irresponsible marketing

crn ran an article the other day about the ad campaign that a certain shoe company is currently running. i had some initial responses to the ad but had intended to let it slide, since the rest of the interweb was making enough of a stink about it. but then i let it stew and the thing that really bugged me about the ad just wouldn’t go away. this morning, i had an ad from the same company for their triathlon gear line sitting in my inbox. that bugged me. so i wrote them.

Dear Sirs,
I was going to let the ad sit and not bother you with my opinion regarding your latest marketing campaign attempting to inspire ‘runners’ and marginalize ‘joggers’. But seeing this ad for triathlon gear sitting in my inbox this morning reminded me that I will no longer be purchasing your gear and I wanted to let you know why.
I have read many comments by ‘runners’ and ‘joggers’ across the Internet taking offense at your latest campaign for one reason or another. Either it’s the pace that you list that makes someone a ‘runner’ or calling people who run with iPods ‘joggers’ or the actual division that you make between the two groups. I can see all of their points and I can agree with them all on some level or another. At the same time, I read through your entire marketing spiel on the wearenotjoggers website and I have to admit, while at one time I did fall into your ‘jogger’ category, by your definition I fall into your ‘runner’ category and from a ‘runner’ perspective, the ad motivated me to get out and hit the trails hard. The issues of iPod wearing and your defining line between ‘running’ and ‘jogging’ are of no concern to me.
That excited me and I liked the though of your gear being specifically engineered to support the type of ‘running’ that I do. But that is me. I’m just a small minority of the people that will see your ad. While I like to be motivated by things that make me feel powerful and alive, there’s another issue that I think you’re completely missing and as a result you’ve wronged the sport of ‘running’. This ad, since it was run in an American publication and hosted on the Internet, is obviously viewable by Americans. This country is currently battling with several health related issues due to obesity and lack of physical activity. Getting Americans off their couches, away from their computers and televisions, is like pulling teeth. Any excuse they have to not be active is something that they cling on to. Attacks like this on slower ‘joggers’, however sarcastic or cleverly worded the ad may be, will be taken literally by those readers and rather than encourage them to become ‘runners’, can discourage them and place them back on their couches.
Back when I first started ‘jogging’, I walked into a Foot Zone running store in Issaquah, Washington and bought my first pair of running shorts. They were bright yellow and made me feel fast. I bought them because I recognized the PI logo on them and knew that you made good gear. If I had known then that those shorts were made for ‘runners’ and not ‘joggers’ like I was then, I’d have put them back on the rack and picked a pair of Brooks or Asics shorts. Neither of those companies are ignorant to the battle of the bulge going on in this country. And neither of them made me feel small or marginalized.
Jeff Smith

i hope they get the picture.

26 thoughts on “irresponsible marketing

  1. Way to go!
    And the iPod thing is baffling in light of the integrated MP3 player tri suit they are selling. The phrase ‘talking out of both sides of your mouth’ comes to mind.

  2. Hey, you used capital letters and everything writing them!
    I’ll be honest – I saw the ad in the back of runner’s world, and it really failed to spin me up. My iPod will be pried from my hot, swollen, heat stroked fingers, but how PI refers to me is the last of my concerns.
    Point taken about discouraging the rest of the nation, but … well, I guess that’s not Pearl’s market.

  3. Wow! Very well said!
    Oh and someone needs to tell Michelle Barton or Krissy Moehl they are just “joggers” because they run with iPods…

  4. Wow! Very well said!
    Oh and someone needs to tell Michelle Barton or Krissy Moehl they are just “joggers” because they run with iPods…

  5. hmm, interesting. this is the first i’ve heard of it. i think you make great points in your letter (using capitalization, no less!). i wonder what their point is and why they chose to do this? obviously, it’s garnering great press. i wonder if it’ll work or backfire? will they sell more, or less?

  6. hmm, interesting. this is the first i’ve heard of it. i think you make great points in your letter (using capitalization, no less!). i wonder what their point is and why they chose to do this? obviously, it’s garnering great press. i wonder if it’ll work or backfire? will they sell more, or less?

  7. Well said. It will be interesting to see if they respond. But … why did you address it to “Sirs”? You don’t think any women could have been involved with this?
    (Me neither, but I’m just being the devil’s advocate.)

  8. Great letter!
    Got me fired up enough to write my own…smart-alecky-don’t-be-callin-me-a-jogger letter. Not as meaningful and “all caps” as yours was, but I’m sure I got my point across!

  9. Great letter!
    Got me fired up enough to write my own…smart-alecky-don’t-be-callin-me-a-jogger letter. Not as meaningful and “all caps” as yours was, but I’m sure I got my point across!

  10. So, pushing a stroller makes you a jogger? Dick Hoyt (of Team Hoyt) is a jogger? And because I have to do most of my miles on a dreadmill (because that means I have childcare) makes me a jogger? So, if you have kids, running at the gym makes you a jogger, and pushing them along a 10k path makes you a jogger. I don’t get it.
    Anyway, I missed the ad (I don’t look at shoe ads until I have to change styles), but they’re getting a letter from me. I go through 4-5 pairs of shoes a year, and I think I can remove them from consideration.

  11. So, pushing a stroller makes you a jogger? Dick Hoyt (of Team Hoyt) is a jogger? And because I have to do most of my miles on a dreadmill (because that means I have childcare) makes me a jogger? So, if you have kids, running at the gym makes you a jogger, and pushing them along a 10k path makes you a jogger. I don’t get it.
    Anyway, I missed the ad (I don’t look at shoe ads until I have to change styles), but they’re getting a letter from me. I go through 4-5 pairs of shoes a year, and I think I can remove them from consideration.

  12. Yeah well said Jeff, thier ad does nothing to get people off the coach and I’d be surprized if it inspires many ‘joggers’ to become ‘runners’.

  13. Yeah well said Jeff, thier ad does nothing to get people off the coach and I’d be surprized if it inspires many ‘joggers’ to become ‘runners’.

  14. So, pushing a stroller makes you a jogger? Dick Hoyt (of Team Hoyt) is a jogger? And because I have to do most of my miles on a dreadmill (because that means I have childcare) makes me a jogger? So, if you have kids, running at the gym makes you a jogger, and pushing them along a 10k path makes you a jogger. I don’t get it.
    Anyway, I missed the ad (I don’t look at shoe ads until I have to change styles), but they’re getting a letter from me. I go through 4-5 pairs of shoes a year, and I think I can remove them from consideration.

  15. On behalf of [pi] and myself I wanted to take the opportunity to comment directly to Jeff’s letter to [pi] in a hope to provide a bit of perspective from our end. First, I would like to express that from our viewpoint running is not about how fast a person is but rather about a passion, appreciation and reverence for the sport.
    For what its worth I’m a soon to be 40, lifelong cyclist turned runner who is going to attempt to run up Mt Evans this weekend. I guarantee that even if I run the race of my life I’ll be the back of the pack. Regardless of how fast I manage to get to the top, I sure as heck believe that I’m a runner even thought I’ll be crushed by many who are faster (after seeing Jeff’s PBs, I am also kind of hoping he’s not going to be in Colorado tomorrow).
    Becoming a runner has been an amazing experience for me. As a cyclist I always wondered how runners did (and enjoyed) the sport. I would read about 80+ year old people and cancer survivors running marathons in wonder. Then I started running and began to love the simplicity, the freedom, the purity of purpose, and the commitment required. I’ll even admit that I often referred to myself as jogger. Then I realized that everyone that road a bike fast or slow, short or far was a cyclist so why would running be any different.
    Running – far, short, fast, slow, up or down – is a formidable and meaningful endeavor. It’s a unique and wonderful part of being human and something that we at Pearl Izumi believe should be celebrated, valued and revered. We launched “Run Like an Animal” to challenge what we believe is a trend of running being watered down and marginalized while simultaneously being over- complicated by shoes with “chips” and excessive tecno “mumbo jumbo.” One of the upcoming creative elements we’re working on even states “If you weren’t a great runner, you never would have been born!” People as a species are wonderful runners. we can do with two legs what others do with four and over ultra long distances many argue only the horse is better.
    At [pi], I fell very fortunate to be part of a company filled with passionate runners and cyclist who work very hard to make the best products we possibly we can. What I hope to reiterate is that we are not saying that the line between running and the fictitious “jogging” we irreverently refer to is about speed (we’ll leave that debate up to the forums) but rather about emotion, passion and a sense of purpose. Our Director of Run Footwear is an amazing ultra distance runner but not as fast in a 10k or 5k as others in our company. Regardless, we’re all still runners and have a very competitive but healthy, fun and friendly rivalry.
    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to create any single thing that every loves and praises. In our effort to create marketing communications that are meaningful and relevant to readers and convey our commitment to and passion for the sport; we’re probably not always create ads that every loves. I truly wish we could and apologize that we are not always successful. However, please be assured that while we take our customers, products, and brand very seriously, we have a sense of humor and that We Are Not Joggers was developed with the intention of being “tongue and cheek.”
    If anyway would like to contact myself or [pi] directly just drop us an email at info@pearlizumi.com. Believe it or not we love to hear from our customers whether it’s good or bad and I would like to thank Jeff for giving us the opportunity to express our views.
    Best Regards,
    Cache Mundy
    VP Marketing (and a slow but proud runner)
    [pi]

  16. cache, you made my point. you totally ignored the issue that i raised. i GET the ad. it motivated ME. i understand what it is you’re trying to get across and i laughed at all the proper queues. but you completely missed my point and just reinforced it.
    when you come off as elitist about the sport, saying that ‘joggers’ are watering down the sport of ‘running’, you’re turning off the ‘joggers’ and making them feel less a part of the sport. and that pisses me off because the more unhealthy the average american is, the more it affects me.
    it affects my pocketbook with the amount i pay for insurance. it affects target markets for food and reduces the amount of healthy choices available. it affects the environment that my son will grow up in. it affects the longevity of family and friends.
    yeah, i may be going overboard in saying that your tiny ad will be the catalist for driving every first time runner away from the sport, and i know that isn’t the case. but dangit, be inclusive. that’s ALWAYS what our sport of running has been about and your elitism is exclusive.

  17. Jeff:
    I was so gratified to see your response to PI. I have also just recently fired off emails to them and also to Runners World Editors complaining that they would even carry this ad campaign in the same magazine that runs columns by John Bingham (waddle on) and Jeff Galloway who encourages runners to walk in order to help them qualify for Boston. I was led to this site by one of my running friends who I had copied on my rave to PI since I intend to boycott their products and have asked my 40+ member strong running group to do the same! Your points were articulate and well-thought out – the response from Cache Mundy was a pathetic attempt at redemption. PI will never see a dollar from me until they pull this campaign and provide some sort of heartfelt apology to the masses.

  18. the pi vp is full of crap. if they had done true market research they would have felt a good sized backlash. I hope their stocks fall. I’ve never bought anything of theirs and I CERTAINLY won’t now. Here’s the letter I sent to runners world, not as good as yours but it got the point across:
    Dear editor,
    I am disappointed and feel alienated by the choice to put an ad in your magazine insinuating that joggers are not ‘real’ runners but are merely lollygagging around the sidewalk. I was originally under the impression that this magazine was for everyone and treated people with respect. I run a painfully slow 12 minute mile, but it sure beats the 20 minute mile fast walking I was doing when there was 200 pounds on my 5’5″ frame. To allude to joggers as not working hard enough or being ‘adventurous’ enough is insensitive… unless I’m the only jogger that buys Runner’s world for motivation. Maybe it’s just me.
    As a sidenote, will Izumi sell me sneakers, or is my money also inferior? Last time I checked, joggers bought running gear, too.

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