Tag Archive | fitness marketing

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?

The Mezamashii Project | Mizuno Leverages WOM and Social Media to Get Runners to “Join the Quest for More Brilliant Running”

Running hurts. It’s no secret. From elite athletes to newbies, everyone knows running hurts. When the pain seeps in, the mind races with excuses to quit, to give up, to feel less… but we runners power through it to get to the other side, where the euphoric “Runner’s High” is waiting, patiently, to remind us why we keep at it.

All runners experience the pain no matter how long they’ve been doing the sport – there are bad runs, tough workouts, goal races that leave your lungs strained and legs heavy. But there are also amazing runs – adventurous jaunts that make us crave the next time we’ll experience the “Runner’s High.”

It’s those runs, and the blissful sensations that take over when the pain stops, that drive runners to keep lacing up our shoes day after day. We’re all seeking that elusive high.

Enter Mizuno’s new campaign: The Mezamashii Project. Aside from being a fun word to say, mezamashii means “brilliant” in Japanese. It touches on the concept of something being “eye-opening,” awakening a sense of awe and inspiration in your surroundings.

Mizuno says “a more euphoric, ‘mezamashii’ running experience is out there…” and the brand is encouraging the running community to join the quest to find it.

The short video below does a great job of introducing, and showing, mezamashii running:

With this new initiative, the company is hoping to change the way people try on and eventually purchase running shoes.  On the campaign microsite, a pop-up window greets visitors who click the “request an invite” prompt with this message:

“We are on a quest to deliver more mezamashii – more ecstatic, electric, wind-in-your heart running. So instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising to talk about our shoes, we’re putting our money where your feet are and putting our shoes on runners’ feet.”

Mizuno believes its shoes are the vehicle needed to bring about more mezamashii running – so much so that it is giving away thousands of free pairs of shoes to runners, banking on the “try-it-and-you’ll-love-it” approach to marketing. In doing so, the company is hoping to build a community of running enthusiasts who will receive inspiration, early access to product launches, and invites to exclusive events.

In the absence of a major advertising campaign to promote and support the project, Mizuno is relying on word-of-mouth and social media to spread the word. They’ve tapped influential running bloggers to kick off the project as founding members, who not only receive a free pair of Mizuno shoes but also have the opportunity to give away shoes to their readers.

I have to commend the team behind this campaign for creating stunning assets that can be easily shared via social media channels. There is inspiring imagery (that I expect we’ll see going viral on Pinterest soon) and short, nicely executed videos.

In addition to relying on runners to launch the project on their own social channels, Mizuno is using its official YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter profiles. There is also a Pinterest account, but there isn’t much content there yet.

Knowing there are always runs that are going to hurt, the message of this campaign is a great way for runners to remember just how amazing the sport can be. We runners get it:  we’re all on that quest for the brilliant run, for that “runner’s high.” It’s what binds us all together, right?

  1. What do you think about the mezamashii project video?
  2. What do you do when you’re in the middle of one of those “tough” runs?

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!




The Power of Positive Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Azuka Bom’s Fitness Phenomenon

Asuka Boutcher finds herself in a predicament most first-time entrepreneurs spend countless, sleepless nights trying to achieve – she can no longer actively market or advertise her product because she has reached the maximum capacity of customers she and her facility can handle.

Azuka Bom, Founder of Kazaxé

Boutcher, known professionally as Azuka Bom, has created a fitness phenomenon in a large community center basement, affectionately referred to as ”The Underground”, in Alexandria, Va. Her product, Kazaxé (pronounced ka-za-shay), is an intense 60-minute dance fitness class that yelp.com reviewers describe as “Zumba on steroids… it becomes an addiction.”

But, Azuka doesn’t have her Yelp ratings memorized. She doesn’t spend hours monitoring the reviews that regularly pop up on the crowd-sourced site. In fact, she doesn’t even have a business account despite the company contacting her several times.

“I was shocked to see how many great reviews people had left on there, without even having to ask,” Azuka said.

When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, Azuka and Kazaxé make the perfect case study. Five years into her business, Azuka has done no paid advertising or marketing.

“We let the customer talk for us.”

And talk they do. Kazaxé has 49 reviews on Yelp with a perfect average rating of 5 stars. Earlier this summer, she reached the maximum number of Facebook friends allowed (5,000) so she launched a business page that already has 2,436 fans. Every update posted to the social network generates “likes” and comments from users.

Her father, Dave Boutcher, stressed the importance of three things that enabled Kazaxé’s positive WOM success: a fantastic product, excellent customer service and incentives.

“Incentives have to be truly free. They can’t be given while expecting something in return,” Dave explained.

To build awareness for Kazaxé in its early days, Azuka offered her students a deal:

bring five new people to class and receive five free classes.

“There was a woman who never paid for classes,” Azuka remarked. “She used to walk around the shopping center, looking for people wearing tennis shoes. She’d go up to them and say, ‘There’s this amazing fitness class you have to try. Just come with me!’”

The goal, according to Azuka, was to get people to try Kazaxé one time. Once they took a class, she knew the product would speak for itself and they’d most likely return. The team believed so strongly in Kazaxé that for more than four years first-time students could take one Kazaxé class free of charge.

The incentives worked. Word spread about the hot, new workout that felt “more like a night out than a fitness class,” and soon the staff at the Underground had to turn students away because they had reached the 435-person building capacity. Now, there are caps for the number of students who can take each class and, rarely, do classes fail to sell out.

Even as I sat talking with Azuka a full hour before her next class, a line had begun snaking its way around the large, open space where Kazaxé is held. The Underground was filled with people of all different races, body types and fitness levels waiting patiently to dance with Azuka and her team.

The buzz surrounding Kazaxé started organically and has only been amplified by social networks and the Internet.

“I started out before Facebook and Twitter. I only recently started using them,” Azuka noted.

At that, Dave gave his daughter a knowing look. “Sometimes, I think, she uses it a little too much – says things that make me wonder, ‘does she really need to share that?’”

Azuka explained she is an open book online, but she thinks that’s why her customers are so loyal and committed to Kazaxé. They know they are part of a community where they are “seen as people, not just dollar signs.”

Never, she said, does she want to be only promoting Kazaxé and pushing her product on social channels.

“You see so many companies pushing and pushing, but you rarely see actual interaction taking place on their Facebook pages. Where are the conversations?”

Visit Azuka’s Facebook page and you’ll see there is no shortage of genuine conversations taking place. A recent post about how Kazaxé is different than Zumba garnered 28 “likes” and 26 comments, another post showing the effects of cat allergies on her eye received 22 comments.

The balance in the type of posts (a majority of them are not about the product!) and the relatability of her content have allowed Azuka to cultivate a highly engaged community of ambassadors who are constantly spreading the word about Kazaxé and The Underground.

Building the extensive community of fans who actively share positive reviews and stories about Kazaxé would not have happened without remarkable customer service.

“Every day, remember the name of one new student,” Dave shared the advice he gave Azuka when she was first starting.

What started out as a joke has become a philosophy in The Underground, where Kazaxé classes are held 6-days a week.

Even with Kazaxé’s success and increasing number of students, Dave continues stressing the importance of treating customers well, which was demonstrated when he created and distributed customer service handbooks to the entire Underground staff.

“Good businesses are built on relationships,” Dave notes. “Focus on the relationship; build the trust. If your customers trust that you’re taking care of them, they’ll take care of you.”

An integral part of the Kazaxé team’s customer service is ensuring they regularly give back to the community. Each month, Azuka hosts a 2-hour long class called Megaxé and donates all profits from the event to local charities.

“We’ve had people tell us that they looked at other studios and classes, but chose us because of the charity work we do,” Azuka said. “That’s important to me, to all of us. We are big on community, on keeping all of this as human as possible.”

Even surrounded by hundreds of other people, patrons still feel like part of the Kazaxé family. Whether it’s a person’s first class or fiftieth, Azuka makes everyone feel welcome. She gives all students her personal cell phone number, letting them know they can contact her any time with questions.

That sort of personalization is what drives Kazaxé’s success, enhanced with the word-of-mouth customers so freely provide online and offline.

“Whatever you want to do, you have to go into it with an open heart,” Azuka says. “If you want it for the right reasons, if you’re passionate, if you’re being yourself, it will happen. People react well to that.”

For more information about Kazaxé, please visit http://www.azuka-bom.com. Classes take place 6-days a week and only cost $5. (Yes, you read that right – $5…) You can also interact with Azuka on Facebook and Twitter.

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?

International Race Series Finds Success with Local Running Event

Earlier this week, my local running store partnered with athletic apparel retailer Lululemon to orchestrate a pretty exciting event for DC-area runners: a fun run with running superstar Josh Cox.

Josh Cox gets his run on in Washington, D.C.

As a marketing professional, I have to say the event was a complete success.  Four days later, I’m still thinking about the fun run and what I learned about running from Josh.  I have a deeper sense of loyalty to both the running store (Pacers) and Lululemon (which, of course, causes my bank account to weep…).

In addition to this, I have signed up for my second half marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA.

When I first heard about the event late last week, I wasn’t quite sure why Pacers and Lululemon were bringing American record holder and former Bachelorette star Josh Cox to town to run with our group.  I figured it was just another perk of living in the second-healthiest city in America.

As the notifications and reminders about the run with Josh starting pouring in from Facebook, Twitter and email, I began piecing together more information. The Competitor Group, which owns the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races, was putting on the event in order to spread awareness about the “newest race coming to Washington, D.C.”

Several people smarter than me put two-and-two together to determine a Rock ‘n’ Roll event was making its way to the Nation’s Capital.  The Pacers/Lululemon fun run with Josh Cox would be a way to formally announce the news about the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon and Marathon directly to the vast D.C. running community. This would happen the same day a major press conference would be held.

Now, that’s a pretty ingenious way of tapping into your target audience, isn’t it?

What the Event Sought to Accomplish

  • Raise Awareness for a New Race – The Rock ‘n’ Roll series is taking over the National Half and Full Marathon, an event that has racked up some negative press in recent years.  In order to market new ownership of the race, the Competitor Group needed to raise awareness among the running community since they will most likely serve as ambassadors, recruiting friends and family to also run the race.
  • Secure Large Number of Registrations  – As with most races, directors hope to reach capacity prior to race day.  Kicking off the process with a high number of registrations in the first 48 hours is a way succeed in this area.

Why the Event Worked

  • Celebrity Access – Providing area runners with the opportunity to interact with a high-profile running celebrity like Josh is sure to grab people’s attention and make them more likely to show up to the event.  This worked particularly well because Josh’s first marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego so he was able to share his experiences with the series and why he enjoys running these races so much.
  • Cross-promotional Efforts – This event was not only a huge promotional effort for the Competitor group, it was also a big win for Pacers and Lululemon.  It’s safe to say that joining forces with local stores most likely created a larger turnout than if Competitor had tried putting on an event by itself.  These stores are recognized within the community and both have established methods of communicating with hundreds of runners.  By working together, all three sides could leverage their existing audiences to combine into one mega-event, which generated buzz for all involved parties.
  • Right AudiencePutting on a half-marathon and marathon means targeting athletes and seasoned runners.  Competitor hit this out of the park in all aspects – from centering the event and announcement around a group fun run and brining in an elite runner.
  • Tapped into Audience’s Existing Habits – I think one of the main reasons this event worked so well, particularly given the shortened promotional period, is because both Pacers and Lululemon already host weekly fun runs that see a high turnout.  Combining the Competitor announcement with these already scheduled runs made it easy to reach the target audience without having to get them to fit in another event into their calendars.
  • Timing – The timing of the event couldn’t have been better.  It was held the same afternoon as the full-blown press conference, which meant there was already some buzz by the time all the runners gathered together at Pacers.  This allowed some excitement to build and also sustained conversations that might have otherwise started to die down after the morning’s presser.  Additionally, Rock ‘n’ Roll significantly decreased the registration cost of the race for 48 hours, which was also announced at the fun run.  That right there is what put me over the edge when deciding to sign up.  Without the discount, I probably would have sat on registering for a few more weeks… letting the excitement of the event wear off, which decreases the odds I’d actually sign up for the race.

What Would Have Made It Even Better

  • Longer Promotional Window – As I said above, I only began hearing about this event a week ago.  With so little information available at that time, it wasn’t clear at first who was hosting the event or that Competitor was even involved.  Had I had more time to prepare and been given more information, I probably would have invited more of my running friends to the event and promoted the fun run via my own social media channels.
  • Digital Outreach – I’m a pretty avid reader of D.C.-area fitness and running blogs, and I don’t remember seeing anything written about the fun run on any of these sites.  D.C. has a thriving health and fitness blogging community that is very active in the blogosphere and on Twitter so getting these people on board could have added an extra element of promotion for the event.
  • On-site Registration – Maybe I missed this or it wasn’t announced, but I was shocked the Competitor group didn’t have computers set up to register people on-site at the fun run.  I live right down the street and by the time I got home I was already wavering on whether I should sign up!

Have you experienced any successful hyper-local events like this one?  If so, what was your reaction?  Do you think more national companies should tap into local events in this way?