New Balance Footwear Employs AI to Honor Fashion Outliers


Artificial intelligence (AI) is all the rage across a myriad of industries right now, and American footwear company New Balance’s most recent marketing campaign is a case in point. Using New York Fashion Week as a backdrop, the “Be The Exception” campaign rewarded SoHo pedestrians for their nonconformity in fashion by having a brand rep greet them with a pair of the company’s Fresh Foam Cruz Nubuck sneakers weeks before they hit retail shelves.

The initial groundwork and execution was completed with the help of VML, a digital marketing agency that scanned the Big Apple’s multitudes to collect baseline data and fashion patterns in the days leading up to Fashion Week. These numbers were aggregated to feed machine learning software until, on September 6th, a camera booth was set up to track attire and pinpoint people that bucked these trends. When the software identified an anomalous ensemble, the brand reps emerged with a pair of new and free kicks.

Described by New Balance as “real time exception spotting,” this campaign is just as much a demonstration of AI as it is a sneak preview of sneakers, but according to New Balance Director of Global Marketing Allie Tsavdarides, its goal was to “celebrate people who go left when everybody else is going right.”

That said, we can expect similar AI-based marketing approaches to pop up in other metropoles like Madrid, Toronto and Stockholm. For now, however, check out the video below for a quick peek at how it all went down.

Stats the AI observed (according to Little Black Book):

– 50% of people in SoHo are wearing black tops

– 63% of people in SoHo are wearing black

– 90% of people in SoHo are wearing neutral colors

– 71% of people in SoHo wearing color are wearing dark color

– 83% of people in SoHo wearing color are wearing solids

– 1 in 3 people in SoHo wearing color are wearing blue

– 1 in 4 people in SoHo wearing patterns are wearing floral

About Author

Jason Kushner is a videographer, editor, writer and filmmaker living in the Greater Atlanta Area. With an educational background combining film and journalism, Kushner has shot video and written for a myriad of publications and multimedia projects including Creative Loafing Tampa,, Starline Films and Digital Signage Connection. His 2009 documentary American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee became an Official Selection at 12 international film festivals, won Best Documentary at the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival and a John Muir Gold Award at the 2009 Yosemite Film Festival.  In 2015, he became Digital Media Editor for Digital Signage Expo, LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit and has since become Digital Content Manager for those shows’ parent company, Exponation.

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