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I recently found myself in search of a new pair of Adidas and, after starting my search online, was led down two entirely different paths to purchase: that of a big-box retailer (Sports Authority) and that of a local independent retailer (Marathon Sports in Wellesley). When placed side-by-side, these two retail experiences further opened my eyes to the need for local retail support and a necessary shift away from big-box retail.

With the new year came new resolutions, so my wife and I decided to join a local gym. The first thing I would need to make this happen was a new pair of shoes, so I turned to a personal favorite: Adidas.

I’ve been fiercely loyal to the “Brand with the Three Stripes” ever since I was a kid, and I looked to them once again for a good pair of training shoes. Like nearly everyone else, I started my search online, searching on Google for “Adidas training shoes.” I was hit with a ton of information, images of this model and that.

Among the many listings, of course, were ads for the Adidas brick-and-mortar shops and the big-box retailers, but none, curiously enough, for any local independent retailers. I prefer to shop with local retailers — I bought my bike at Landry’s Bicycles, picked my paint out at a nearby Benjamin Moore retailer. Unfortunately, none were listed among my search, so I was forced to first turn to the big-box retailer near my house.

The Impersonal Style of Big-Box Retail vs. the Care, Expertise of Independent Retail


Despite some initial hesitation, I went to the Sports Authority down the hill. The enormous walls were packed from floor to ceiling with shoes. I found myself surrounded by many young minimum wage employees clocking in hours as they watched the minutes drag by.

I did find the Adidas model I was looking for, but the simple questions I asked eluded the staff. Which model should I purchase? Why is this one better than the other? Do you use any of these when you work out? None of these questions were answered. It appeared that the basic function of these big-box retail employees was to try and find the right size shoes, bring the sizes that were closest to it when they weren’t available, and begrudgingly put in their hours before rushing to clock out.

Not what I was looking for at all.

marathon sports new balance

Marathon Sports teams with New Balance to prepare runners for the Boston Marathon

I went home dissatisfied and did another quick Google search, this time for “running shoes near me,” and I found Marathon Sports, about eight miles from my home. When I arrived, I was immediately taken care of by Nick.

In sharp contrast to the big-box employees, Nick was knowledgeable, had experience with the products, and was ready to do whatever it took to help me find what I needed. He knew the products inside and out, and his care and attentiveness really helped to sell me on the purchasing decision. I ended up finding what I was looking for — a great pair of Adidas trainers, and I’ve been using them ever since.

Independent Retailers: A Brand’s Best Local Advocates

Through the years, Adidas has been a brand known not just for their quality products but also for their fantastic marketing materials and inspirational, community-positive messaging. They also have a long history of giving back and getting involved in local communities, from their sponsorship of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer to their partnership with America SCORES.

adidasSimilar to Adidas but on a much smaller scale, Wellesley’s Marathon Sports also focuses on community and motivation. The popular local store is an award-winning staple of the area. They provide local athletes with a healthy foundation, host running clubs, provide a great deal of support to not just runners but also charities for the annual Boston Marathon, and more. This level of community involvement, support and all-around passion is hard to come by in big-box retail.

Now, just imagine Adidas’s positive and uplifting messaging brought from the brand down to the level of a local retailer like Marathon Sports…

As I further learned in my two differing Adidas retail experiences, big-box retail is not a place for nurturing dedication or expertise, and, as a result, it can even leave a beloved brand somewhat tarnished in the eyes of consumers. Independent retailers, on the other hand, are a brand’s best local advocates. They boost local economies and return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors1, but they also know their local audiences best and strive to give back.

By further connecting and aligning with their independent retailers, brands like Adidas could be promoting and amplifying their moving messaging through retailers who have the care and savvy to create a consistent brand experience at the local level.


Mizuno’s ‘If Everybody Ran’ Campaign: The Power of Amplifying through Local Retailers

For their community-focused ‘If Everybody Ran’ campaign, our client, Mizuno, wanted to “think small” and amplify the campaign’s inspiring messaging down at the local retail level. So what did they do? They engaged their specialty retailers with local ad funds and striking marketing content for promotion across key digital channels (local mobile ads, Facebook, Twitter, website), and that’s not all.

Partnering with our team, Mizuno’s marketing materials were automatically co-branded to highlight both the brand and the retailer’s local store. As a result, Mizuno empowered their specialty retailers to be a part of a great cause and meaningfully connected with local consumer audiences. Take a look at some of Mizuno’s awesome co-branded content for their ‘If Everybody Ran’ campaign below:

mizuno if everybody ran

1 Independent We Stand

Read on > Find out why Mizuno was named a top innovator for its ‘If Everybody Ran’ campaign