Pearl Izumi is on the Ropes

Posted by Filed Under: Elite Running, News and Opinion

Pearl Izumi thinks running is on the ropes. They have a new ad campaign – We are not joggers. Maybe you’ve seen it. If you have, I can almost guarantee you were either inspired or insulted. I haven’t seen many opinions that weren’t one way or the other. Here are a few excerpts:

After all, the number of entrants in your local 10k is surely on the rise, and every Saturday the park is packed with people prancing around in brand new trainers, trying to nurture their chi or look good for their wedding or whatever. Unfortunately, few if any of them are running. They’re jogging, a half-hearted fore-aft movement of the legs that has about as much in common with running as billiards.


These days you’ll see a lot of people out there with MP3 players. Blasting some indie rock to make the miles go by a little bit faster. Every one of these people is a jogger.


Deep down the world already knows that running is an endeavor and jogging is a synonym for half-assed. Its even built into the language of pop culture. But somewhere along the way, people began mistakenly identifying jogging as running. Now you have all these joggers out there calling themselves runners and the real running is beginning to suffer.

Yes, there are many ads for running shoes that seem to project the message that “people who wear our shoes are crazy/dedicated/driven/running machines”. And that’s cool. But this is the first ad I have seen that seems to say “Our shoes are for real runners, and the rest of you suck”. Nothing like a pretentious bunch of running snobs trying to make me feel privileged to buy their shoes. Come back to earth people. You aren’t selling pint bottles filled from the fountain of youth or chunks of the philosopher’s stone. They’re shoes.

Maybe the ad boys and girls at Pearl were trying to be clever. Maybe they don’t make enough of them to sell to everyone. Maybe they feel it dilutes the brand to have (gasp) joggers wearing their shoes. Maybe they need more fiber in their diets.

Either way, the message I hear from this ad is that Pearl Izumi doesn’t want to sell me shoes if I’m not a “real” runner.

I can live with that.

Nike wants to sell me shoes. So does Mizuno. And Adidas. And Reebok. And Inov-8. Because I am a runner, and I don’t wear Pearl Izumis.

  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on June 12th at 6:47 am

    Personally, the ads didn’t bother me. Nor did they inspire me. Their definition of a runner and mine are a bit different, so I just assumed that I could ignore them.

    There is nothing wrong with being a runner, and there is nothing wrong with being a jogger. Maybe their shoes are meant for the speedier types; I plan on sticking to the shoes I like (Asics) and the shoes that I can get for cheap through my team sponsorship (Nike).

    I like George Sheehan’s definition: “The difference between a runner and a jogger is an entry blank.” I don’t think that anymore needs to be said to define the difference.

  2. jank on June 12th at 7:27 am

    Hey, color me a jogger. You can have my iPod when you pry it from my swollen, hot, heat-stroked fingers.

  3. shinypenny on June 12th at 7:58 am

    Great post. I’ve never bought shoes from Pearl Izumi and now I never will.

  4. Susan on June 12th at 8:05 am

    Great post. I have true admiration for the elite runners of the world but no time for elitists.

  5. jeff on June 12th at 8:47 am

    there is an aspect of their ad that gets me fired up to get out and hit the trails, so they’ve got that going for them, but at the same time it’s a very irresponsible stance to take when getting the average american off their couch is like pulling teeth.

    i’m guessing that they don’t feel the same about the cycling community since they’re offering this as one of their newest products:

  6. 21stCenturyMom on June 12th at 10:06 am

    I detest elitism in athletics. Anyone who gets off the couch and gets out for exercise is doing a good thing. Those who think the casual jogger is sullying up the trails can just take a flying leap.

    That Pearl Izumi integrated MP3 tri suit is daft. All of the organizations that are putting together events are making rules against wearing headphones and listening to music. Pearl Izumi is just going to make them mad, too.

  7. Sarah on June 12th at 10:26 am

    I’m so happy to see this article. I’m new to running, and found the ad to be really insulting. (I worried that I was knee-jerk overreacting and paranoid, but at least I’m not the only one.) Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s so much better to be out walking/jogging/skipping/whatever!, than to be doing nothing at all. That ad is the last thing people who flip through a running magazine, looking to be inspired, need to see. It’s a huge turn-off to the sport, especially for those who are self-conscious about beginning running. Susan, you said it well…hooray for the elites, absolutely. Elitists, get over it.

  8. yota_96 on June 12th at 10:35 am

    My mouth just about fell open when the ad said that jogging is a synonym for “half-assed”. I have nothing but respect for elite runners and actually, everyone that runs faster than me. But, in a world where obesity is higher than ever, anyone who gets out and makes an effort to be active should be applauded.

    I have never worn Pearl Izumi shoes and now I never will.

  9. Jessica on June 12th at 11:25 am

    Wow what a great article. Didn’t know about this. I’m not sure that calling someone who wears an ipod a “jogger” is good for business. I’ve never been into their clothing or shoes so it’s no bother to me. But it sure is an interesting ad campaign tactic!

  10. MissySue on June 12th at 11:45 am

    I saw their ad in the latest Runners World and was incredibly insulted. I was moved to contact the company with my thoughts and to let them know that I would not purchase running or cycling gear from them in the future. They are missing out on a tidy sum over what I hope to be a long lifetime. Half-***ed-jogging keeps me pretty fit.

  11. Vic Ramirez on June 12th at 5:10 pm

    I am sad to see what PI has done with this campaign. I liked the brand a lot and recommended it to other runners…wait, they are joggers-they listen to music while they run. I have to take my baby with me twice a weeks to complete my 30 miles a week, but guess what? I am not a runner now.I feel insulted somehow because I thought this company cared about people like me, who would never lead the pack, but will always be true to road some days fast, some days slower, other days with music, other days with a baby.

  12. Adeel on June 12th at 9:02 pm

    The ad is not wholly serious, relax. Many elite runners run with iPods, on treadmills and more elite runners than not run on the “gentrified stretches of pedestrian walkway” that are rubberized tracks and roads.

    The tongue-in-cheek exhortation to run hard, no matter who you are and how fast you are, is something I really like.

    All that said, it’s no reason to buy or not buy shoes.

  13. willrun4food on June 13th at 6:31 am

    I don’t think it’s anything to be insulted by – well ok, given that ipod supporting product in their cycling line, prehaps your intelligence should be insulted. Point is, I don’t feel a need to boycott them. I just think it’s a poorly devised ad campaign; nothing more, nothing less.

  14. brit on June 13th at 9:53 am

    As someone who constantly is asked “you run?” I can feel the sarcasm Jon. Thanks for standing up for those of us “non runners’ who still take our training seriously even if the Media doesn’t.

  15. Jeanne on June 15th at 6:28 pm

    my goodness. as if i could give a rat’s … behind about what pearl izumi thinks about me or about who is or isn’t a runner. it’s a dumb “campaign.”

    And here’s a confession: until I read this, I had never even HEARD of pearl izumi. I HAVE heard of george sheehan though. i think he’s swell!

    great article jon!

  16. a. england on June 17th at 8:52 pm

    In the spirit of adding a little fuel to the fire check out a few sites talking about just how much they liked the ad.

    Not sure everyone agrees with you

  17. Nick on June 23rd at 8:37 am

    This is interesting, especially given Reebok’s “Run Easy” campaign.

    Sure we aren’t all elite runners, but should we strive to be the best we can?

  18. Joe on July 1st at 10:29 am

    Just wrote this to Pearl Izumi:

    Let me start by saying I’m a Pearl Izumi fan. In fact, I just bought two expensive one piece tri-suits recently. The very first triathlon I ever did I wore iQ shorts.

    But, you guys are embarrassing me with this “We are not joggers” campaign. I can understand your intention… to make your products supposedly for “elites” or have the wearer feel more aggressive and confident. But it’s not working. I have a large group of triathlete friends in South Florida and none of them resonate with your campaign.

    We are all hard-core, dedicated, long term athletes… even if we “jog” our run portions at 11 minutes per mile. You are in jeopardy of loosing us all as customers. Forever.

    Think about it… there are 100 amateur athletes out there to every “elite”. So you may make one elite smile when they read your ad, but you are alienating 100 other potential customers.

    I highly recommend either apologizing to the “jogging” community (whatever that means) in the magazines where you published the ad and on your dedicated website, or at the very least just pulling the campaign.

    Do the right thing guys.


  19. Brigette on July 2nd at 3:56 pm

    There’s this guy who runs a ton of races in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area with a baby stroller, and comes in first many times. He passes me on Kelly Drive all the time. This guy is a runner.

    I wear an i-pod most days to help me get through rough spots, I can still hear my breathing…I can still hear my footsteps and I can still feel the pain that tells me I am indeed a runner.

    The only part of this ad campaign I agree with is the bit on the treadmill. Unless it is absolutely necessary due to inclimate weather, or an injury I think everyone should enjoy the outdoors while running.

    p.s. jog on joggers, I love to see people out there no matter how fast they’re going!

  20. Peter on July 6th at 8:32 am

    I enjoy the ads for what they are. Everyone, whether jogger or runner, imagines they have the attitude portrayed in the ads at one time or another.

  21. bex on July 7th at 8:12 pm

    I don’t get why everyone’s knickers are in a twist. Why do you automatically put yourself in the “jogging” community just b/c you don’t run 5-minute miles? And I bet that most everyone who has commented has run a 5K or a 10K. Or even further. Much further. Did you jog there? I would say not. You probably raced as hard as you could. You’re all runners. Jogging ain’t bad. But when push comes to shove, I bet that you give it all you’ve got in a race. So, yeah, I actually LOVE the Pearl Izumi ads.

  22. bex on July 7th at 8:31 pm

    One more thought: I agree with the Adeel that the ad is tongue-in-cheek. It’s funny. And we runners have a sense of humor, especially about our sport? (Right? Right?!) I especially like this part of the ad: “A sport that started with our ancestors running down dinner and remains to this day, predatory at its core. Joggers are prey. Runners are hunters. If you belong to the latter group, revel in the fact that you sit firmly atop the bipedal locomotion food chain. And run like an animal.”

    Yeah, baby.

  23. Rachel on September 15th at 7:33 am

    I think the copywriters got it right. Everyone here is talking about the ad and making you pay attention to the fact that Pearl isn’t just cycling, it’s got a running demographic as well. It’s funny because I am far from an elitist runner, but I agree with everything that each ad puts out. It’s bold, in-your-face and motivating. I never say I’m going out for job even if it’s a 10 minute mile. It’s always a run.

    On a side note, mp3 players need to be outlawed at all races because those who are wearing them are oblivious to their surroundings. It’s dangerous and ridiculous that people can’t ‘run’ without an iPod blaring in their ears. I used to be one of those people, but do enough races and you’ll be equally as pissed off when you’re trying to pass someone who is in their own Beyonce world. Notice too that the mp3 wearers are always the slowest in races too.

  24. Rachel on September 15th at 7:35 am

    “I never say I’m going out for a jog” not job. Oops! I have said that I’m going out for a job before.

  25. Michele on October 23rd at 10:03 am

    Pearl Izumi ads are total crap and insulting to anyone trying to make themselves a little bit healthier. Their latest ad which complains about people getting medals “just for finishing” a race is unbelievable. I guess in their eyes it’s not an accomplishment to finish a race unless you place. Well, from us Back-of-the-Packers – screw you Pearl Izumi. I will NEVER buy one of their products.

  26. Jack on May 14th at 7:01 pm

    Michele, I agree with you 100%! Screw them. I hope that only the most elite runners feel that they measure up to wearing Pearl Izumi products, and their sales fall to record lows, like the quality of the ads.

  27. Sam on June 11th at 6:55 am

    I have to say… I love their ads. I love and respect runners of any speed, skill level, experience, etc, but I definitely love the Pearl Izumi ads.

  28. Shari Ross on July 5th at 7:49 pm

    I am one of those detestable “finishers” who happens to spend a great deal of money on races, gear, and travel for running and cycling events. I am not Kenya-fast, nor will I ever be, but the condecension in these ads will steer me away from the product and any periodical that advertises their product. My money will go elsewhere and the Pearl Izumi products I own will have the tags removed and logos covered or left on the side of a marathon route as “throwaways”. There are enough free insults out there in life- I don’t need to pay for them.