Media: Strategy Analysis - Reebok taps runners' inspiration

Brand: Reebok UK
Client: Michael Price, marketing director, Reebok UK
Brief: Create a clear brand position and point of difference for Reebok
to occupy in the running market
Target audience: Fifteen- to 34-year-olds who have taken up running in
the past six months
Budget: Undisclosed

AGENCIES
Media: Manning Gottlieb OMD

STRATEGY

Until recently, Reebok enjoyed a very healthy market share based on consumers' perception of it as an authentic brand for "proper" runners. This culminated in Reebok winning Runner's World Shoe of the Year in 2004. However, due to a rapid decline in investment and visibility, its business has been eroded and its credibility diminished. With this is mind, Manning Gottlieb OMD resolved to restore Reebok's credibility by creating a group of brand advocates to epitomise the spirit of the brand.

Only 12 per cent of runners are "hard core", those for whom their personal best is everything. For the rest, it isn't about personal bests or being an athlete but about other, more personal and emotional motivations. The agency found that people's reasons for running range from raising money for charity to experiencing a feeling of escapism. While other brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Asics promoted technical innovation, style or professional athletes, no-one owned the moment of inspiration. That was Reebok's opportunity - to own and capture that moment of personal epiphany and to tap into the passion of new runners and turn it into advocacy.

The campaign idea "inspired to run" was the result of a strategic partnership forged with The National Magazine Company. Runner's World, Men's Health and Zest were ideal partners to deliver the credibility, editorial know-how and grass- roots appeal. This cross-platform solution asked runners to share their moments of inspiration and perhaps, in turn, become the inspiration for others.

EXECUTION

- Press and online: "Inspired to run" was launched in June issues with a bespoke, eight-page feature timed to capitalise on the most inspirational run of all: the London Marathon. Reebok athletes such as Darren Campbell and Carolina Kluft talked about their inspirations, shared advice and, most importantly, invited readers to join them in sharing their stories in an online blog at www.inspiredtorun.co.uk. The most inspirational story would earn £1,000 and a day of training with Darren Campbell.

The website provided a true forum for real runners to talk about their most inspirational running moments and allowed other runners to post comments, offer advice and share similar experiences.

Over the next four months, the titles maintained momentum and reach, publishing that month's best blog story in conjunction with Reebok, alongside display advertising.

RESULTS

To date, 486 inspiring stories have been submitted and 28,000 unique users have visited the website. In addition, 1,800 users have registered to find out more about Reebok products. The real results, however, are in the depth of engagement. Blog comments such as "What a wonderful story - it brought tears to my eyes" demonstrate how this campaign lifted response out of the ordinary. To cap it off, a growing network of links from the site to other running sites and blogs has integrated the promotion and the brand with real running communities.

THE VERDICT - Gerry Boyle chief executive, ZenithOptimedia

This has the hallmarks of strategy and planning as it should be done - powerful business, brand and consumer insights in play and a real sense that the planners are not only interested but passionate about the work.

These are good insights, in so far as they simply just make sense, even to one who is no longer in the requisite demographic and has not run for anything other than the bus in at least ten years. So far so good ... and it does get better.

The strategic thought "inspired to run" is well-crafted, neatly distilled out of those insights and creates a sense of excitement, expectation and anticipation. What will they do with this lovely thinking?

The partnership with The National Magazine Company is, at first pass, well-conceived and employs good, basic, principles of execution - the right editorial, the right targeting and perfect timing around the London Marathon. The idea of creating a site for real runners to blog their own stories is a good one - what better way to restore credibility and authenticity than by tapping into the inspiration of the runners themselves to create the content?

The site itself was neatly designed, with Reebok's presence subtle rather than overpowering. I felt a little disappointed at the need to offer a £1,000 prize for the "most inspirational story". Surely the whole point, the power, of user-generated content is that the user generates it because they want to. Not because they are being paid to. That's called journalism.

That said, taking the content from the site into the magazine allowed for the grass-roots stories to reach and inspire a much wider base. This also gave some continuity following the initial big push behind the marathon and kept the link between the two platforms dynamic.

There's no mention, however, of what else was done to exploit this unique content or encourage runners to submit their stories, although I'm sure that the web was capitalised on in more ways than detailed opposite.

It's a great strategy, well-executed and evidenced by good levels of interaction. For all the talk of user-generated content, "inspired to run" is an excellent example of how it can be harnessed to powerful effect.

Score: 4 out of 5.

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