New Balance – the independent footwear giant, well-known for its 990 “Dad shoe” – has been a longstanding player in the athletic footwear industry, competing with market leaders Nike and Adidas. More recently, though, New Balance has seen record growth. In 2022, the brand reported over $5 billion in revenue and a 21% growth from the previous year – trailing behind Puma, who reported over $8 billion in revenue. New Balance’s significant growth was largely driven by expanding product lines while also growing its brand collaborations and athlete sponsorships. Additionally, CEO Joe Preston has eyes set on doubling in size and hitting $10 billion in revenue over the next few years.

According to CivicScience’s always-on tracking, 42% of U.S. adults are currently favorable to New Balance shoes – a figure that has wavered over the last 365 days but has seen a two-percentage-point increase since this time last year. Compared to other major sneaker brands over the last year, New Balance has battled back-and-forth in terms of favorability with top retailer Nike. That said, New Balance has ranked consistently ahead of Nike since March 2023 – meaning it’s the most-liked shoe brand among U.S. adults since the end of Q1. This also aligns with previous CivicScience data showing that New Balance was the top shoe brand consumers were planning on buying this past spring and summer season. 

New Balance Has Gained Significant Interest Among Gen Z

Gen Z could be leading the high brand favorability. Compared to this time last year, favorability among Gen Z adults aged 18-24 jumped from 34% in September 2022 to 52% in September 2023. Whereas, favorability among all other generations stayed relatively stagnant from this time last year. 

Men have also reported higher interest in New Balance from September 2022. A majority of men 18+ (52%) say they’re favorable to the shoe brand, up eight percentage points from last year. Conversely, women reported a decrease in interest, from 45% in 2022 to 42% today.

Nostalgia Overwhelmingly Drives Brand Favorability

What’s leading the jump in favorability among these demographics? Nostalgia, for one. CivicScience data has consistently shown how consumers who say they’re influenced by nostalgia are likely to make different types of purchases (e.g., McDoanld’s adult Happy Meals, Y2K fashion trends). In particular, Gen Z is most likely to claim they’re influenced ‘a lot’ by nostalgia in their purchases, while CivicScience data show that Gen X is most likely to have actually made the most nostalgia-based purchases.

New Balance has also tapped into the nostalgia trend. The retailer sells numerous “retro” shoe styles, such as their 550 nostalgic white shoes that closely resemble earlier versions of New Balances, or the brand’s iconic gray 990 shoes that have remained largely unchanged for years. This trend also spills into their partnerships. For instance, New Balance partnered with athlete Francisco Lindor in July to create a limited-edition “vintage” shoe line.

A closer look via the InsightStore shows that a whopping 66% of U.S. adults who say nostalgia influences their purchases ‘a lot’ are favorable to New Balance shoes. Another 50% influenced by nostalgia ‘a little’ are New Balance fans – hinting nostalgic fashion is a worthwhile trend for New Balance. 

To show how much nostalgia influences New Balance’s favorability, CivicScience looked at nostalgia among Nike fans – the runner-up in the shoe favorability ranking. Twenty-five percent of those influenced ‘a lot’ by nostalgia are Nike shoe fans, which is nearly a third of the same cross of New Balance shoe favorables. Another 37% influenced ‘a little’ by nostalgia in their product purchases are Nike shoe fans.

Ultimately, New Balance can hone in on nostalgic marketing efforts to meet the needs of their growing Gen Z customer base, while also appealing to new audiences. As New Balance sets new growth goals over the next few years, CivicScience will continue to monitor trends among New Balance consumers.

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