Challenger Brands: How Dear Kate Keeps Reebok on its Feet

Reebok recently shifted marketing focus.  Its 2014 campaign strategy to appeal to a fitness-focused consumer seems like a great way to position itself opposite of its parent company, Adidas, and Nike. Matt O’Toole, Reebok’s Chief Marketing Officer said about the change, “It’s an invitation for all of us to take part and fight against complacency for everyday people, not just super stars and elite athletes” (as cited in Miller, 2014).  Who doesn’t want to support a brand championing “everyday people”?  By saying this, O’Toole was positioning Reebok by product user (Belch & Belch, 2014, p. 57).  Dear Kate, a women’s underwear company, gained mass appeal to “everyday” people by challenging Victoria’s Secret’s focus on homogenous body shape in their marketing (see image below- Victoria Secret ad top, Dear Kate ad bottom).


Cooper (2012) said of large companies who are challenger brands, “You may be big, but you maintain your appeal by displaying challenger characteristics and being utterly clear in what you stand for and, as importantly, who you are not.”  By pulling out of professional sport sponsorships and focusing its advertising dollars on appeal to general fitness, it is being very clear that it is out of the “super star and elite athlete” business.  I wonder if, in this spirit,  Reebok will ever widen its scope and market to the less enthusiastic fitness market (the 5K walkers, the go-to-the-gym-because-I-have-to kind of exercisers, etc.).  Their focus on running, dancing (Joseph, 2012) and CrossFit still excludes the lower impact fitness crowd.  It would be fun to see Reebok do an ad similar to Dear Kate’s where Reebok shows images of everyday people engaged in physical activity as opposed to the super athletic models that other brands use to promote their sports apparel.


Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A. (2015). Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective. (10th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Cooper, M.  (2012, July 2).  David vs. Goliath: How ‘challenger brands’ spur disruption.  Retrieved from

Miller, M.  (2014, March 3).  Reebok realigns visual identity to reflect fitness focus.  Retrieved from

The Dear Kate Team.  (2014, October 31).  The Perfect Body.[Online image].    Retrieved September 3, 2015 from

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