Without much fanfare, Bell Sports has tackled the rebranding, repositioning and re-everything else of its fitness lines in the last 18 months, with the Savasa brand now out of the blocks and the Bell Fitness brand on the mark for its start by September.
Only a smidge of a business for its owner Easton Bell Sports, the line came about after Bell Sports, well-known maker of bike helmets, protective gear and team sports equipment, acquired the struggling Bollinger brand in 2002. After a couple of false starts and some rethinking of direction, Bell Sports hired a new product line manager in late 2006 and began to look at the line in earnest (Click here to see a September 2007 SNEWS® story, "The-brand-formerly-known-as-Bollinger: Bell's relaunch into fitness begins in earnest.")
"It's out of the gates now, and we're expanding the footprint and telling the story," product line manager Simon Fisher told SNEWS®.
The time taken has been in part because Fisher and his colleague overseeing the Savasa brand, Holly Hall, have other duties at Easton Bell (www.eastonbellsports.com), but also because the fitness segment is quite small for the company, demanding that Fisher and his team "sometimes have to be really loud to get the resources."
Easton's annual net income for the 2008 fiscal year declined by 8 percent to $13.4 million although its revenues of $775.5 million were up for the year. The fitness segment represented for the year only $17.7 million of that, but rose 17 percent. Of course, Fisher admitted, that is partly based on broadening the footprint that was nearly non-existent before.
Making an effort to do more than put the same-ol' weights, balls and bands on the market, Fisher's team has attempted a position for Savasa (www.savasafitness.com) that speaks to a certain part of the marketplace -- female, not just into yoga or Pilates but all-around fitness, desiring aesthetics and design, and some "green" leanings.
With a tagline of "The Unique Fit," Fisher said it is for and by women: "Everything says it's designed for woman," he said, calling out the environmentally safer plastics, colors, shapes and aesthetics. The new hand weights are a good example, he said, with shaped ends that allow them to nest together with a yin-yang look when side-by-side.
The eco touch is not a loud one since the brand is not positioned to be specifically an eco-brand; still, Hall and Fisher said they felt they are dealing with women and, specifically, potentially pregnant women so the added benefit of a safer plastic without toxins (phthalates or BPA) was important.
From price and look, the Savasa products are intended to be mid- to low-upper market, stretching into specialty and into only higher-end sporting goods. The former relationship with Kmart is long gone, he noted.
With the product now out and the website recently live, next up are advertisements and PR campaigns that will build into the summer.
Don't bother looking at the current Bell Fitness website (www.bellfitness.com) since everything about it -- from colors, fonts, branding, products and design -- will change by late summer 2009. OK, maybe take a look so you realize how out-dated it looks so you'll recognize the difference once the new look and gear is out.
Compared to the new Savasa brand feel, the Bell brand will be more unisex in its look but not as masculine as the current red-and-black branding. Colors will be softer yet not what may be typically termed "female." Without wanting to give away too much yet, Fisher said the goal will be to go after equipment that will not only look good in your home but also in your gym, equipment that doesn't necessarily stand out as workout equipment but does have a clear brand look.
Also coming will be partnerships with community organizations in the company's "ground-up" repositioning.
"Nothing," Fisher said, "has been left untouched."
SNEWS® View: For Easton Bell, the transition from its roots in 1923 as an auto parts company for hot rods to soft pinks and eco-plastics is an interesting one indeed. It's not as if there aren't enough accessory brands that supply all those balls, boards, belts, bells and other gear. With that in mind, making yours stand out in some way will be the trick to convincing a consumer, especially in today's economy, to part with just a little more cash than the cheap product on the shelf would demand. We'll be eager to see what's on tap for the Bell revamp as the family of brands progresses.