GLOBAL BRIEF: Fila aims to raise game with sport for all approach Consistency will be key to the Italian outfit’s global tactics. By Lisa Campbell.

Once a humble underwear manufacturer in the foothills of the Italian Alps, Fila has grown to become the world’s fifth-largest sportswear manufacturer.

Once a humble underwear manufacturer in the foothills of the

Italian Alps, Fila has grown to become the world’s fifth-largest

sportswear manufacturer.



Fusing fashion and function, the brand has proved as popular on the

street as it is in the gym.



But the company’s new vice-president, global advertising and promotion,

Allessandro De Pestel, believes the fashion and sporting mix has become

too confusing. He is concerned that this inconsistency - Fila is

perceived as a serious sports brand in the UK, Australia and France, but

a fashion brand in Japan and Germany - may be damaging and hamper

international growth.



To address the problem, the company last week appointed the Omnicom

Group agencies, TBWA Worldwide and Merkley Newman Harty in New York,

giving them the task of overseeing a dollars 40 million advertising

campaign spanning 54 countries.



The idea behind the new strategy is ’the renaissance - the new

race’.



It aims to bring the brand’s sporting heritage to the fore once

again.



It will emphasise Fila’s technical strengths as a pioneer of the use of

materials such as jersey and pique in the past, and more recent advances

such as F-Tec, a new fabric allowing moisture to pass more quickly from

the skin to the garment’s surface.



This positioning around performance rather than style has already been

adopted by several countries. The UK is one of the most advanced,

beginning the transition around 18 months ago through a campaign by

Billington Jackson.



It focused on running and football with top athletes such as Ian Wright

and Paolo di Canio taking top billing. The move has also resulted in a

leisurewear deal with West Ham football club.



Billington Jackson is expected to continue this approach, dipping into

the new global pool where necessary. The sports emphasis was also

adopted in the US by Leo Burnett, which was appointed in July last year

but resigned from the account this September. However, the brand’s poor

performance in the US and in Italy make these markets a key focus for

the new campaign which breaks in February.



Founded in 1923 by two brothers called Fila, the company did not become

linked to sports until the 70s when it produced the first cotton-ribbed

knitwear for tennis based on the tubular machines used in its underwear

production. Its fame grew when the ’white line’ became the preferred

apparel of the tennis ace, Bjorn Borg.



But how will a sports revival give the brand the vital differentiation

from rivals such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas, each of which place

athletes at the centre of their marketing campaigns?



The point of difference is to make Fila a more human brand, which

emphasises that sports can be enjoyed by everyone, not just the

super-talented.



According to a company spokesman, Daniele Menarini: ’It’s about

rediscovering the original passion and emotion for sport. It’s not about

a competitive spirit or super-champ.’



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