Having been slightly underwhelmed by certain pop-up venues away from the official Olympic events, a visit to the Mizuno Performance Centre was met with a certain level of trepidation. On approach, the grubby windows of the building did little to attract passing footfall, and it was only through strained eyes that the extensive Mizuno window displays could be made out. This seemed a shame and a missed opportunity, yet we were greeted inside by friendly staff decked out in striking purple uniforms. They directed us up the Mizuno-adorned stairs to an exhibition room that was filled with staff but noticeably short on visitors.
The concept behind the ‘Mizuno experience’ was first hand consumer involvement with the brand. This was achieved through three sporting tests, each performed wearing a different set of Mizuno footwear from their new ‘Seiei Collection’. The football and handball challenges involved measurements of accuracy and speed; we were issued with a pair of boots for football and, perhaps slightly unnecessarily, a pair of trainers for the handball. Nevertheless, all the footwear received unanimous nods of approval for lightweight feel and comfort. The technology raised the challenges above other similar, simpler experiential events and it was the athletics experience that represented the most impressive area of the centre. We were each handed a pair of Mizuno spikes and invited to record our quickest times over 20 metres on the custom-made indoor track. Accurate times were recorded and replays of the sprints were shown on surrounding widescreen TVs.
Away from the challenges, an exhibition showcased Mizuno’s Japanese heritage, whilst the VIP rooms provided the brand’s athletes and corporate guests with a place to unwind, away from the Olympic hustle and bustle. Part of this included a Mizuno wall, where athletes had scrawled notes of thanks to the brand for their continued support. It seemed a nice touch and lent the lounges a more personal feel.
Due to Olympic regulations, Mizuno were unable to leverage any of their ambassador assets around the Centre, and instead cleverly relied on sketched sporting artwork on the walls. This presented a slight issue when it came to any of the Synergists naming a Mizuno athlete, which in turn reflected a bigger issue for Mizuno: as impressive as the centre was, do ventures like this provide real value for smaller sports brands when breaking into Western markets so dominated by the larger companies?
The Performance Centre represented a display of how a brand can showcase itself in a simple yet effective manner. The challenges allowed a level of immersion into the brand in a way that did not feel overly gimmicky, and the crisp and clean technological delivery was thoroughly impressive. It was a fine showing from Mizuno through a series of athletic experiences, which, when handled differently, can so often lead to indifference and disappointment.
By Rob Guppy on August 15th, 2012