baltimore area because local marketing staff and athletes will be in Tampa to focus on the Super Bowl this weekend, according to Under Armour’s communications staff. Future events at the specialty stores in Bethesda and Annapolis are possible.

The guerilla approach is a stark contrast to the dramatic, 60-second spot the company bought for last year’s Super Bowl, but far less controversial. Although last year’s game, in which the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots, did end up being the most-watched NFL championship in history, the Fox Network’s base rates were a then-record $2.7 million for a 30-second ad. When Under Armour announced it was springing for a spot worth $5.4 million — its first Super Bowl ad purchase — analysts questioned the decision, prompting a 33 percent dip in the company’s stock last January.

Robert J. Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said Under Armour’s timing seems off. Running a high-profile ad during last year’s game, three months before the launch of the cross trainers, was a curious decision, he said. And an ad this year might have made more sense.

“In some ways, on the surface I don’t quite get it,” Thompson said. “Last year, they have a February ad even though it’s not launched until May; this year they don’t have an ad but the launch is the day before the Super Bowl. It seems like an ad would have been better this year in terms of a timing standpoint.”

Thompson noted that Super Bowl ads tend to get buyers more bang for their buck because of the attention they draw from media and replays of the spots on other television networks and the Internet. The ads have historically been a tactic for announcing a new product.

“There’s no place at any other time on the calendar where you can get so many people talking about your ad and product,” he said. “Under Armour is an interesting case because you have athletic shoe companies like Nike that everybody knows, and Under Armour’s ad last year made some degree of sense — their move to the Super Bowl was like saying they wanted to become the Pepsi to Nike’s Coke.”

But Battista said that, unlike the cross trainers last year, the new running shoe has already been featured in national publications and benefited from word-of-mouth advertising.

“All of our retailers have shoes in store, plus, we’ve been seeding it to members of UA RUN club and our pro athletes for several months,” he said. “These individuals are the influencers … the product has been strategically placed in the marketplace, whereas with trainers it was all about the unveiling [at the Super Bowl].”

In addition, advertising is more expensive this year — NBC’s base rate is $3 million — and in a sinking economy with historic lows for consumer demand, retailers nationwide are scrutinizing their expenses more critically.

So Under Armour’s choice to take a grassroots tactic with the marketing opportunities the Super Bowl presents is likely motivated by finances and the response to last year’s method, those in the industry say. In its annual report released Thursday, the company said it would maintain a strong balance sheet this year by lowering capital expenditures while anticipating revenue growth, mostly due to its new product. Watching costs also means Under Armour will not open any new full-priced, specialty retail outlets this year.

Finding a less expensive way to still make a splash during the media event of the year — given the unstable economy — is a wise move, marketers say.

“The money they would have spent on a Super Bowl ad, they’re going to spend far less with this grassroots marketing approach and I think that’s a much more effective way to do things,” said John Maroon, president of Marriottsville-based Maroon PR. “A 30-second ad can be effective, but to be on the ground at the Super Bowl utilizing media, utilizing public relations, seems to be a better use of time.”

The grassroots approach — Under Armour’s bread and butter in its early days — does have its disadvantages, however. The effects of it are subtle and harder to track than conventional media advertising. But, said Maroon, the results are what matter.

“If somebody hears an Under Armour spokesman on a radio show and it hits a nerve, or somebody bumps into a [marketing] team out on the streets — that’s not stuff you can necessarily trace,” he said. “So it is more challenging, but who cares? At the end of the day, you look up and say we’re selling more shoes — and if you’re selling more shoes, you’re doing something right.”

According to its year-end report, Under Armour expects nearly all of its growth to come from its running shoe category, and analysts anticipate 1.5 million to 2 million pairs priced between $85 and $120 will be sold this year. But unlike its venture into the cross-trainer market, one dominated by Nike, Under Armour’s running shoe will face off against other stiff competitors like adidas, Reebok and New Balance.

In addition, analyst Jeffrey P. Klinefelter of Piper Jaffray points out in his note this week, the company is also up against “intense competition and strong brand loyalty” from specialty competitors like Brooks, Asics and Mizuno in the estimated $3.2 billion running-shoe market.

But while runners tend to be loyal to their shoe brand and defections to the new brand may be harder to achieve, it’s not impossible, said University of Maryland marketing professor Roland T. Rust, an avid runner.

“I’ll go out and buy 15 pairs of Brooks [shoes] at a time, so that makes it tougher for someone breaking into the market,” he said. “But on the other hand, you might get a runner right before one of those binges … if you can get people to start on your shoe once, then you may be able to turn them.”

On the plus side, Under Armour’s brand awareness, which is also strengthened by being face-to-face with some of the sports world’s most influential people in Tampa this week, is strong and its loyal following will give the new running shoe an automatic base of customers.

According to a recent survey by analysts at Stifel Nicolaus, 25 percent of the 300 respondents expressed interest in buying Under Armour products (up 4 percentage points from a year earlier) and 9 percent responded they planned to buy the new running shoe. While just over half of the respondents also expressed interest in buying a Nike product during the next three months, Under Armour’s slice of the market pie is encouraging.

“I think in a lot of cases the brand will sell itself,” said Thomas D. Shaw, who headed up the survey. “Lots of teens buy the product because it’s Under Armour; they already have the shirts, hats, the pants, and this completes the look. The question is can it sell itself to people who are [loyal to other brands].”

Battista said the fact that the running-shoe category is bigger and in far better shape than the cross-training category is an advantage to Under Armour.

“Unlike football, baseball and lacrosse cleats, this category is very important to the female consumer,” he said. “I really like our chances.”

Kevin Roche, a principal at the Seattle-based retail design firm Callison, said to be a player in the running-shoe market, Under Armour essentially needs to protect its house.

“People don’t buy brands, they join them,” Roche said. “In this economy, design concepts like creative excellence and commitment to differentiation appeal to the consumer on an emotional level and I think you can begin to protect your position [with that]. Clearly there will be less volume moving, but you can protect your margin to some degree.”

In the meantime, this weekend’s launch and the activities in Tampa will be about making waves where it counts.

“If you’re a big name in the sports industry and the sports world and have something to say, you’re down there this weekend,” said Maroon. “Although it’s tough because everyone else has also determined the Super Bowl is the place to be or to launch their product so you have to do something to stand out from the fray. But if you do that you’re golden.”


Jan 23, 2009

Nike Reuse A Shoe Program


Not long ago I posted a story at that was so popular I put it in the Bixby Bulletin hardcopy edition; it had to do with selling used cooking oil which would be used to make fuel. I realized that recycling has come a long way since the days it meant turning milk cartons into bird feeders. “Look, Mommy, a milk carton tree!” Suggesting to someone 30 years ago you’d buy their old cooking oil would be as ridiculous as bottling water and selling it.

As a one-time Brownie Scout leader, I saw many peers “recycle” by turning would-be trash into re-named ugliness. Not a lot more practical than milk cartons was cutting a hole in a plastic bottle, turning it into a carrier with the handle at the top, for perhaps garden tools--not very pretty but at least not hanging in a tree. Some leaders made trash more endearing than ever by having tots paint, “I love you, Mommy,” or the name of a deity on it. It was an unimaginative leader who sent home garden tool carriers which still said such things as Cheer or Tide on the side. But they/we were pioneers.

In addition to aluminum can pyramids, some of you may remember putting soda bottles in the oven and stretching them into sculptures. Recycling then didn’t mean saving something from the trash; it meant bringing the trash into the house or hanging it in a tree.

Even as I tease, to this day I find it difficult to throw into the trash an oatmeal box, coffee can, or potato chip tin. I once got a call from my daughter’s second grade teacher asking if it were true I had enough egg cartons in my garage for the entire second grade. I said it indeed was, and she asked if I would bring them to the school right away for a project. My daughter still tells the tale proudly.

Today, however, everything I once put in the family “Rainy Day Box” for the kids to create with can be recycled if the right destination is found. Destinations are out there. It sometimes just takes some digging.

This week I hit the jackpot. I discovered that old tennis shoes can be recycled. The first source I read on-line took me back to the old bird-feeder days, suggesting that old tennis shoes be used as planters, dog chew toys, or even, yes, sculptures! Everyone needs an old tennis shoe sitting on the grand piano? Or, yes! Why not teach the dog to chew up the old tennis shoes so he’ll never learn the new ones are off limits?

Moving on, I found that unwearable sports shoes may be ground up to make athletic surfaces for kids.

Old tennis shoes, runners, sneakers, or gym shoes can be recycled. Send them to: Nike Recycling Center, c/o Reuse A Shoe, 26755 SW 95th Avenue, Wilsonville, OR 97070. Your old shoes--any brand I suppose--will be ground up to make surfaces for tracks, basketball courts and more for under served communities. They won’t end up in landfills. For more information, visit Nike Reuse-A-Shoe.

Now THAT’S recycling with a purpose! Share other great finds like this with me so I can share them with others.


Welcome to the ATP

From TimesOnline.Co.Uk...

As short-lived honeymoons go, this must be one of the most troubling — even in the manic world of tennis politics. Adam Helfant had no sooner become executive chairman of the ATP World Tour than Ivan Ljubicic, the former world No 3 from Croatia and the newest member of the ATP board, has decided to resign.

Ljubicic has recently become a father for the first time and was finding that commitment and continuing his career very tricky. His loss to the decision-making process, when clarity and harmony is vital and when he was seen as a vital link between the players and the tournaments who own a half share in the ATP, is shocking. Ljubicic is also said to have been troubled by the behaviour of several of his fellow players at a meeting last weekend here, at which Helfant was formally introduced.

According to one official at the meeting and did not want to be named, the players “went ballistic” when the debate moved to the allocation of ranking points. The ATP has introduced a new system that now offers a far greater differential between the early and later rounds of tournaments as well as between the bigger and smaller events. It also includes, controversially, ranking points for playing in the Davis Cup.

If Helfant, a former Nike executive who spent the past few days here locked in various meetings, wanted to know what he had let himself in for, then Ljubicic’s resignation is the sharpest of introductions. The new board has barely had time to bed down and already a place has been

It is believed that a favoured candidate to replace the Croatian as a player representative is Benito Pérez-Barbadillo, who represents the media interests of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martín del Potro, the No 1, No 3 and No 6 players in the world respectively.

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