Tag Archive | community

Memorial Day Weekend: Saucony Fun Run and Lessons From My First Bike Crash

This long weekend served up the perfect mix of “doing nothing & doing something,” leaving me refreshed and ready to tackle a busy summer. My two highlights from the weekend were a Saucony-sponsored fun run with my local running store and my first biking accident (I’m okay!).

Yesterday, I kicked off the Memorial Day holiday at 7 a.m. with a Pacers fun run around D.C.’s National Mall. Starting early allowed us to beat the heat and the tourists. Our group leader planned a route that would take us past many of the iconic memorials and monuments, bringing a somber reminder of the real reason we had a day off yesterday.

Before we started the run, we got to hear from Jeff Caron, Saucony’s DC/VA field rep who partners with local running stores to plan lots of great events like yesterday’s outing. Everyone had the opportunity to try some Saucony shoes on the run, and I, of course, had to sport the lime green and hot pink Kinvara 3s.

The brighter the colors the faster you run, right?

These community events continue to have a positive effect on consumer engagement by doing two important things (among others): 1. they give the brand personality and 2. they allow product testing in the natural environment.

It’s no secret that I love events like these, mostly because it shows there are real people behind big brands. Yesterday, Jeff’s passion for Saucony and the sport really shined, making our group feel a little bit more connected to the company. Additionally, after the run, Jeff connected with many of the runners on social media channels, which will help sustain the relationships he built and allow Saucony and running-related communication to happen naturally and easily in the future.

Since I’ve gotten more involved with the running community (instead of just being a solo runner), I try to take full advantage of events that allow us to test out shoes and other products so I can make better informed purchases.  Going for a full, outdoor run is so much better than doing a quick, forced jog around a store.

“Finding Our Strong” Outside the Lincoln Memorial

I currently run in the Saucony Kinvara 2 and have been eager to try the newly-released Kinvara 3. Being able to try the updated model during yesterday’s 6-miler proved the shoe still fits my foot well, even with the updates. Now, I can safely say that I will buy the new version at some point in the near future (what a marketing success story!).

After such a great start to my morning, I knew I wanted to keep the fun going. My friend and I decided to bike on the Mt. Vernon Trail out to the waterfront in Old Town, Alexandria and back.

We made a couple stops on our way home and were approaching a 20-mile ride when someone abruptly swung open his car door into the bike lane. With no time to react, I slammed into the door head-on and flew off my bike, landing in a heap on top of the bike in the middle of the street. Luckily, I had been wearing a helmet and no cars were driving down the road… otherwise it could have been much, much worse.

In those few moments immediately after the crash, I could only think about the intense pain in my hip and what it might mean for my running. At first, I was unable to get up or move. Looking back, I now realize this was because of shock, but it is still a terribly frightening position to be in as all the horror stories I’d heard about cycling accidents flashed in my mind. I tried to figure out just how badly injured I was, and after a few moments, I could stand up with the help of my friend and the driver.

As soon as I realized I’d be okay, I felt such relief, mainly because I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t run. Is it sad that’s what I worried about first?

I tried my best to assure the driver that I was fine – he was really, really worried – and we checked out the damage to the bike. The poor bike sustained much more damage than I did, but that’ll get fixed soon enough.

The driver made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “We really take the bike lanes for granted. I’m still not used to them, and I need to always, always check.”

It’s so true – bike lanes aren’t common in a lot of places and it’s easy to forget they exist, which can lead to preventable crashes and accident.

Today, I am very sore and quite bruised, but mostly, just feeling lucky and blessed. You can bet I’ll always wear a helmet and will be much more observant when on a bike and when opening car doors. I hope this will remind everyone out there to do the same!

 

 

 

runDisney Heavily Promotes Princess Half Marathon Online, Builds Community Along the Way

A week later, I’m still riding high on finishing my first half marathon. By the time these feelings finally wane, I’ll be gearing up for my next race – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half on St. Patrick’s Day.

After posting what might be the wordiest race recap in the history of race recaps, I don’t want to bore my readers with more thoughts about my experience with the race. Instead, I’d like to take a look at runDisney’s digital marketing campaign for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. (Note: these are my own opinions and observations as I did not interview anyone for this article.) 

A company like Disney has significant marketing budget to throw behind race promotion compared to other, smaller organizations that put on races. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I’m generally impressed with how runDisney used social media to build awareness for the event, drive it to sell-out status for the fourth year in a row, and – most importantly – foster a sense of community among runners and spectators on various social channels.

Facebook

Before I even thought a half marathon could be in my future, I “liked” the runDisney Facebook page to stay updated on events, announcements, and participate in the community of runners who also love Disney. The team does a great job of updating the page on a regular basis with relevant content and news, but also posts status updates the foster conversations about active lifestyles, running, and training. When I finally registered for the race, this Facebook page became my go-to source of information regarding the race and to get ideas for my training plan.

What I really enjoyed about runDisney’s page is that that it’s become a true social community. Fans use the Wall to communicate openly with each other, sharing tips and asking questions. Fans quickly answer others’ questions thoughtfully and correctly. When you’re on the page, you notice a real sense of community as you see strangers offering words of support and encouragement as people post their accomplishments to the page.

Twitter

While there is no official runDisney handle, the @DisneySports account is used to share news and updates about Disney races. Leading up to race weekend, the profile pushed out numerous runDisney-related Tweets to keep runners informed. However, I didn’t find the Twitter channel as effective of a resource as the Facebook page.

One aspect of the runDisney Twitter strategy I did like is that the team promoted the #runDisney and #princesshalf hashtags, resulting in heavy usage throughout the weekend. While on the road to Orlando, I tracked these conversations on my phone to get an idea of what people were saying about the Expo, traffic, and the race, which help keep me better informed about the event in real-time.

At the start line of the race, the emcee told runners to use the #runDisney tag. Once I crossed the finish line, I had fun going back through the #runDisney stream to look at photos and Tweets other runners had shared during the race (I still don’t know how they Tweet and run at the same time!). It was fun to send and receive congratulatory notes from other runners who finished their first half marathons or achieved personal best times. Like on Facebook, runDisney used Twitter hashtags to foster the community, which left me with even more positive feelings about the race.

Blogger Engagement via FitFluential

About 2 weeks before the Disney Princess Half, I noticed a few of my daily must-read running bloggers posting that they would be running the race, staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and attending several special events on behalf of runDisney. This came about through FitFluential, an organization that introduces fitness brands to relevant online influencers.

As I’ve said before, blogger engagement – when done well – is an effective means of social marketing. I enjoyed the FitFluential  group’s runDisney coverage and think it helped improve my experience as well as built awareness among their readers about what a full Disney race weekend could look like (and cost).

In addition to reviewing extra events like the Pasta in the Park party and The Race Retreat, these women used their blogs to share little tips and tricks I never would have known otherwise, such as that Disney hosts free first-come, first-served meet-up runs with Olympian Jeff Galloway that are announced on the Disney Parks blog or that the family 5K events aren’t chip-timed (um, no way will I be paying $50 for a race that doesn’t include official times!).

Heather, one of the FitFluential bloggers, organized an independent meet-up the day before the race that allowed bloggers, social media enthusiasts, and readers to all meet in person. This event apparently went well and, coupled with the runDisney/FitFluential partnership, showed the importance of bringing the online offline when developing an active and engaged community.

The heavily integrated social media campaign that runDisney executed for the Princess Half Marathon succeeded so well because it didn’t focus solely on pushing out content. The marketing team used social channels to build a community of engaged people with similar interests and then provided them with various ways to communicate with each other, making for a better overall experience during the race weekend.

Personally, I already can’t wait to cross the finish line of another runDisney event.

I swear this race photo is totally relevant to this post… because… I found out that official race photos were online on Twitter and then posted my photos to Facebook to share with my friends.  See, social media marketing in action… or something like that. :)
If you ran the Princess Half, did you follow along on social media?

Not Just Another Chain: Lululemon’s Community-Centric Model Aids Revenue Growth

Living in Washington, D.C., I often play tour guide to out of town guests. When I ask them what restaurants they want to try or places they want to go, they always come back with similar answers:

“Oh, anywhere is fine… AS LONG AS IT’S NOT A CHAIN!”

In recent years, I’ve noticed more people bemoaning the idea of big corporate chains, turning instead to local small businesses. I find this particularly true in the fitness world – most of my friends who are runners swear by their neighborhood running specialty stores while shunning bigger retailers.

One global chain that hasn’t fallen victim to this trend is Lululemon Athletica.

The company is headquartered in Vancouver and has 142 locations across Canada and the United States. In 2010, when the recession hit North America particularly hard, Lululemon experienced significant growth in net revenue – +57% according to an earnings press release.

How did a store that sells a high-end, expensive product to a niche demographic fair so well in an economic downturn?

I believe it comes down to the community-centric model that makes Lululemon stores feel less like those of a faceless, international brand and more like the little shop around the corner where employees remember customers’ names and clothing preferences.

It begins with the company’s employees.  Sales representatives at Lululemon tend to exemplify the famous company manifesto.  They are athletes – runners, yogis, Pilates instructors, personal trainers – who are trained in goal-setting.  Most locations prominently display their staff’s short and long-term goals in the store, reassuring customers that they are buying athletic wear from people who actually “get it.”  Every Lululemon location is featured in the “community” section of the company website, inviting users to join email lists specific to their selected area, allowing stores to engage with nearby customers.


Beyond the point-of-sale, Lululemon is known for its ambassador program. Each store selects local talent, usually yogis or runners, to be ambassadors to the community.  This group receives Lululemon gear at a discounted price that they model around town, but they are also encouraged to organize community activities such as “fun runs” and free yoga classes.

I can testify to the success of the in-store activities. When I started training for my first half-marathon, I knew I needed to find a running group to stay motivated. I learned that the Lululemon in my neighborhood hosts a weekly run club so I signed up without ever having visited a store.

After my first run club – which begins and finishes at the store – I stood around chatting with Lulu employees, ambassadors and other runners.  Of course, I was surrounded by athletic gear emblazoned with the company’s logo.

Somehow, I managed to walk out of the store that night without buying anything (probably because I was too embarrassed to try on anything while covered in sweat…)

A couple days later, I popped back in and tried on a few pairs of running shorts… and ended up buying some.

And, now, I am one of the countless athletes who swear by Lululemon’s running shorts (I’ve already purchased two more pair).  Without the Lululemon run club, I might not be a customer at all, let alone a loyal one who often sings the store’s praises to anyone who will listen.

So, while people might prefer using local businesses for some products and services, Lululemon demonstrates how global brands can still benefit from tying themselves to the communities they serve.

What large chains do you think do a good job of supporting local communities? Do you think this has an effect on revenue?