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L.A. Marathon sponsor ASICS readies training site, targets athletes

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ASICS America Corp., the sports equipment company with the title sponsorship of this weekend's Los Angeles Marathon, is looking beyond runners.

Instead, the brand is hoping to reel in more athletes in other sports, targeting them in an advertising campaign coming later this year and with a specialized training facility in its new Irvine headquarters.

“We want to continue building equity with athletes who run,” ASICS America Chief Executive Kevin Wulff said, “but we’re expanding our running base to include people who participate in a range of sports.”

ASICS America, which has served as an arm of Japanese parent ASICS since 1977, this year expects to see more than $1 billion in sales for the first time in its history.

If so, its business will have more than doubled in five years. By 2015, the company said, it expects $1.25 billion in revenue.

ASICS derives its name from the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano, which translated means “a sound mind in a sound body.”

President Obama has been photographed in the company’s shoes, and the recent Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are expected to help lift sales.

Like many of its rivals, ASICS is benefiting from rising levels of disposable income and swelling interest in health among consumers.

Total U.S. sales for athletic footwear and activewear reached $36 billion in sales from January to August 2013, according to research firm the NPD Group.

Sales in just the footwear category rose 1% during the period from a year earlier, with larger jumps among basketball shoes and casual athletic shoes for men.

The global market -- which includes shoes for running, sports, hiking, backpacking and other activities -- was worth $74.7 billion in 2011, according to a recent report from Transparency Market Research.

By 2018, the industry’s value is expected to reach $84.4 billion, with the Asia-Pacific region holding 41.6% of market share, followed by Europe.

But growth in North America has been slower due to high labor costs, increasingly expensive raw materials and strong competition, according to the report. 

ASICS holds more than 12% of the estimated $6.6-billion U.S. running market, behind Nike, which controls 54%, according to data from SportsOneSource. Adidas is third with less than 11%.

ASICS America said it will finish moving from its current headquarters in Irvine to its new location in the same city by the end of summer or the beginning of fall.

The new 120,000-square-foot site, “a stone’s throw from the Spectrum mall,” will double its predecessor’s space, Wulff said. ASICS is leasing the space from the Irvine Co. for an undisclosed amount.

Nearly 25,000 square feet will be set aside for what ASICS calls its Sports Institute, a facility with full-sized volleyball and basketball courts, areas for speed and agility training and cameras built into some of the floors.

“We’re trying to find things to help increase our visibility within Southern California,” Wulff said.

Hence ASICS’ continued participation in the marathon, which is set to wind its way from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday. The race is sold out, with 25,000 registered runners.

ASICS said it has a dozen or so employees participating. 

To commemorate the event, ASICS is releasing a limited edition version of its GEL-Lyte33 shoe and a small-batch collection of apparel and accessories.

The company is also sending a custom-built treadmill around the city -- with remaining stops at the Los Angeles Convention Center and near the marathon's finish line -- to let Angelenos try their speed against a champion marathoner’s pace.

The machine, equipped with a safety harness, operates at the equivalent of a 4-minute, 50-second mile. ASICS said it will donate $5 per minute logged on the treadmill, up to $26,200, to charity.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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