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How Green Is Their Volley : Tennis Shoe Firm's Ads Target a Younger Audience

May 08, 1997|DENISE GELLENE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

K-Swiss, whose prime customers are over 35, is serving up its tennis shoes to the MTV generation with its first television campaign in five years. Whether the Chatsworth-based company can make a match of it is another matter.

For one thing, K-Swiss is spending only $4 million on its campaign, an amount dwarfed by the leading seller of tennis shoes, Nike Inc. Its top endorsers aren't Andre or Pete or Steffi, but, uh, Mark and Todd. That's Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, an Australian doubles team that is little-known despite past victories at Wimbledon.

Nonetheless, K-Swiss is betting that its low-budget campaign, with its fast-paced music-video-style commercials, will click with teens and young adults.

The company is stretching its limited budget by using cable TV, which is cheaper than broadcast advertising. Spots will air on four cable channels, including MTV, where K-Swiss will also sponsor the channel's annual beach party programming.

Beyond television, K-Swiss has been organizing Pong-style video game matches on the Internet, hoping to build recognition among 18- to 24-year-olds.

"We have a loyal core group of users, but they are getting older," said Deborah Mitchell, K-Swiss marketing vice president. "We want to tell young people about our product in a way that is meaningful to them."

The campaign comes as K-Swiss enters its third consecutive year of declining sales, due in part to the shrinking popularity of tennis. K-Swiss, consequently, is pitching its classic white leather shoe, introduced in 1966, for casual dressing.

Still, the company isn't running from its heritage. The commercials from Marina del Rey advertising agency Fattal & Collins show young people wearing tennis shoes on and off the court.

Mitchell said tennis imagery helps set the brand apart from competitors.

"We took an assessment of what we could use, and there are not many things in our bag of tricks," she said. Besides, Mitchell added, "everyone else is talking about basketball. Tennis is different, and it is who we are."

Meanwhile, Back at the Rancho

Rancho La Quinta Country Club, a residential golf club that hosted the Skins Game in November, is crediting Tiger Woods' participation in that tournament with a surge in home sales.

The development, located in the Coachella Valley, said sales during the first three months of 1997 are up 50% over last year, and visits from prospective buyers are up by 63%. The average home sale was $500,000.

Rancho La Quinta said there's no word on whether Woods will play in this year's Skins Game, where bets are placed on each hole. But he's being invited.

Appeal Nears End of the Road

The clock is ticking on Chrysler Corp.'s administrative appeal of an October decision by the state Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend auto shipments into the state for 45 days. The action was punishment for lemon law violations. The New Motor Vehicle Board said it will hear Chrysler's case at a public meeting July 17. If the board upholds the DMV decision, Chrysler may still file a court appeal.

Denise Gellene can be e-mailed at denise.gellene@latimes.com or faxed at (213) 237-7837.

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