Revealed: The best examples of content marketing by running apparel brands
At BlueJam Media we love celebrating excellent creativity. We also think it’s important to learn from running brands getting their content marketing right – both on their website and on social media. So we’ve pulled together the best examples of content marketing for 2018 so far, including what’s been shared the most and who’s smashing it on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’re creating content on your blog or on your social media channels, what really works? How do you know what best practice is – for content marketing generally – but also specifically for brands who produce apparel for runners?
If you’ve arrived at the point where you’re making content, but want to know how to be the best in the market at doing that – and you’d love your audience to be talking about how good your content is – we’re here to help.
What are the best examples of content marketing by running apparel brands and why do they work?
A selection of running brands who’ve impressed us with their content marketing recently include:
Tapping into the trends for running tribes, taking content to the user and utilising Facebook’s preference for groups, video, engaging content and Messenger chatbots, Adidas Runners have been killing it in London since launching in summer 2016.
A global phenomenon, with groups in key cities around the world (all content is hyper-local, another key content trend for 2018), Adidas Runners are free groups for runners, like those being set up by individuals – only branded. Sessions are led by qualified coaches who were scouted from pre-existing social run crews, so they brought their audience with them. Runs are organised and discussed via a Facebook group (groups are an area that Facebook is really pushing).
Content is created at the sessions with photographers taking photos of runners and posting them a few days afterwards, alongside videos of the coaches talking through key training points from that session. The key here is that the content is regular and highly engaging as it gives the user value – it’s something they want to see, so they’ll share and react. As it’s a group, members can also post, so there’s the bonus of user-generated content too.
From a brand awareness point of view, regular session-goers are given a branded Adidas Runners T-shirt, so all content features Adidas products and as there’s that feeling of belonging to a tribe or crew, and members feel loyal and want to wear Adidas apparel and shoes (which they’re also able to trial at sessions, while videos of new releases are shared in the group).
Another interesting content tool is the chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Adidas have a studio with free running and fitness sessions for women, and all information and booking is done via the chatbot. Check it out here – it’s pretty nifty.
Meanwhile in China – Adidas’s biggest market globally – the apparel and footwear firm are riding the wave of running’s rapidly increasing popularity, with an initiative designed to encourage people to run more as a way to conserve the oceans and prevent pollution from plastic rubbish. The Adidas sub-brand Parley uses recycled plastic materials to manufacture their trainers, and the more people participate in Adidas’s Run For The Oceans initiative, the more awareness Adidas raised about marine conservation in a bid to encourage Chinese people to think and act more for the good of the global environment. The promotional video content has a very Instagram Stories feel to it, complete with ‘Boomerang’ forward-and-backward footage affects, wrapped in a youthful and cool aesthetic.
Go big or go home, eh? Let’s face it, most brands don’t have anywhere near the budget or time to attempt something as crazy as Nike’s Breaking2 project – named Campaign Of The Year by Campaign magazine – but it does show just what engaging content can accomplish.
Recruiting three elite runners to try and break the two-hour marathon mark in specially designed trainers, Nike may have failed on that front with Eliud Kipchoge coming in at 2 hours 25 seconds, but they excelled with content.
Creating something that captured the imagination and that people really wanted to see, the attempt was Twitter’s biggest ever brand-driven, live-streaming event. Nike had 13.1 million viewers across Twitter, Facebook Live and YouTube, showing just how compelling live video can be.
Nike and National Geographic also created a documentary about the project, and runners were asked to complete their own challenge via the Nike app (which many then shared on social channels), running a sub 25-minute 5k to get early access to the Zoom Fly trainers, based on those worn in the sub-2 attempt. Getting your audience involved is a great way to leverage the sharing in user-generated content.
Beyond the campaign, Nike went on to intermittently create brilliant individual pieces of ongoing content throughout the year, such as this video of Eliud Kipchoge chasing the marathon world record in Berlin, and comedian Kevin Hart preparing for his first ever marathon.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noted that Headspace is a guided meditation app, rather than a running brand, but we love what they’re doing and felt they are really worth paying attention to in case there’s something you can transfer to your brand.
In order to market their app, Headspace have leveraged content and they’ve done it really well. They’ve created a blog with written content around mindfulness and are sharing it via their social channels and a newsletter. The clever thing is, as mindfulness is such a hot topic these days, they’ve gone for some good SEO-friendly topics that will rank high up in search. Articles such as ‘What’s a normal amount of Sunday anxiety?’ get their name in front of their target audience on Google.
They also create weekly Headspace podcasts, giving the reader value, placing themselves as the experts on the topic and giving users a reason to return to the site regularly to get the next one.
A special mention must also go to Salomon who target their audience of adventurers with inspirational images and videos of trail running in stunning vistas. Key to their strategy – for a brand which covers a number of sports including mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding and running – is separating their content into channels for each sport.
On Instagram they have one account each for running, Nordic ski, Outdoor, Snowboards and Freeski, so their audience only see content about the sport they’re interested in – and the brand’s authority in that discipline isn’t diluted. Particularly awesome is their video content – known as Salomon TV – following athletes on amazing adventures in the wilderness and listening to their tips and thoughts as they push themselves. Watch them (they even have a specific Salomon TV app you can do it on) and try not to be inspired.
There’s been a big shift in mentality by trainers brand Asics, moving from the old-school thinking of campaigns, to the more up-to-date approach of regularly publishing content.
Asics’s market research showed them that consumers find them relatable and a good gateway into running, so they geared their appeal to beginner runners – as well as just to people wanting to move their bodies more than they have been, and to feel good about that.
In fact, Asics’s content is there to promote the messaging that just whacking on a pair of trainers and getting out there is really good for your mental health generally.
What type of content gets shared the most?
We’ve taken a look at a selection of running apparel brands to see what type of posts they’re creating and what’s getting shared most. We’ve noticed a few patterns in what makes their content resonate with people.
Inspirational athletes and influencers
Exciting stories about users’ favourite running influencers have high engagement rates. A report about Salomon athlete Killian Jornet summiting Everest for the second time in a week was the most shared piece of blog content of all the brands we looked at in 2017. It was shared an impressive 2.5k times, mainly on Facebook.
Articles about athletes and real runners were also some of inov-8’s most popular content. A post about cancer-survivor Nicky Spinks setting an ultra-marathon record was shared nearly 1k times during 2017, mainly on Facebook, with some shares on Twitter.
Running hints and tips
Particularly useful for newer runners or those trying a new discipline such as trail running, hints and tips are educational and provide a real benefit to readers. They may not sound groundbreaking but they’re great for SEO and still a favourite with readers. Inov-8’s article, Running tips: 10 ways to beat the mud, was their second best-performing blog post in 2017 with more than 750 shares on social media.
And lululemon’s feature 18 in 18, about setting 18 goals for 2018 and how to stick to them, was shared more than 300 times, mainly on Facebook.
Incredible running adventures
Stunning scenery and epic adventures are always going to be a winner. Salomon’s second most popular post in 2017 was this video blog of a runner’s dream trip to Nepal, which had almost 2.5k shares.
Saucony’s blog is also getting in on the travel and running act. Their blog has an Explore section about getting to know different cities and the Run Your World Takeover, which is an interview series. The brand’s shoutout for users to share Canada’s 150 best running spots was shared almost 1k times, mainly on Facebook.
Which examples of content marketing by running apparel brands perform best on Facebook?
We looked at a select group of running apparel brands on Facebook to see how they were performing and analysed what we found.
Biggest Facebook growth
While Facebook’s algorithm changes may mean less organic engagement for brands, the running apparel market was looking pretty healthy in 2017. The average Page Like growth among the brands we studied was 34%, with HOKA One One seeing a whopping 126% increase, in part down to their decision to tell real-life stories of HOKA runners.
Average Facebook interaction rates
The average interaction rate for our group of running brands over 2017 was 0.3% of their Facebook audience of Page Likers engaging with their posts. Despite only posting 74 times, Ronhill topped the list with 3.2% engagement. A phenomenal 27% of Ronhill’s interactions were comments and 13% were shares – interactions that we believe have a lot higher weighting than Reactions. The reason? Rather than just sharing facts about the brand, posts encouraged users to tell their own story. As such, the engagement was much more personal.
Do those who post the most win?
The average number of Facebook posts from this set of brands in 2017 was one per day. The not-quite-so-behemoth brands tend to post more frequently – while Nike and adidas were two of the bottom three for post frequency in 2017. But posting more often seems to work in general – Salomon, Sweaty Betty, lululemon London, inov-8, On and Hoka One One all posted frequently last year and had some of the best engagement rates. Salomon, HOKA One One and On even got more interactions than they had Page Likes.
Which individual Facebook posts performed the best?
‘Overperformance’ is a stat that shows how one post does in relation to the average posts by that brand on Facebook. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the most overperforming post from our sample set was an image and accompanying story of a doctor who stopped midway through a triathlon to help save the life of someone who’d collapsed.
An inspiring story by HOKA who used the hashtags #humansofHOKA and #womenwhofly, it performed 59 times better than their average post, because it was so emotionally moving and relatable.
Sweaty Betty overperformed with a number of funny takes on #MondayMotivation. This one performed 39 times better than their average posts. One of the reasons for the number of shares and likes could be that it’s a standalone visual post, which is literally made for sharing.
Ronhill’s #RunEveryDay campaign in October 2017 had a really high interaction rate and resulted in a lot of user-generated content as people loved being invited to participate and have their say. Have a look at the rich comments here.
Who is innovating effectively on Facebook?
Adidas managed to produce every single runner in the 2018 Boston Marathon a personalised video of themselves to share on Facebook within 24 hours of the finish.
All 30,000 runners received a video, which within two days were viewed 100,000 times with a 95% completion rate, and generated 8,000 comments on Facebook. The customisation included showing each person’s split times at key points during the event, and then footage of them crossing the finish line.
What made these posts successful for running brands on Facebook?
- Post mainly photos and videos for people to engage with on Facebook (more than links)
- Post daily
- Be like Ronhill and make your users the star of the story. Have something easy, fun and meaningful for them to share and participate in
- Post emotionally moving stories with images like HOKA
- Post funny takes on meme images like Sweaty Betty
- Make something for people that enables them to tell a story about themselves to friends
Which examples of content marketing by running apparel brands perform best on Instagram?
We looked at a select group of running apparel brands on Instagram to see how they were performing and found a number of handy things for you to learn and apply.
Biggest Instagram growth
Brands tend to have smaller follower numbers on Instagram than Facebook, but the platform is catching up fast. PUMA boasted an 85% increase year-on-year in 2017, Sweaty Betty 62%, lululemon UK & IRE 57% and Salomon Running 51%. The average Instagram growth for the group of brands we looked at was 19% year-on-year.
Average Instagram interaction rates
The average interaction rate on Instagram for running apparel brands was double that of those brands on Facebook – 0.6% versus 0.3% in our select group. Among those brands, Salomon Running have the best interaction rate with 2.4% of followers engaging on Instagram in 2017. That’s almost double second-placed PUMA on 1.3%.
Number of Instagram posts
The average number of posts per day for the brands in this group in 2017 was 1 – the same frequency as on Facebook. While Under Armour had around the same number of photos to videos, most other brands had many more photos than videos. The interaction rates were higher on photos than on videos for these brands in 2017. Certain videos can really leap out at users to perform amazingly well, but photos are your bread and butter in terms of consistently performing.
Which Instagram posts performed the best?
The best-performing post in the last quarter of 2017 from the brands we looked at – by interaction rate – was this action shot full of determination by Salomon Running. Featuring athlete Kilian Journet, it had a 5.1% interaction rate.
An impressively overperforming post was this death-defying cliff-running video posted by inov-8. It got 28.4 times as much interaction as inov-8’s average posts. Seems if a post is crazy and awe-inspiring, runners love it.
Don’t look down! 😮 😱 @grangier_germain @inov8_france takes his running to the edge and trusts in his grip! #inov8 #GetAGrip #xtalon . Repost @julienjorro: (Teaser le teaser) Petit extrait du Teaser du trail #3600 de @les2alpesoutdoorfestival en juin 2018. Après le passage sur le glacier à 3600m, c’est la traversée en balcon. Attention y’a du gazzzzzzz!!!! #Garminvirb #outdoorfestival #2alpes @2alpes #trailrunning #alpes #trail #skyrunning #les2alpes #mountain #climb #Teamgarminadventure #inov8france @grangier_germain @christophelaignel @ludojolly @skins_france @camelbak @garmin @stc.nutrition @julbo_eyewear @inov8_france . @grangier_germain: Following @julienjorro onthe @les2alpesoutdoorfestival route. EPICENTRE of The Alps. Come join us on June 24th!
Summary of what works for running brands on Instagram:
- An epic shot of a person (athlete) on their own in the picture works best
- The posts with the most interaction tend to use one brand-owned hashtag in a short post
- Gritty, muddy, mid-race shots are favoured by top-performing brand Salomon Running
- A cleverly shot packshot of your product with an inspiring quote or backdrop works well
- Exciting videos work best, mid-running action, and again quite rawly shot in GoPro style
We’ve looked at the trends influencing content and running, the brands that are doing content marketing well, and also seen how effective it can be. If you want to know how you can apply this to your content creation, head over and check out our content marketing tips for running brands.
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