This week we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Diadora’s director of marketing/footwear Mark Wachter about where Diadora currently stands in the US market and in what direction the company is moving. We also got to talk about other Nike’s Vapor range, and how Adidas has taken control of MLS and its players. Here is how the conversation went:
Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Firstly, tell us a little about you and your experiences with soccer?
Mark: I grew up in Argentina, which I guess probably speaks for itself. My father was a US diplomat at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires. He was posted there for 12 years and another 2 years in Mexico City. I began playing Soccer when I was approx 7 years old on the streets with my neighborhood friends. Nothing organized, just playing all the time. My team from early on was and is River Plate. I used to go watch them every Sunday with friends at their home field “La Monumental”, or to away matches around Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has about 8 stadiums (Clubs own their stadiums) that hold 50,000 or more. There are no more passionate people about Futbol than the Argentines, and that passion get way out of hand during many matches.
What took you to Diadora?
Mark: I ended up at Diadora in 1991 when a good friend of mine from Boston was hired to take over the Soccer category for them. I started out in promotions and slowly worked my way up into Marketing and Sales.
Diadora is seen to be one of the leading footwear companies in Europe. It seems to be a new entity here in the US. Currently, what is Diadora’s position in the US market?
Mark: Diadora was established over 60 years ago in a small town outside of Venice in the foothills of the Alps. We started out as a boot manufacturing company for the Italian army that turned into one of the best known performance companies in the world. Diadora has always been known as a highly specialized company that focuses on performance products for a diverse group of athletes from sports such as Soccer, Tennis, Auto Racing, Motor Cycle Racing, Cycling, Running… the list goes on and on. We got our start in the US market in the early 80s, so I cannot say that we are that new to this market. We are probably the 4th brand in terms of market share with an equal balance between Footwear and Team Uniforms.
In terms of marketing what is Diadora’s target audience in the US?
Mark: Our target audience is the very serious player whom plays at least 5 times a week and is between the ages of 12 – 30.
Companies like Nike and Adidas seem to have a stranglehold on Soccer cleat market, what challenges have you faced trying to increase the market presence of Diadora?
Mark: We obviously realize that we cannot out spend the big two; however we have continued to deliver products that provide exceptional value at every price point. Our marketing is our product. It is important that when a player first tries one of our products on they recognize that Diadora delivers unsurpassed performance, while not sacrificing any comfort or function for the player. Our designs tend to not be quite as flashy as the competition, I would characterize them as having more ELEGANCE, with the small detailing that Italians our known for. First and foremost Diadora is a product company, where our product does all the marketing for us.
With Nike’s Vapor range having so much success, Adidas with the Powerswerve, and now Puma receiving a lot of attention for the Puma Ferrari, will we see any future surprises from Diadora? Will we be seeing any new releases this year?
Mark: Absolutely, you will be seeing primarily new color updates to our already successful LX, and Maracana collections, while for 2010 we are creating 2 all new collections that will be addressing the younger more aggressive player as well as the competitor whom is more concerned about function and comfort. As always our styles will be lightweight, comfortable, and have subtle designs that speak to the elegance that we have always been known for.
That sounds pretty exciting!
The MLS season has just restarted. Being an ex-player I have seen how Adidas rule the league. In fact, players are not allowed to wear any cleats other than Adidas unless we recieve written permission from another footwear company. Do you think it is right that Adidas can have such control over a professional sport and what players can and cannot wear?
Mark: From a players standpoint it is a bad deal that they are not allowed to wear the footwear of their choice. It also has a negative impact on the “smaller” companies like Diadora who get forced out of the league. However, from a strictly marketing perspective it was a great move on Adidas’ part to secure the entire league for a fairly small fee. They not only lock in each market in which there is a team but they also have the television rights, which are probably more valuable as it pertains to next year’s World Cup.
Are there any players that officially wear Diadora cleats in MLS?
Mark: Right now Diadora MLS players include Shea Salinas – San Jose, Ryan Johnson – San Jose, John Leathers – Kansas City, Atiba Harris – Chivas, Roger Levesque – Seattle.
For anyone looking to invest in a new cleat, what advice would you give them on choosing, and also why would they encourage them to choose Diadora?
Mark: You need to go with something that you feel “comfortable” in from the time you first slip it on and by this I mean from a fit/cushioning/weight and look standpoint. You need to be careful with the minimalist lightweight footwear as it will not provide you with any protection, nor will the 1 or 2 less ounces that it weighs make any difference in your game. Diadora makes lightweight footwear as well; however, we never sacrifice the comfort/protection/fit end of the footwear in order to reduce weight.
Our thanks to Mark for taking the time out to speak to us. Mark was nice enough to give us a special promotion for our readers, check out the current range at Diadora America. and when you decide what you want to purchase use promotion code ARENA2009 (it’s case sensitive). This offer will give you 30% off + free shipping on any product.