Reebok doesn’t give up easily—especially when it comes to the toning shoe business.
After resolving allegations that it made unsupported advertising claims about its EasyTone and RunTone shoes in a $25 million settlement with the FTC, Reebok took measures to revitalize the shoes by introducing a more rigorous testing protocol and a new marketing campaign.
At issue in the prior FTC lawsuit were Reebok’s claims that walking in its EasyTone shoes and running in its RunTone running shoes would strengthen and tone key leg and buttock (gluteus maximus) muscles better than regular shoes. In early 2007 the company began running print, television, and Internet advertisements which maintained that users would see a 28% increase in the strength and tone of the butt, and an 11% increase in that of the hamstrings and calf muscles. According to the FTC’s complaint, Reebok violated the FTC Act by failing to substantiate these claims at the time they were made, in violation of the FTC Act.
Last September Reebok entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC whereby it agreed to pay a $25 million judgment and make no claims about its toning products unless they were “non-misleading, and backed by scientific evidence.” In settling the case, Reebok did not admit any wrongdoing or accept the FTC’s allegations. In fact, the company, on its Web site, indicated that the settlement was a “business decision” made “in order to avoid protracted litigation and to move our focus back to where it belongs: to our customers.”
Rather than walk away from the EasyTone and RunTone products, Reebok decided to conduct a rigorous study on the performance and exercise benefits of its toning shoes. Reebok’s 12‑week independent study tested EasyTone against a control shoe with a flat bottom. Women between the ages of 22 to 39 wore the shoes while participating in supervised aerobic walking three times a week. Although the women wearing EasyTone shoes did not lose weight, the results did show an average 2.5% reduction in body fat as opposed to those women in the control group.
Martina Jahrbacher, the head of Reebok Women’s Sport division, was quoted in an April 23, 2012, article published in Advertising Age: “We are 100% convinced, and have done more consumer insights to identify, that there is still a market for toning.” Ms. Jahrbacher went on to say that this case “has shown us how we can be even better in talking about new testing protocols that we’ve done. [The FTC] would never approve a testing protocol ... but our experts have learned all the questions and pushbacks and deep dives [the agency might have]. We’re in a very confident spot.”
Details of the study appear in fine print on EasyTone’s advertisements, which now carry the tagline: “A beautiful way to reduce body fat.” The campaign, now running in Europe and Asia, is expected to go global in the near future.
To read the FTC’s settlement orders, click here.
To read the FTC’s complaint, click here.
To read “Reebok Bounces Back in Toning Category After FTC Settlement,” Advertising Age, April 23, 2012, click here.
To read FAQs regarding the EasyTone settlement, click here.
Why it matters: Instead of cutting its losses after the $25 million settlement with the FTC, Reebok learned from its mistakes and conducted testing to comply with the law and hopefully bolster consumer trust.