Once a humble underwear manufacturer in the foothills of the
Italian Alps, Fila has grown to become the world’s fifth-largest
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
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
It aims to bring the brand’s sporting heritage to the fore once
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
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
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.’