Saucony returns to Newburyport ad agency Mechanica after walking away two years ago

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When a consumer company drops its ad agency of record, there’s usually no turning back.

But sometimes relationships can be rekindled, divorces undone. That’s just what happened to Saucony and Mechanica, the Newburyport agency that launched the “Find your strong” campaign for the Lexington-based athletic shoe brand.

Unlike many bigger agencies, Mechanica outsources much of its creative work such as website design and copy writing. To some extent, this allows the 21-person firm to focus on its clients more closely, to act less like a media buyer and more like a trusted adviser.

Saucony President Richie Woodworth tells me he missed that one-on-one personal touch. Saucony had dropped Mechanica in favor of Olson, a much larger agency in Minneapolis, two years ago. Woodworth says Saucony, now a division of shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide, wanted to work with a bigger shop that offered more of a one-stop shopping experience. “(But) what we found was that we lacked that partnership, that ability to talk to principals about strategic problems,” Woodworth says.

So Woodworth reached out to Mechanica co-owners Ted Nelson and Libby Delana. The two, along with Jim Garaventi, worked together at Mullen when that agency was based on the North Shore, and they decided to venture out on their own about 10 years ago. In July, Woodworth reunited with Nelson and Delana over dinner at Brine, the downtown Newburyport restaurant. It didn’t take long before Mechanica and Saucony were back in business together.

Saucony’s new ad campaign is still in its early planning stages, and probably won’t be unveiled until early 2015. Running shoe companies often debut their ads in the spring, in part to time them with the Boston Marathon and in part because it’s when many people start running outside again.

The “Find your strong” slogan may continue in the new campaign, but Woodworth says there’s no guarantee. He declined to say how much Saucony is spending on the campaign — other than to note that marketing budgets at the company have increased at a 12 to 15 percent rate every year over the last four years, a pace commensurate with sales growth.

Woodworth says returning to the Saucony-Mechanica relationship felt comfortable, like slipping on a pair of old running shoes. Nelson says nearly everyone who was at Mechanica when Saucony left is still around today.

Nelson says Saucony’s return underscores the value of the agency-client relationship, particularly at a time when traditional advertising can be less important than consumer engagement efforts such as events and interacting via social media, and more holistic approaches to brand promotion are increasingly critical. “We’re in a complicated time for brand creation (because) consumers have all the power,” Nelson says. “It’s very hard to break through.”

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