June 15, 2005, 12:00 AM

Fila’s new Filativa.com fuses fashion and active wear targets

Filativa.com is the next step in Fila’s plans to reinvigorate its online presence under a new management team at parent company Sport Brands International. E-commerce functions are back in-house, and flagship site Fila.com will re-launch in August.

Luxury athletic gear manufacturer Fila has launched an online presence for a brand extension that already exists in retail boutiques: Filativa.com, which targets younger, hipper consumers with fashion-oriented active wear. It’s a first step in the company’s plans to reinvigorate Fila’s online presence under a new management team at Fila’s holding company, Sport Brands International, and a recent decision to take online marketing and e-commerce functions back in-house.

Fila did much of the design work on Filativa.com internally, also using the services of New York design firm Firstborn Inc. Ongoing refinements to the site will be driven with the help of data from analytics provider Coremetrics Inc. According to Rob McClellan, general manager for Fila Online, flagship brand Fila will also re-launch Fila.com this August.

With no store distribution other than boutiques and a brand-dedicated retail store set for a July launch in New York, Filativa.com must shoulder a large share of the sales load, says McClellan. In addition to paid search marketing, Filativa works with search services provider SearchDex to optimize the site’s flash-heavy pages so as to make them easier for natural search engine web crawlers to find and index. Filativa also is supporting online marketing with offline efforts designed to drive visitors to the site. For example, it works with a Boston marketing company, BzzAgent Inc., on a word of mouth campaign that provides free pairs of shoes to a targeted group of consumers, registered “BzzAgents,” who agree in exchange to talk up the brand among peers and then report in on their activities.

While the site is commerce-enabled and also has a store locator for finding products, McClellan says it plays an equally large role in brand-building, a function it fills with online content such as blogs written by the product designers. The blogs play a dual role: they’re to introduce the designers to site visitors and foster a sense of affinity, and they’re providing a means of customer feedback on products. “We didn’t want a forum on the site–they don’t get used,” says McClellan. “This is different. It’s a way for the designers to tell consumers a little bit about themselves, and hopefully, have the consumer feel connected to one or more of the designers. The next generation of product will be influenced by the feedback we receive in the blogs.”

McClellan adds that visitor comments on the blogs are being posted unedited, other than a review for offensive material. That means comments that may not be completely favorable to the brand or its products could be posted as feedback, but McClellan says if that happens, the mix gives such exchanges a more authentic voice. “Everybody realizes that some people don’t like some things, and that’s okay. It makes it real if someone says that,” he says.

That’s a departure from the old rules of retail, under which brands never facilitated any communication that wasn’t 100% favorable, but the Internet has changed some of the old rules, McClellan believes. “The consumer is now taking more of an ownership role,” he says. “The consumer is dictating the experience.”

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