Friday, April 23, 2010

Back in the Game, Less is More

By Ryan King (SMBA '11)

After hearing guest speakers from many different sports' industries thus far, the SMBA '11 had the opportunity to hear from Colin Brickley, the Global Marketing & PR Director for Pony International. For those under 25, Pony was once a world dominating multi-million dollar sports brand in the 1970’s and 80’s. Pony, who’s global headquarters are located in downtown San Diego is a brand looking to reinvent itself to new consumers and bring back the retro feel that its established supporters know and love.

Colin talked to us about growing up in San Diego and then going off to play football at East Carolina University, where he earned his degree in marketing and information processing. After college, not knowing what he wanted to do with himself, he decided to move to Los Angeles and work in the mailroom for the Endeavor Agency. He quickly learned that the advertising industry was not for him since it was all about lying and stealing other companies clients. Kissing a little butt and building relationships are the aspects that he took away from that experience. After working for Ben Sherman and the New Era Cap Company, he got a call from Reebok.

Reebok hired him to run their Entertainment marketing division on the west coast. Colin was able to use his celebrity connections from the advertising agency and New Era to build his personal value to Reebok. He ran Reebok’s L.A. flagship store that catered to high-end clients such as Paris Hilton and Wilder Valderrama. His responsibility was to mix the sports and entertainment world together. While he enjoyed his position, he felt that celebrities tried to take advantage of the free things that they were being given. After four years on the job, a head-hunter called him and mentioned a position in his hometown of San Diego working for Pony. He decided to leave Reebok and try and help Pony reclaim its allure.

In his three plus years, Pony has had several CEOs and visions. One CEO wanted Pony to be a ‘beach meets athletic’ shoe company while another CEO wanted to focus on sports athletic shoes for baseball, basketball, and football. Pony was signing athletes to wear their product before they were able to produce a quality product for the athlete. They were manufacturing a subpar product because they went to market with a rushed product. Another mistake was taking Footlocker’s top 10 selling shoes and making their own version of the shoe with their signature chevron logo on it and deciding to charge $10 more than the original company was selling their shoe. This decision backfired on Pony, as the shoes were not perceived well in the market. Colin went to the board and voiced his opinion. His opinion was to focus on one sport and own it. He mentioned how Under Armour was able to own the moisture management market before branching out into the sneaker world, because they had built their credibility through the moisture management clothing.

So, where is Pony headed now? Pony just went from 40 employees at their global headquarter to 5 employees. They also decided to stop making athletic shoes and go back to their roots as a casual/ retro old school brand. They feel that this is what they were best known for so they went from 240 sneaker silhouettes to 5 classic silhouettes that will all be packaged in their original Pony packaging. Pony has also decided to change how they advertise and market their products. They will no longer attend large trade show’s like the Magic show in Las Vegas, but, rather, attend smaller shows such as Compass and Capsule trade shows in New York and showcase their shoes in small boutiques along with the major sneaker outlets like Footlocker. Colin also mentioned that Pony has started to make SMU’s (Special Make Up), which are limited edition shoes. They feel if they limit the number of shoes that they make it will drive up the demand for the shoe. He talked about a limited edition Boston Red Sox shoe that is now selling on EBay for $1,800 as reasoning for creating SMU’s. Colin and Pony are looking for trendsetters to push the brand forward and bring back some of its historic following.

After Colin spoke to the class he stuck around and answered questions from individual students. He also mentioned that there are a lot of internship opportunities with Pony and that he’d be willing to show a group of students around their headquarters to see how they operate.

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog Ry. I actually owned a pair of Pony's not too long ago (5-6 years ago) and wore them as retro sneaks. Watch out for the Kangaroos though because they are trying to take over that market as well. However, I do remember my first pair of baseball cleats were Pony's, because my pops wore them while playing in his softball league.

    Keep doing a good job man...