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Friday
Oct302015

Value Proposition Ecore Athletic

For just the third time in its storied, 144-year history, one of the industry’s leading flooring firms is reimagining itself

For any firm, being relevant matters, and, in this digital age, branding has become a corporate imperative. When you’ve been conducting business continuously, and successfully, for more than 140 years, it stands to reason that you have a good handle on your market, and a clear understanding of the evolutionary shifts required to stay ahead of the competition.

…Which explains why, this year, Ecore International (EI) announced that it was launching a new business unit, Ecore Athletic (which formerly consisted solely of Everlast Fitness Flooring), during IHRSA’s 34th Annual International Convention and Trade Show in Los Angeles.

It was news—big news—for a number of reasons.

First, EI has been circumspect about making significant identity changes during its lengthy history. Since its founding, by G.W. Dodge, in 1871 as the Dodge Cork Company, it’s undergone only two major branding transformations. In 1989, it changed its name to Dodge-Regupol, reflecting a joint venture that accelerated its move into recycled rubber products. Eighteen years later, after it had terminated that partnership, it renamed itself Ecore International.

Second?

“We’d become a ‘house of brands,’” says Bo Barber, the vice president of sales, marketing, and business development for Ecore Athletic. “Customers knew our multiple subbrands and products, but our primary brand, Ecore, received little or no attention. As a result, Ecore decided to become a ‘branded house.’”

The difference between a “house of brands” and a “branded house” may seem subtle, but given Ecore Athletic’s scope of brands—it makes sense.

A clarified identity

During the past decade, the company has been steadily expanding its portfolio of products. In terms of athletic and fitness surfacing products alone, Ecore Athletic now encompasses seven product families: Everlast Fitness Flooring; Stacked athletic surfacing; Shockpad performance underlayments for tracks, courts, and turf fields; ColorMill EPDM granules for track surfacing and synthetic turf infill; Boen Sport engineered-wood surfacing for group exercise, yoga, and dance; SportWeave modular carpet for fitness environments; Polyflor vinyl tiles for common areas and safety surfacing for wet areas; and Training Ground with Nike Grind surfaces and underlayments that make use of “retired” Nike shoes.

Staged and considered separately, all of those products could make for a real corporate identity crisis … and considerable customer confusion.

Ecore Athletic is neater, cleaner, and brilliantly descriptive.

While the need to centralize and clarify the brand was clear, correcting the course of a ship with a staff of 400, producing a wide range of products, wasn’t easy. From start to finish, the rebranding process took about three years, notes Barber. It entailed working with two outside agencies to ascertain where EI was as a company, and to help identify its ideal position within the industry. Internally, the marketing department worked with employees to explain the changes, why they were being made, and when they’d occur.

Reviewing all of EI’s products, determining which business units should be retained, and deciding which products would align with each, took a little less than a year. While the Ecore Athletic rebrand was officially “completed” just two months ago, Barber is convinced the effort is going to better define—and, perhaps, redefine—the company.

“The goal of the rebrand is to change the way people in the industry perceive us,” he says. “EI is no longer just a cork surfacing and recycled rubber flooring manufacturer. We offer so much more—products for  everything from playgrounds, weight rooms, and turf fields, to ones for hospitals, hotels, and retail environments. This new structure will support that message going forward.”

A consistent value proposition

While Ecore Athletic represents EI’s attempt to reposition its brand, the company’s value proposition has remained virtually unchanged since its founding in 1871, during the first presidential term of Ulysses S. Grant. Its defining mission and ambition are to transform reclaimed waste into unique performance surfaces.

“We’ve always believed that true sustainability is achieved when waste is your raw material,” suggests Barber. “By acquiring new equipment that can process reclaimed post-consumer waste in all forms, we’ve taken vertical integration to the next level.”

Barber’s reference to Nike is revealing and portends the future. Nike Grind material represents the “next step” of change and sustainability for EI. In the past, the manufacturer used preconsumer Nike Grind (factory scrap) in its Everlast Fitness Flooring; in 2014, it turned some 111 tons into surfacing. Later this year, though, it will begin using post-consumer material, or retired shoes, to produce a brand-new family of products called Training Ground with Nike Grind.

“At Ecore,” concludes Barber, “we believe you can make people’s lives and the earth better at the same time. We do it every day.”

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