Since the 2010 World Cup, there has been a huge upsurge in the request for Mizuno to release their boots on the US market. If a player wanted a pair, they had to order them from overseas and wait a few weeks before their arrival. On December 2nd, that all changed with the Japanese brand deciding the time was right to give US consumers a direct path to experiencing what they have to offer. It was a long overdue move but one that we definitely applaud!
With that in mind, we decided the time as right for us to detail the boots they have on offer and double it up with an interview of Mike Puccini, Mizuno USA Business Unit Manager for Soccer Footwear.
Mizuno into the US Market
The process to enter the US market is one that has been methodically pieced together by the Mizuno team. There was no knee jerk reaction to the move and it seems like the right timing determined their final move.
Q. How long has the decision to enter the US market been in the works?
Mike: Mizuno is a strong brand globally, so the decision to move into the soccer market has always been on the table. We spent some time listening to consumer needs and certain instances helped get the conversation flowing internally. For example, there was the SoccerCleats101 petition and a large number of requests from consumers who called asking how they could get our boots.
Q. Was there something in particular the swayed the final decision?
Mike: With the World Cup in 2014 taking place in the America’s (Brazil), we decided the time was right to test the market and allow more consumers to see what our products bring to the table.
The Full Cleat Lineup
Initially, Mizuno are offering four boots for consumers to choose from. They are the Morelia MIJ, Morelia Neo, Morelia Neo MIJ and the Wave Ignitus 3. All of the boots offer something different and players can determine their choice off of their playing style. For example, the Wave Ignitus is all about power and considering Nike and adidas have moved away from that category, it leaves a void that Mizuno are more than willing to fill. Her is what you need to know about each boot.
Morelia Neo MIJ - "Unbelievably Light"
These soft and lightweight kangaroo leather cleats, made exclusively in Japan, reflect a quality and craftsmanship like none other. Control the ball and experience soccer with the ultimate in handcrafted precision.
Morelia II MIJ - "Lace Up With Tradition"
This heritage look has been the staple of soccer players around the world for nearly 30 years. Handcrafted in Japan, the Morelia II is made of premium kangaroo leather for an unmatched fit and feel. These cleats will make you realize why this classic has never gone out of style.
Morelia Neo - "Fly Through the Field"
This super lightweight shoe is meticulously crafted for a glove-like fit that will increase speed and agility, and offer amazing touch on the ball. With a near weightless feeling, the Neo is as close to barefoot playing as you can get.
Wave Ignitus 3 - "Dead Ball Revolution"
Built to maximize kicking motion, these cleats were developed with specially designed panels that will help you drive, curl, and strike with precision and focus. Take your kicking ability to the next level with the lethal dead ball striking of the Wave Ignitus.
MIJ – Made in Japan
From the four boots available, two hold the title of “MIJ”, or Made in Japan. For the boot connoseur, getting your hands on a pair of the MIJ is a real treat. Here is why:
Can you tell us more about MIJ and what it means for the US market?
Mike: Our boots with that are MIJ offer players the premium, finest materials we have available. They are very limited and bringing them to the US market allows consumers to have something unique. These boots are hand crafted in Japan, with a unique fit and last, offering players a competitive advantage.
So, the MIJ version is better than the regular version?
Mike: Players have the opportunity to own a hand crafted boot that has been pieced together with fine precision, so it is a boot with higher standards. With that being said, the regular Morelia Neo, for example, offers tremendous performance and the quality of material matches anything you will see currently on the market.
Expectations and Game Plan
Companies like Nike, adidas and Puma are very established in the US market and their international marketing strategy is very hard to compete against. With that being said, the reaction from fans to Mizuno’s entry into the US market has been exciting to watch from the sideline. There is a new wave of energy in the market and players are reacting positively to the news. With that being said, there are always challenges to face and areas where a new company might encounter unforeseen difficulties. Is this a fad, or are Mizuno series?
Where do expectations currently lie for Mizuno Soccer USA?
Mike: We have obviously set goals, but overall we are in a learning pattern. Our goal is to work with consumers and listen to their needs. We want to expand, but the next 12 months will determine what we decide to do. Our first year is really dedicated to learning about the market.
Will we see any other boots in the Mizuno released on the market?
Mike: The boots we are initially offering to the market are our premium boots and we feel like they offer consumers a solid choice. These boots will help us understand the market more and we do have several new colorways to offer at some point. But for now, these are the boots we want players to experience.
Where to Buy
The task of buying Mizuno boots has been a task for players over the past few years. There was no easy way of getting a pair in your hands and for the most part, you needed to gamble on size. The same is true now, but with free shipping and the opportunity to return for a different size, the risk is now worth it.
Initially, the boots will be sold exclusively on Mizuno but will they be sold in soccer stores across the country at some point?
A. By selling them through our site, we can see firsthand what is working and learn from consumer needs. The price point of the boots on offer puts us in a smaller market, but we want to establish the brand and go from there. If we are successful, then absolutely they will be offered directly to merchants to retail online and in-store.
What reaction are you seeing to date and how are sales?
A. On release, our site was flooded and sales were phenomenal, definitely outdoing any expectations we had. It has only been 10 days, but since then there has been a pretty consistent reaction and we continue to monitor this daily. The MIJ boots in particular really exceeded our expectations.
Watch out for Mizuno boots in action!
Right off the bat, Mizuno made the decision to become an official sponsor of NASL team the Atlanta Silverbacks. You might have heard of these guys and their technical director, Eric Wynalda. It is a smart move on mizuno's part and allows them an opportunity to hear firsthand what players in the US expect from their boots. Mizuno will be using feedback from these players and watching intently to see what fan reaction is to the boots each player will be wearing.
Can we expect to see Mizuno boots in high profile US games anytime soon?
A. As we move through the next 12 months, we will work to educate consumers by using pro player feedback and then evaluate our strategy from there. We are definitely open to MLS, but there are obstacles that we need to work through in order to get there. In other words, watch this space!