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1Sneaker 2013 The Situation It was 6:35 p.m. on a Friday as Michelle Rodriguez held in her hands and sought to regain focus. Her company, New Balance, based in Brighton, Massachusetts, had recently implemented a policy on work-life balance. She has just made mistake of opening an email from the senior VP of product development, Monte Holliday, who needed a position report by Monday morning on one of New Balance’s most promising new athletic shoes. On the heels of the 2012 London Olympics, New Balance saw an opportunity in the 12- to 18-year-old male segment of the market, which their larger competitors had ignored. Established, well-known Olympic athletes like Usain Bolt already had multi-million dollar endorsement deals for athletic footwear, and they dominated the age 18 to 24 male market for running shoes.1New Balance saw an opportunity to target a younger consumer if they could craft an effective marketing and advertising campaign around the right athlete. Holliday and New Balance CEO Jim Davis had returned from London after holding preliminary meetings with several potential new endorsers. The most promising was a 19-year-old phenomenon from Grenada named Kirani James. By winning gold in the 400-meter dash in London, James became the first runner from outside the United States to win the event in more than three decades.2With a winning time of 43.94 seconds, he was also the first non-U.S. runner to finish the 400 under 44 seconds. James’s victory was a huge feat for his country. Grenada had never won any Olympic medal, much less gold, and he returned home to a hero’s welcome. His relative youth, and the fact that many observers felt James was still improving, made him a likely contender for years to come. New Balance saw James as the perfect athlete to appeal to a younger audience, and Davis wanted him on boars. As the afterglow of the Olympic flame faded, Davis knew they needed to act quickly to capitalize on James’s new-found global fame. 1In 2010, Bolt, then 24 years old, signed a new contract with Puma that paid him $9 million annually 2 Before James, the last non-American to win the Olympic 400 race was Russian Viktor Markin in 1980, the year the United States boycotted the Moscow Games.