May 10, 2010 at 03:07 PM
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K-Swiss CEO: "All We Are Going To Do in 2010 is Spend A Lot of Money"

Last year, K-Swiss execs decided to bet big on their home state by completely rebranding the footwear company as the California Sports Company. While CEO Steven Nichols said they won't see a payoff until 2011 at the earliest, that won't seem to stop the company from spending.

"Once we decided that we are going to emphasize our California roots, then getting the largest sign in Dodgers stadium was somewhat mandatory, sponsoring the LA Marathon was somewhat mandatory, triathlon was invented in California, there is a lot of spirit in California," Nichols said.

But while one may think that a company with a Napoleonic home-state branding complex would be marketing to locals, that's not the case. K-Swiss has bigger plans to export the California brand. According to Nichols:

"Most Californians do not understand what it means. It’s where they live and they go to work and they sit in traffic jams. To the rest of the world, California is the Hollywood sign. And we started floating this idea, people in California said it was interesting. The people in Asia and Europe started jumping and up and down said it’s the most exciting thing I have ever heard in my life. So California has meaning around the world and we passed the smell test.

When K-Swiss tried to export its brand to the French Open a couple years back, it involved a giant purple tennis ball and a smashed car:

The current three-phased rebranding effort first focused on aligning with "California heritage" and will subsequently focus on running and then make a larger investment into tennis, according to execs at the company.

On the media side, Swiss aims to communicate its California roots with a new campaign dubbed "Have an Awesome Day," which will tell visual stories of idyllic days set in California. The campaign, which includes television spots, print and interactive elements broke in March with a focus on the sports and entertainment vertical, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, MTV, MTV2, MTVU, Fox Sports, Comedy Central.

The bad news for investors is none of this will pay off this year.

"All we are going to do in 2010 is spend a lot of money. Will the payoff happen in 2011? We are betting on it. But it’s just a bet. Sometimes you win them and sometimes you lose them," Nichols explained.

Not quite an awesome day for investors, but certainly sweet music to the ears of media and event properties. Now if they can just get rid of that ferris wheel.

Photo: K-Swiss