Tag Archive | brands

Under Armour’s “What’s Beautiful?” Project Engages Female Athletes

Earlier this year, Under Armour launched the “What’s Beautiful?” Project – an initiative to “redefine the female athlete.” UA kicked off the new campaign with a video featuring powerful language about women and sports:

My favorite line is, “Take it back… from those who think watching us play is boring.” Damn right: now that’s some motivational copywriting that is sure to make the target audience want to get involved.

The video set up a nice story arch that is currently being carried out through a competition housed on a microsite.  Here, UA encourages women to state their fitness goals, create profiles on the site, and work to achieve the goal while documenting the journey and completing 19 challenges along the way.

The visually appealing site is still functional with several ways for visitors to learn more about the competition and watch demos on how to set up profiles and complete challenges, making for a nice user experience.

To promote “What’s Beautiful,” UA has been leveraging its existing social media platforms, specifically the Under Armour Women Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Additional promotion stemmed from a key partnership with BlogHer, the female-focused publishing network. UA has a dedicated channel on the BlogHer website that aggregates the articles bloggers post about the challenge as well as their readers’ comments. A sweepstakes offering the chance to win a $500 Under Armour gift card helped increase participation among the bloggers’ readers, generating more than 600 cumulative responses to the fitness-focused prompt each post included.

Of course, incentives are a necessary component of this competition due to the time commitment required to participate – it takes a lot of guts to publicly declare a fitness goal and then quite a bit of time to create and maintain a profile. The team behind “What’s Beautiful” clearly recognized that as the prize package for three overall winners is significant.

At the end of the competition in July, UA will announce 10 finalists who will then be whittled down further to three winners – two who UA will select and another that public voting will determine. All three winners are set to receive a one-year sponsorship deal that includes Under Armour gear, access to special events and celebrity trainers, and more. The other finalists won’t walk away empty-handed, though – they’ll automatically earn a place on the Under Armour Women’s Ambassador Team and receive $1,000 worth of UA swag.

That incentive package combined with the strong promotional elements ensured the “What’s Beautiful” Project received attention from the target audience of female athletes, but the strong emotional tie to the story arch is what captured the audience in a more meaningful way.

  1. Have you been participating in the “What’s Beautiful” Project?

Oiselle Hosts “Totally Trials” Contest to Get Runners Pumped for U.S. Olympic Team Trials

With the trials for the 2012 U.S. Olympic track team coming up this weekend, many running-focused companies have capitalized on the buzz surrounding the big events happening in Track Town USA, forming partnerships and sharing creative ways running enthusiasts can participate even if they aren’t trying to climb atop the podium that leads to London.

Oiselle, a smaller women’s running apparel company based in Seattle, Wa., hosted a great contest earlier this summer that helped drum up excitement for the trials as well as the brand itself. Called “Totally Trials,” the contest invited pairs of running buddies to submit applications detailing why they should be chosen to attend the U.S. Track Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR to cheer on the elite athletes.

The winners received airfare, accommodations, tickets to a big party featuring M.C. Hammer (um, awesome?!), Oiselle swag, and, of course, passes to the trials themselves. That is a pretty amazing prize package that provides more than enough incentive to develop a creative contest entry.

One aspect of this contest I especially liked is that the company selected winners based on creativity and merit – no additional popularity element, such as number of votes or comments, played a role in the decision. There are obvious pros and cons to including crowd-sourced votes in contests, but I think excluding this element worked in Oiselle’s favor because it created one fewer barrier to entry, most likely resulting in more submissions.

For example, I know I don’t have a huge blog or Twitter following and I dislike asking my friends to vote for me in contests. When I see promotions that take votes into consideration, I almost never participate because I doubt I can wrangle up enough supporters to overcome more popular influencers. While I still passively engage with these contests, it is rare that I would take the time to put together an entry of my own.

For a smaller brand like Oiselle that is trying to build its consumer base and increase brand awareness, getting people to put in effort creating an entry means you’re getting them to really think about and connect with your company and/or products. This makes it more likely contest participants will become a consumers or, at least,  brand supporters.

Most of the entrants made videos, which they uploaded to YouTube and promoted on their own social networks. This helped spread the word about the contest and generated organic coverage for Oiselle.

image credit: Oiselle blog

As the adorable photo above states, now it’s almost time for the trials. The winners are getting ready to spectate (AKA “fine-tuning their cowbells”), and I’m excited to follow along as they broadcast the events live from Track Town USA. Again, similarly to what nuun accomplished with its blogger team for the Hood-to-Coast relay, Oiselle now has two eager, influential women on its side to create compelling and engaging content that will be shared widely, sustaining the momentum the original contest generated.

  1. Are you looking forward to watching the Trials this weekend? Will you be following along online?
  2. Do you like entering contests where voting is a consideration or do you prefer merit-based ones?

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!




How to Win Friends and Influence People [at SXSW]

This past week, I attended the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas for the first time. I had the opportunity to assist a large global company host a number of activations on the ground at SXSW which showed me a lot about how brands can break through the noise at such a large conference to leave a lasting impact on consumers. It also taught me a bit about myself and how I can attempt to stay focused on running and training even when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

Below, you’ll find a couple of insights I gained from my time in Austin (aside from the fact that Austin truly has amazing breakfast tacos and BBQ).

For Brands:

    1. Don’t Be Intrusive: This piece of advice is twofold. First, when meeting someone for the first time, try to establish a relationship before you begin selling. While assisting one of my clients who serves as the Director of Social Media and Digital Communications for a very large company, I often felt like a bodyguard who had to protect her from people spouting out pitches on why their app/product/agency/etc. should be used. Second, if you are a large brand who hopes to capitalize on the buzz surrounding SXSW, do not interrupt attendees’ conference experience with activations that A) don’t make sense or B) don’t tie back to your company or product.
    2. Solve a Problem: One of the best ways to leave potential customers at an event as large as SXSW with positive impressions of your brand is to find a way to solve their problems that reflects back on your product or company. Companies that do both of these things well – solve problems while allowing consumers to have experiences with their products – will come out as winners. At SXSW, I saw a lot of organizations trying to solve users’ problems (with free food or free charging stations), but I honestly can’t remember who was handing out free breakfast tacos on the corner or who had the jacket that could charge mobile devices because there was never a true connection between the company and the freebie
    3. Provide Value: A lot of companies head down to SXSW to build relationships with influential social media users. There are many ways to do this, and a lot of times they involve lots of free products. That’s fine, but try to think creatively about how you can fulfill a need in a thoughtful way. While in Austin, I overheard my clients chatting about how they’d like to meet other in-house social media managers. With their permission, I organized a dinner that brought together social media directors and community managers from several large organizations. This proved to be a big success – the conversation lasted for three hours as everyone discussed ideas, challenges, and successes they’ve seen in their roles. Both the clients and the other attendees were very happy to leave the dinner with several new connections.

For Staffers:

    1. Try to Maintain Parts of Your Normal Routine…: Traveling always throws off my routine. Add in traveling for a massive conference where I’d be working long hours and I knew the only way to maintain some sanity would be to keep some aspects of my regular habits in place. I decided to focus on two things: running in the mornings and getting in as many fruits and veggies as possible. Everything else went out the window: personal social media activities, reading, cross training, strength training, and yoga. Luckily, I made a running buddy who kept me motivated to wake up early and go running in the rain. Trying to keep up with everything I normally do would have been disastrous, but having two tasks to focus on allowed me to stay on track with my training plan and my health while still giving 100% to my work tasks.
    2. … But Be Flexible: Big conferences are notorious for crazy schedules, which can get even crazier if you are working the event. With my OCD tendencies, I often find myself stressing when my normal routine is disrupted. However, before heading to Austin, I prepared myself for this inevitability. Sure enough, last-minute meetings and events and deadlines popped up, causing me to rearrange my personal schedule. The day for my long run changed three times, I switched my rest day twice, and changed the time I woke up daily. And… I survived.
    3. Follow-up: SXSW, at its core, is a networking event. Even if you’re staffing an event and never step foot inside a panel or party, you will be connecting with lots of people from a variety of industries. If you meet anyone who you enjoyed speaking with, be sure to follow-up once the dust from Austin settles. Don’t rely on the business card exchange – I received many business cards that simply got misplaced as I ran from event to event assisting my clients. Now, I’m hoping many of those who I met will reach out via email or on social channels. I recommend following people on Twitter and sending a quick @reply to remind them of your conversation, adding them to specific Twitter lists (I immediately created two new ones), trying to connect on LinkedIn, or sending a quick email with your contact information. Also, in your introductory email, please don’t pitch the person. This is your chance to start a relationship and the fastest way to ruin it is to reach out with the sole purpose of pitching your product, service, or need for a job.

These are just a few takeaways I had after leaving Austin, but there are many others. What do you recommend for both brands, staffers, and attendees heading to large conferences and events such as SXSW? How can they make the most of their experience and leave the largest impact?

Be Memorable: How to Have an Effective Brand Presence at Industry Conferences

This weekend, quite a few of my favorite health and fitness bloggers made their way to Philadelphia for the 2011 Healthy Living Summit (#HLS). HLS features several networking opportunities as well as a full day of panels covering a variety of topics that further educate members of this extensive online community.

While I was browsing the HLS website, trying to decide if I could fit it into my budget this year, I noticed that Quaker Oats is a Gold Sponsor of the 2011 event. Several other health-focused brands are listed as sponsors – some well-known, others I’ve never heard of before.

Companies know the importance of getting their products and services in front of online influencers at conferences. In my day job, clients constantly ask for calendars of industry events where they should have an official presence. Unfortunately, the larger the conference, the more difficult it can be for brands to break through the noise.

I’ve worked with clients who have spent millions of dollars on booths, panels and marketing stunts at big conferences like CES and Comic-Con, only to see their messages get lost in the onslaught of media coverage that typically arises from these types of events. With Twitter users, bloggers and mainstream outlets producing content constantly throughout the conference, a fantastic client mention in an article or Tweet could get pushed down (and lost) within a few minutes.

At the conferences, hundreds of companies can be squeezed together into the ever-important exhibition hall – competing for the attention of attendees in the same space as their competitors.

So, how do companies ensure their efforts (especially the dollars spent) are worthwhile? Here are a few recommendations:

  1. If you’re giving away swag, make it memorable. People love free stuff so it’s not surprising to see conference attendees making their way through exhibition hall booths, grabbing up anything free left out on company tables. Unfortunately, this usually results in a bag filled with branded pens, jump drives, and notebooks that might get used but  won’t necessarily make a person go out and purchase your product (especially if the product you’re selling isn’t a pen, jump drive, or notebook…). Instead, try handing out a piece of swag that will spark memories about your company. At a fitness event, it makes more sense to hand out high-quality branded water bottles or subtly-branded yoga mats than pens and jump drives. Yes, it’s a more expensive swag, but it’s likely to be more effective since the consumer will most likely use it during an activity that relates back to your product or service.
  2. Provide an experience that is relevant to your product/service. While reading recaps of BlogHer 2011, I noticed quite a few fitness professionals offered free classes or demos that allowed attendees to fully experience what they are trying to sell. Many bloggers reviewed the classes on their websites, providing additional promotion for the companies after the conference ended. I also like the idea of food brands hosting live-cooking events at their exhibition booths, which can provide a great opportunity to connect with the conference community in a memorable, relevant way. I believe this is more effective than say, hiring male models dressed as construction workers to stand in your booth.
  3. Be strategic when planning panels. Some companies sponsor panels or have employees speak at conferences.  When executed well, this can provide great brand exposure.  Unfortunately, if poorly planned, this can also have a negative effect on corporate reputation. Though it might seem like common sense, it is imperative to put significant time into planning the panel, I’m always amazed at how many panels often seem thrown together at the last minute. To ensure attendees leave your session with a positive impression, make sure the panelist is  engaging with the audience, being open and honest about the presented topic (and not merely pushing the product!), has clearly thought about answers to tough questions, and is staying on message as much as possible (without sounding like a corporate robot).

What other recommendations do you have for brands planning to attend or sponsor a conference? If you are attending a conference, what would you like to see brands do to better engage with you?

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?