Now, a campaign redefines running as social activity

Once perceived as largely a solitary pursuit, running today is a more social endeavor, as runners train with friends for shorter races like five-kilometer charity runs. And rather than a single-minded pursuit, running increasingly is just one aspect of participation in a Tough Mudder obstacle course competition, triathlon or boot camp-style fitness class.

Now, New Balance hopes to capture this newer ethos of running with a campaign it calls "Runnovation" that promotes running as more of a social activity and part of a training regimen. "Redefine girls' night out," says the headline of one print ad that shows a group of women running in Boston at night. "Thursday night. 9:15 p.m.," the copy continues. "Some go out.

Others go out and make excellent happen. The night is yours. This is Runnovation."

Online videos and print ads also highlight the November Project, a free, all-weather, runningbased exercise group that works out three times aweek in the Boston area.

"Hit the wall. On purpose," says the headline of an ad showing a group in running gear jumping onto a low stone wall. "Somerville, MA. 6:48 a.m.," the copy continues. "Run there. Sprint stairs. Jump up on walls. Push-ups. Situps. Run home. Take shower. Get to work. This is Monday. This is November Project. This is Runnovation." The campaign, which includes online-only videos and digital advertising, is by Arnold Worldwide, Boston, part of the Havas Creative unit of Havas. It will be introduced Tuesday with advertising in about eight magazines, including Runner's World, Men's Health, Women's Health and Outside.

New Balance, which declined to reveal the expenditure for the campaign, spent $14.4 million on advertising in 2012, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP.

Hilary Keates, the director of global marketing and brand management at New Balance, said that the brand had moved away from showing runners alone in advertising in recent years. "We've definitely made a shift in showing more people in advertising," Keates said. "It's less about being alone on a road and more about that community that you get out in the running world." Luke Perkins, a creative director at Arnold, said that showing groups of runners was more arresting.

"The solo runner is less impactful," Perkins said. "But visually a pack of runners running or training or working out is a beautiful thing." Keates said the object of the new campaign was "to really document those changes of running being more social and participatory, and to show how we as a brand are really pushing the envelope in terms of that evolution in running."

Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham, friends who began the November Project in 2011, promote it through social media like Facebook and Twitter. New Balance, which is based in Boston, does not sponsor the November Project, which it features in a short online documentary that is part of the campaign, but it was intimately familiar with it because employees of the brand and its agency, Arnold, have participated in the workouts.

"We didn't have to look beyond our backyard on how best to articulate this social component, because the November Project is a wonderful articulation of this real sense of community and togetherness," Keates said.

The new campaign also highlights running in unusual settings, featuring Anton Krupicka, a runner sponsored by New Balance who competes in 50-mile and 100-mile ultramarathon trail runs. Finally, the New Balance campaign highlights the brand's design facility to show how it designs shoes for evermore complicated running challenges - like those encountered by Krupicka.

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