Under Armour this month rolled out a highly anticipated line of footwear after an intense three-month teaser campaign.

The launch of Under Armour’s performance trainers marks the brand’s full entrance into the athletic footwear market (after rolling out sports cleats in 2006). The company prepared a splashy unveiling, announcing in January that it would use a “substantial portion” of its 2008 marketing budget in the first half of the year to herald the debut. The footwear retails at $80 to 100 for adult products and $55 to 75 for kids wear.

The effort began with a 60-second TV spot that broke during the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 to kick off a marketing countdown. The company did that literally by distributing standees with digital countdown clocks to Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Finish Line stores. Beginning in February, Sports Authority and Dick’s teased the footwear in weekly circulars to encourage pre-orders. Window clings and fixtures merchandising Under Armour apparel also promoted the launch with signage reading, “The New Prototype 5.3.08.”

Sports Authority added to the mix by posting billboards in some markets and hosting co-sponsored in-store events. “The Big E,” a fictional character featured in Under Armour’s advertising, made an April appearance at a store in Illinois to “hype the launch,” according to a Sports Authority spokesperson.

The May 3 rollout was accompanied by an abundance of marketing activity centering on the tagline, “Stop Training in Running Shoes.” Under Armour representatives were present at select Sports Authority and Dick’s stores to help introduce the product.

Sports Authority opened its 433 stores at 8 a.m. — one hour earlier than usual — and showcased the collection on table displays near entrances that directed shoppers to the footwear department. The shoes were merchandised on floorstands in main aisles and endcaps in the department.

Dick’s, meanwhile, features the line on mobile floorstands, branded slatwalls and table displays in its footwear department. The line became the focal point of the Under Armour shops found in some Dick’s stores.

The line’s unique packaging also draws attention to the product. The box’s top and one side are transparent, allowing shoppers to view the style and color before opening.

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