New Balance bets big on sports, fashion and music with new facilities – WWD

BOSTON New Balance is doingga play for a better position in fashion and sportswear games with the opening of a 500,000 square foot facility, complete with an indoor track, research lab, sports bar, climate-controlled product testing rooms, brainstorming centers and more, in his hometown of Boston.

“It has been years of preparation; [the facility] it will be a place where athletes can come and set records,” Joe Preston, chairman and CEO of New Balance, told WWD Wednesday night at “The Track” grand opening party.

Joe Preston, Chairman and CEO of New Balance, delivers remarks during the Track opening ceremony. Actress Storm Reid, right, also spoke.
Kellie Ell/ World Water Day

While the installation at 91 Guest Street in Boston is called “The Track,” Preston noted that “it’s not just about the track. It’s a multi-use facility,” referring to the ability to convert the 72,000-square-foot indoor arena into a “field” for soccer or volleyball games, or a basketball court. In addition, the s.The tadium, with just under 5,000 seats, can be used for large-scale sporting events, community tournaments and concerts.

“[The facility] It truly is the intersection of sports, fashion and music,” Preston explained. In fact, even before opening, the event space has been fully booked for events through April 2023.

The first event was rapper Jack Harlow, who performed during the grand opening in front of about 1,000 people. — a mix of professional athletes (such as Olympic track runner Gabby Thomas, tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player Darius Bazley), celebrities (“Euphoria” actress Storm Reid), fashionistas, influencers and models (for example, a fashion apparel presentation) and New Balance executives, all of whom showed up to walk the runway-like red carpet in New Balance sneakers and explore the new digs.

“I was so excited to meet her,” Harlow said as she stood next to Reid on the red carpet. The duo, New Balance ambassadors, met for the first time that night.

But the facility was designed as more than just a place to attract top athletes and ambassadors in the highly competitive world of sports and sports marketing. New Balance is also betting that the investment in the facility will help the private company, known primarily for its running shoes, become more of a fashion apparel player, while bringing new funding to the Boston area by transforming it into a hub. international sports. .

“Part of the strategy has also been to always do [the facility] a destination in Boston,” said Romina Bongiovanni, director of global communications for New Balance. “Boston is one of the best cities for sports, period. We want this to be a center of excellence for sport. A place where everyone can enjoy it, not just athletes or just people who come to this place. [facility] as a brand, but everyone else in the community.”

Bongiovanni declined to comment on how much the installation cost. yessaid it took three years to build and almost a decade to come up with the concept. The end result is a New Balance-like campus in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood with the Track Building across the street from New Balance’s corporate headquarters.

In addition to the indoor track and field, visitors and employees can watch events on big-screen TVs while eating and drinking at the Broken Records Brewery on the ground floor of the Track Building. The building is also home to the 17,000-square-foot research center, which comes equipped with a climate-controlled chamber facility that can simulate rain, humidity, and freezing weather and even control the flow of oxygen to test products. There are also body scanners, a racing lab, a hydration station, and a testing lab to test shoe durability.

“Our mission here is singular: It is to shape research that leads to insights with the ultimate goal of bringing new product innovation,” said Sean Murphy, the company’s senior director of innovation and engineering. “There are many levels to the way we make products. It’s not just about opening samples from the competition. We are constantly studying our clients. It’s really about making sure that you intimately understand the customer, to understand the new needs that they may have and the problems that they may have and solve them. It is also working with other partners to develop materials that allow us to overcome the problem that they have with something.

“Ultimately, we want to be number one in athletics as well as apparel,” Murphy continued. “These tools will give us the information we need to basically accomplish those goals.”

The majority of New Balance’s revenue comes from its footwear category, according to Julie Pike, the brand’s senior vice president of global apparel. She added that “apparel is a growing part of the business and it is growing aggressively. When I think about our footprint around the world, we have a sizeable clothing business.”

Pike declined to give specific figures. But New Balance has been spawning a number of fashion collaborations in the past year, including partnerships with Bandier, Staud and accessories brand Bala. Also, last spring, New Balance chose Teddy Santis, founder of New York-based streetwear brand Aimé Leon Dore to become creative director of his Made in USA brand.

“Which was unprecedented for the brand,” Bongiovanni said. “Although we are not acquiring your company, we are acquiring your service, your vision, your creativity andand partnering on things that enhance what we have to offer consumers.

“In the future, we may have new acquisitions,” he hinted. “But nothing on the horizon right now.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday night’s fashion show showcased a variety of looks for men and women, which Pike described as cutting-edge lifestyle pieces that can be taken from the gym to the streets.

“It’s a nice nod to the future of where we’re headed with the apparel business,” he said. “Where we are within our apparel journey, one of the things that we really focus on as an apparel team is how we obsess over better [products]? And really focus on less, but obsess over the best. What are those incredible details and incredible technologies that we are going to incorporate into the product that really drives the obsession? This setup gives us incredible information so we can really dive into performance. But also, [to discover] how he or she is getting involved off the pitch, or off the track as well. We want to become obsessed with clothes, as we have become obsessed with footwear. That really puts us at the intersection.”