Event scores with Keen as footwear company opts for road less traveled

Event, the waterproof/breathable membrane that first appeared on the market in 2002 and was first embraced by Lowe Alpine and then wasn't, has scored a significant U.S. client -- Keen Footwear. The initial offering will include three men's and three women's styles that will be shown at both Winter Market and ispo.
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Event, the waterproof/breathable membrane that first appeared on the market in 2002 and was first embraced by Lowe Alpine and then wasn't, has scored a significant U.S. client -- Keen Footwear. The initial offering will include three men's and three women's styles that will be shown at both Winter Market and ispo.

"This is very, very exciting for us in the U.S.," Jim Lenox, Event's business manager, told SNEWS®. "Keen is a brand that has great distribution, is in a high growth mode right now, and enjoys a cult following that is remarkable."

Scott McGuire, outdoor category manager for Keen, told us that the company opted for Event as much out of a belief in the product technology as a need to remain different from the competition in all ways.

"We had some very good conversations with Gore and think very highly of those guys," McGuire said. "But in the end, we believe in the Event technology and the direct vent ability to move sweat away from the foot and protect the membrane, and because of that, we felt that if any company should be a company that supports Event, it should be Keen.

"No question that Gore is an amazing brand and it is in a lot of products, but that is what sealed it," said McGuire. "You can simply be just another company that uses Gore, or you can put your faith in another amazing technology and focus on being different. Keen has never shied away from trying to be different."

Keen believes, McGuire told us, that since the company enjoyed very strong sell-through with its first waterproof/breathable membrane shoe this season, the Targhee, a shoe that used a non-branded PTFE membrane, it will garner acceptance with a full line of waterproof/breathable membrane shoes made with Event, on the strength of the Keen name alone.

While Keen is embracing Event now, it is unlikely a partnership would have been pursued two years ago, when Event was owned by BHA and had relatively shallow marketing pockets, McGuire said. GE bought Event in late 2004.

"I don't know if we would have made this decision two years ago," McGuire told us. "As good as the product is, it makes a difference knowing that the GE infrastructure is behind Event. GE has very high expectations in how they do things and they have the capital to support Event promotional efforts."

SNEWS® View:
While Event is playing this down publicly, somewhat, there is little doubt from talking with folks at the company that the team is quite giddy with the Keen endorsement. As SNEWS® mentioned, now that Event is part of the GE family and has the marketing muscle it once lacked, it should be able to compete on a level playing field with Gore. Consider that GE owns NBC, and is a sponsor of the Olympics through 2010. Some of the NBC relationships are already being leveraged. We have learned that Ground, another of Event's customers, is taking advantage of the NBC affiliation by outfitting NBC news affiliate stations in its backyard with Event outerwear. And, with the Keen partnership, suddenly Event gains access to an additional 2,500 storefronts in the United States, adding up to more eyes seeing the Event brand and more eyes that will become aware of the Event message.

From a personal perspective, we are smiling. We love Gore product, don't get us wrong. And there is no way Gore is going to be knocked from atop its throne as reigning king of the waterproof/breathable realm anytime soon. But we also believe competition is healthy, and it finally appears as if Gore has a solid competitor of equal marketing might, and that is good for everyone.

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