National Dog Day is coming on Aug. 26. While likely not intended to coincide with the “holiday,” a new ad for Saucony puts a furry, four-legged friend squarely in the middle of the action. While pets can end up being window dressing or a cute diversion in ads, a sheepdog in the spot promoting the running brand’s Endorphin Collection is the story’s foundation.
Each day, a runner heads out with her dog. As she returns, the pup bolts in, a triumphant winner in a daily race. In the shot, it’s not clear what brand of shoes she’s wearing. The same sequence continues three times, but, on the fourth go-round, the runner returns wearing a new pair of colorful Saucony shoes, with the sheepdog tuckered out, clearly losing the race this time.
It’s a clever spin and an accessible ad. While most athletic brand advertising relies on high-energy montages, the pacing and tone are more down-to-earth and relatable. Leading up to National Dog Day on Wednesday, who doesn’t love an ad with a trusty canine running partner? The shift of shoes locks in the positioning: “You, But Faster,” touting the technology in the brand’s line, which has been named an editor’s choice by Runner’s World magazine.
In the highly competitive running specialty market, Saucony—which is fourth in share behind Brooks, New Balance and Hoka, but ahead of Asics and footwear giant Nike—sees the accessible tone as a plus for the three-show line.
“There’s a playbook in the performance running space,” said Anne Cavassa, president of Saucony. “We’re 120 years old, but we’re one of the smaller brands and definitely a challenger. So we are looking for ways to be our authentic selves as runners, [share] the love of running, [determine] what that means to us and tell that a genuine, distinctive story.”
Like most, the agency was forced to change production plans to adapt to the pandemic—the ad was shot and produced by remote teams—and shifted from its original plans to go a little bigger for the brand. According to F&B creative Johan Olivero, the critical thread, regardless of timing, was inspired by Saucony’s former CMO Don Lane.
“He said, ‘There’s a lot of bad in the world, can we inject some good?’ That was inspiring for us to find different things that Saucony could do to center on running and engage with different things in society and culture,” said Olivero, who joined the agency’s New York office from Sweden in 2019.
According to Cavassa, a Seattle native who spent time in her career at Brooks, Eddie Bauer, Nike and Reebok, the brand will continue to lean into purpose through its global “Run for Good” platform. It includes a successful 15-year-old foundation, events, partnerships and programming, but is more of a call to action and invitation to use running as a mechanism to make the world a better place.
“We happen to be at a moment in time, particularly with Covid-19, where brands stand for something and speak out on the things that matter to them,” said Cavassa. “We’re doing a lot of little things that are changing our behavior and the way we operate to make ‘Run for Good’ something that is who we are over the long haul and shows the transformative power of running.”
CMO: Don Lane
Senior Marketing Director: Jessica Newton
Performance Brand Marketing Manager: Jessica Rowe
Digital Marketing Manager: Grace Smith
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors NYC
Creative Director / Copywriter: Johan Olivero
Creative Director / Art Director: Johan Eghammer
Copywriter: Justin Cannon
Head of Production: Kim Jose
Producer: Laura Peguero
Business Affairs Director: Matthew Friday
Account Director: Elizabeth Asselin
Business Development Manager: Alex Zadeii
Production Company: Greenpoint Pictures
Director: Jesse Heath
Head of Production: Karen Berkowitz
Executive Producer: Tatiana Rudzinski
Line Producer: Kennedy Davey