- AListDaily interviewed celebrity DJ and newly appointed Asics brand ambassador Steve Aoki, as well as Sarah Bishop, VP of marketing for Asics, to discuss the apparel company's new brand messaging.
- Steve Aoki: “I want to create a strong and defining collection.”
Athletic apparel brand Asics is reframing its brand narrative to become a player in the health and wellness categories by unveiling “I Move Me,” its biggest marketing shakeup in over 25 years. The pivot comes paired with the partnership of Steve Aoki by making the music producer the face and voice of its new direction for fitness-minded consumers.
The celebrity DJ will help reshape the diversity of products and people the sport performance company wants to employ by overseeing the Capsule Collection, a line of shoes, shorts, shirts, accessories and other athletic wear.
To create a daily dialogue with a new generation, Aoki will bring a contemporary look designed to reintroduce younger consumers to the iconic Japanese brand.
Aoki, who is of Japanese descent, revealed a digital spot on the Asics channel that uses his sounds, synths and spinning gravitas of the song “Kolony” to emphasize the power of movement.
“Whenever I get involved with partnerships, the first thing that I want to do is bring my creative energy to the table,” Aoki told AListDaily in an interview. “I want to do what I’m good at by putting some of that Aoki DNA to the brand. What’s so good working with Asics is that they want that too. They want to hear what I have to say. The minute after we agreed to do this, I already had 10 ideas. I told them, ‘I’m coming prepared with a lot of what I can offer.’”
Aoki is no stranger to building brands—his father founded teppan chain Benihana, and earlier this year, he launched his own fashion line Dim Mak Collection at New York Fashion Week. The electro-entrepreneur, who’ll be the first non-athlete spokesperson for Asics, said his intention is to bring vibrant colors and a fashion-forward Aoki-like energy to a company mostly known for its running shoes.
“I like to build bridges and I have that common thread between all of the lifestyle, music and fashion worlds that I love so dearly and am involved in—[I’m] bringing it all together,” said Aoki. “I first want to bring it into the community and our world, and build the culture by saying, ‘This is what we wear when we work out.’ The great part about me traveling around the world and working out wherever I go is that I am constantly influenced by all of the interesting people from different cultures that I meet. I get to combine that spirit. It’s a constant journey, and now I get to bring all of that to Asics.”
The two-time Grammy-nominated producer is also a fitness fanatic—he even has an Aoki-branded boot camp. He’s also a sneakerhead with over a 400-pair, $100,000 collection. One of the main reasons he wanted to help lead marketing efforts inspiring people to get moving was because he’d be able to have his own line of kicks, too.
“I want to create a strong and defining collection,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what I wear. I represent what I wear on stage. I need shoes that are athletic and have a fashion-forward aesthetic. It’s going to be something unique for both Asics and me.”
Considering the climate of sports brands and where the industry is currently headed, why was now a critical time for Asics to rebrand with a new marketing message?
This is really a pivotal moment for the Asics brand as we understand today’s marketplace, changing consumer behaviors and consumption habits. We’ve been working hard over the last year to modernize and evolve ourselves from not just being a footwear manufacturer, but to more of a well-rounded health and wellness brand. We’ve been refining who we are, and what we stand for. We’re embracing our brand heritage. We’re hoping to reintroduce the Asics brand to both our core audience, who we’ve always focused on, but also appeal to a broader new consumer through fitness. Having a marketing campaign and platform where we can celebrate products and make people aware from a design, fashion and functionality perspective is really what gets me excited.
How are you going to reintroduce the Asics brand?
I’m excited to kick off this whole idea behind ‘I Move Me’ and look forward to connecting with our consumers on a much more emotional basis. That was the tone we considered first and foremost as we were putting together this marketing plan. Asics has been around for nearly 70 years, but there are consumers who have not been exposed to the brand. We’re really trying to deliver a fresh look and a perspective that resonates with both current and future generations—one that’s a lot more in line with where we see the fitness industry trajectory. This campaign is about reaching a new generation of fitness lovers who believe in the power of movement, as well as the notion that as individuals express themselves, society becomes more rich and unified. A lot of what we’re doing to reintroduce the brand through this campaign is making sure that we are not just looking at the traditional channels that Asics has focused on in the past, but also expanding our reach, and looking at creating content that features people who previously have felt very untraditional for Asics.
What are you doing different in order to separate Asics from the competition?
We’re trying carve out a space that is ownable for us as an athletic brand, but still stay true to who we are. Asics stands for the old Latin phrase, anima sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body—and we’re so excited to show the world a reimagined interpretation of that mantra. So, while other athletic brands in our space do amazing work, we feel they focus a lot on external motivations and results—being the best, being No. 1 in the field, replicating or breaking records—and, proudly, we’re not about that as a brand. For us, rather than glorifying competition and that desire to be better than another person, we really have always empathized the importance of taking care of both the mind and body in order to be the best version of ourselves from the inside out. So that’s what we’re bringing to life and hoping it resonates with both our core and new consumer.
What’s going to be the overall marketing strategy you’re implementing?
One of the biggest focuses for me is making sure that we’re speaking to the consumer where the consumer lives, plays, works and understanding that the consumer we’re trying to go after is millennial and Gen Z. That means that we need to be playing a big role in the digital space. We launched primarily on digital and social channels, making sure that every touchpoint that we currently have for the brand with consumers was telling an integrated and consistent message. We’re focusing a lot more on digital channels to make sure that we’re leveraging the amazing content that we have in a way that speaks to consumers where they are.
Why was Steve Aoki the best fit as the face and voice for the new brand direction?
I’ve worked with athletes and influencers throughout my career, and it felt like there was never the right person at the right time than Steve to join the Asics family. He really personifies the individuality, emotion and perpetual movement that’s at the core of the campaign. He performs close to 300 shows each year—he’s always on the go. All of that, combined with the fact that he is a proud Japanese-American, which aligns nicely with our Japanese heritage, was what really made him the ideal standard-bearer for us.
Steve Aoki is an influencer with global reach. Are you tapping into other voices as well to amplify your message?
You can expect some amazing content outside of the hero video. We also have fantastic pieces that highlight three-time Olympian Lolo Jones and four-time US world champion wrestler and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs. They really take you inside of their space. They will tell consumers what movement means to them. You’ll see that across nine pieces of content that will roll out between the launch till the end of the year. It will get consumers immersed in the world of the people in our hero spot. We’re active on all of the main social channels and have some unique surprises and engagement opportunities with our activations that we’re looking into toward the end of the year.
What consumer trends will you be monitoring throughout this new journey?
It’s not necessarily new, but athleisure has been on the trend radar for years now. We’re really seeing that consumers are no longer just wearing athletic footwear and apparel in a point of sweat, but they’re wearing it for a variety of different reasons. That makes versatility and comfort of products really key. The way younger consumers interact with brands is ever-changing. They’re much more skeptical of being sold to, so I think that there’s more of a need for us to be able to speak to them in a way that’s authentic and aligns with passion points that they have that naturally exist, like music. Because of all those reasons, I think that our new marketing will be a great new way to be able to speak to them authentically.
You previously were a brand manager at Coca-Cola. What is one learning you will apply from your previous post onto your current position?
One of the biggest learnings from Coca-Cola is the importance of making sure that we were able to connect with consumers emotionally. One of the amazing things about the Coca-Cola Company is that they’re able to forge a strong, emotional connection with consumers that spans generations. I think that there is something very powerful in that, that I’m looking to bring that to Asics. ‘I Move Me’ is definitely an evolution of where we’ve been from a marketing perspective, yet still stays true to who we are as a brand and allows us to connect with consumers in a way that’s much more emotional than just functional.