afaqs!

Oakley eyes the sports minded in India

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | February 03, 2009
The premium sports eye wear brand is stepping up its brand visibility in the country

Oakley, the premium sports eye wear brand based in the USA, has plans to significantly increase its brand presence in India. Oakley is now a part of the Italian luxury sunglasses group, Luxottica, and plans to take advantage of the group's strong distribution, both around the world and in India.

Luxottica owns nine brands, including Ray Ban (which is also manufactured in India) and has the licenses of 20 luxury brands such as Prada and Versace.

While & #BANNER1 & # he was on a visit to India, afaqs! caught up with Scott Bowers, senior vice-president, global marketing and brand development, Oakley Inc., to know more about the company's plans in India.

"India is a progressive nation and it's amazing how it embraces fashion and style," says Bowers, adding that as a first step in India, Oakley will create relationships with sports persons to use the brand.

"We have always believed that athletes wearing our products when they are in competition is the most authentic brand exposure we can get. What you will see is an increase in athletes utilising our products throughout India. We are already prominent in cricket and golf. We need to augment that and give the brand more exposure," he says. This, however, does not imply brand endorsements and the relationships will be built either personally with the athletes or through sports associations.

The brand is also looking at sponsoring sports events in the country and promoting sports in its own way.

What Bowers is clear about is that there will be no formal advertising for at least a year. "We don't want to over expose the brand through the media. We want to build the brand slowly and methodically and develop the authenticity first. In the first year, you will not see a splashy ad campaign but you will see Oakley show up in more places and among athletes. It will get visibility through broad distribution," he says.

Oakley, which has so far been available only through certain distributors, can now count on the wide reach of the Luxottica group to increase its visibility. Luxottica's brands are available in 130 countries and it has operations in 38 markets. In November 2008, Luxottica announced its plans to open 100 Sunglass Huts, its retail stores, across India.

Elaborating on the positioning of the brand, Bowers says, "Oakley has the best in optics, impact protection and UV protection. Oakley is about performance, while, say Ray Ban, is about fashion. Our positioning is going after those who are in an active lifestyle, playing sports or aspire to align with something sporty. Oakley participates heavily in any sport where eye wear can be worn. Oakley is cool but in a more rebellious way."

He adds that the company is targeting 18-28 year olds who are "cutting-edge and willing to embrace interesting styles".

Though there are no plans for advertising, Bowers says that the company may consider mall signage for promotions. It will also launch an awareness drive through retail promotions where people will be educated about eye protection and choosing the right kind of sunglasses with the right optics.

"There will be a training initiative for consumers and trade explaining why sunglasses are priced as they are. Sports is becoming fashionable now and people are taking better care of themselves - a trend which is positive for Oakley," adds Bowers. The company will also target people who play sports or aspire to be sports persons and inform them about the importance of sports eye wear.

Oakley also manufactures prescription eye wear, apparel, footwear and accessories which will also make their way into India.