Nike is to put at least pounds 10m behind the UK debut of a new brand called Shox, in its most important product launch since Nike Air was unveiled in the UK in 1987.
Shox, which last month had a soft launch in the US, will be positioned as the most technologically advanced shoe available. Nike has been trying to keep details of the UK launch secret, but Marketing can reveal that Shox will be introduced here early next year.
The launch will be backed by a sustained through-the-line push. Nike's UK ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, has been briefed to develop a TV and outdoor push, planned for February, while Claydon Heeley Jones Mason is believed to have won a place on the Nike roster to promote Shox below-the-line.
The range will include models designed specifically for running and basketball, as well as a cross-trainer shoe.
The Shox shoes have been engineered to incorporate specially made foam normally found only in the shock absorbers of Formula One cars to add spring and flexibility, maximising performance. The shoes include four spring columns in place of the usual heel support.
'The debut of Shox is going to be a really big deal for us,' confirmed a Nike spokesman. 'It will be a unique product for the UK market.'
The launch is being overseen by Nike's UK marketing director, Rod Connors, who was unavailable for comment. Nike refused to give details of when the ad campaign would break or how much the range would retail for in the UK.
Nike's products are endorsed in the US by athletes including Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones and golfer Tiger Woods.
Nike's latest financial results revealed it was beating market expectations, with first-quarter profits of dollars 379m (pounds 262m) on sales of dollars 4.7bn (pounds 3.2bn).
Growth was strongest in Asia and South America. European sales remained strong, while sales fell by 1% in the US.