15.04.22Features
ARTICLE BY Ross Dwyer

How New Balance's 'The TRACK' Facility Drives Performance and Lifestyle Innovation

New Balance 'The TRACK' Facility

New Balance recently flung open the doors to The TRACK, a state-of-the-art multi-sport facility across from their headquarters in Boston, after four years of construction. A centre for product innovation, athletic competition, events and more, The TRACK ushers in a new era for the brand, and is set to be a hub for innovation – both on the performance and the lifestyle fronts.

When it comes to those lifestyle products, the brand have been on a stunning hot streak over the last few years, with hit collaboration after hit collaboration plus plenty of well-received in-line models to back 'em up. We spoke to Brian Lynn – New Balance's global general manager of lifestyle product – to get the scoop on how The TRACK fits into those lifestyle plans and how New Balance strikes a, well, balance between storytelling, quality and hype.

The TRACK at New Balance
,The TRACK at New Balance
The TRACK at New Balance
The TRACK at New Balance
The TRACK at New Balance

New Balance broke ground on The TRACK four years ago, and now it's finally up and running! How does that feel?
It's super exciting. We started construction prior to the pandemic, so coming back after not being in the office for a while and see this huge world-class multi-sport facility is mind-blowing. It's really changed the landscape of the area.

New Balance has been headquartered in Boston for over a century, so your roots in the city obviously run deep. Besides that history, what went into the decision to put The TRACK in Boston instead of somewhere like New York or Los Angeles?
It's exactly that – that we're a Boston brand. We're committed to the city and the community here. Sure, a big part of The TRACK is its advanced training facility where we can speak to our professional athletes about what they need and work with them in our research lab to create great products. Having that across the street from our office is a boon for the brand. However, we also made The TRACK to be a space for our community in Boston to come and hang out. That's why there's a bar and an event space!

Can you tell me more about how The TRACK aids in building community around the brand and its lifestyle offerings?
No matter if it's lifestyle or performance, we're always obsessing over the details, craftsmanship and quality of our products. From a product standpoint, the lifestyle team is excited about the future icons that are going to be created here, the next generation of shoes like the 550, 574 and 99X series – shoes that started as performance products and grew into lifestyle classics. It's also important for my team to be able to get time with our athletes and hear what they like because they're influencing lifestyle customers as well!

The TRACK At New Balance
,The TRACK At New Balance
The TRACK At New Balance
The TRACK At New Balance

New Balance have really made a push in the lifestyle sphere these last few years, and it seems like the current lifestyle consumer is craving new, fresh, authentic products from the brand. However, like you just said, performance and craftsmanship are really important to the brand across all its products. How do you balance those two things?
That's the question that keeps me awake every night [laughs]. Getting that balance is key. In the last few years, we stopped looking at what other brands in our space were doing and started really focusing on who we are and what we stand for – doubling down on that idea I mentioned before of really honing in details and craftsmanship. When we bring newness to our lifestyle lineup with models like the 327 and XC-72, we do it in a considered way. They're contemporary models, but still have that New Balance DNA. A platform like our Tokyo Design Studio also enables us to play around with innovation and technology a little more, which also organically influences our in-line product.

How does the crazy hype New Balance has had recently fit into the equation?
There's no denying that the hype and energy generated by our recent collaborations have brought a new consumer to the brand. However, we don't want to be too reliant on hype. You and I have been around long enough to know that hype doesn't last forever, so as we welcome these new fans to the brand we want to make sure we tell them about who New Balance is and what we stand for. We always try to make sure our newness and energy are very considered, and that we're working with partners who align with our values. That way, if the hype dies down, we won't be sitting around saying 'what do we do now?' because we've stayed true to who we are as a brand.

We know there's been a lot of excitement around the brand, but we also know what's to come, and that's what gets us excited every single day. We've got some amazing collaborations coming up, sure, but our inline foundation of new styles and bringbacks is really exciting as well.

Does that mindset enable you to approach collaboration from a more considered point of view?
I think so. Today's consumer is smart enough to see through things that don't feel authentic. We work with a wide variety of partners – and they're often very different from one another – but they always connect with who we are as a brand and what we stand for. Sometimes they're better at telling our story than we are! We really bring our partners into the family. It's not like they just work on a shoe and leave. They're ingrained in who we are and what we do, to a level the consumer might not even recognize.

The TRACK At New Balance

Where does that willingness to let collaborators and partners work with your icons come from?
A lot of trust. They know us and we know them. We're working with them because they have a point of view that fits well with who we are. We never force a silhouette on anyone either!

How do you see New Balance and its lifestyle consumer evolving in the future, and how do you think The TRACK will fit into that evolution?
To answer the first part of your question, it's similar to what we discussed earlier. Hype is driving the market right now and we're very aware of that. However, we're building a foundation that's not just collaborations and energy moments – one that leans on a strong in-line offering. We've brought plenty of newer, younger consumers to the brand through our high-profile releases, but now they're increasingly buying into our broader in-line offerings like the MADE in USA series.

That's really interesting to hear because my generation and your generation were introduced to New Balance as a brand that made high-quality grey running shoes like the 99X series. Someone who's a little older and accustomed to those grey runners might see a Salehe Bembury or Aimé Leon Dore colab and be like 'woah, what is this?' where a younger consumer is introduced to the brand through those products and finds out about the classics afterwards.
Exactly. That consumer might come to the brand through a partner, but then when they go to find out what we stand for they don't have to look very far. The key for us is always being very clear and not veering from our mission. We pour over every little detail, and the consumer is smart enough to understand that authenticity.

That links back so perfectly to how The TRACK will fit into our evolution, because although we have a ton of momentum with our lifestyle product we're a performance running brand at the core, one that's thoroughly committed to technology and innovation. Since The TRACK is right in our front yard, we see the latest and greatest technologies first-hand, and can both adopt them for our current products as well as get a feel for how they may inform our lifestyle range in the next 10, 20 years. Between that and the community aspect, it's the full package. That's really exciting for us.

The TRACK at New Balance is located at 91 Guest Street, Boston, MA, 02135. Click here to learn more and see an event schedule.

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