Content marketing trends

The key content marketing trends for running apparel brands in 2018

What are the biggest and best content marketing trends for running apparel brands? Here are the trends BlueJam’s running content strategists say are influencing the stories being told by running’s biggest, best and most innovative brands…

 

Running, we love it. And we’re not alone. Sport England says that nearly 7 million people in the country ran at least twice a month in 2017 – a year that saw the highest-ever number of runners signing up for the London Marathon, including a record-breaking 45% female applicants. In May 2018, the London Marathon application record was broken again with 414,168 people signing up to run. The UK’s fastest growing sport in recent years? You guessed it, running. In other words, the market for running apparel has never been bigger.

 

So when somebody decides to take up running, replace something that’s worn out, or step up their running with a new bit of kit, what happens next? They might Google it. They might ask a friend for advice via Facebook Messenger, post in a Facebook running group, ask Alexa, search YouTube for reviews, check out some Instagram posts, quiz a mate down the pub… Wherever they’re going for advice, that’s where you, as a running apparel brand, want to place yourself (apart from earwigging on their conversation in the pub, of course – that would just be creepy).

  • Nearly 7 million people in the country ran at least twice a month in 2017
  • The Virgin London Marathon had a record 45% female applicants for 2018

And what do you want to do once you’re in the right place? Give your customers some brilliant content that’s going to inform their apparel-purchasing decision exactly when they need it. Simple.

 

Here’s a look the trends driving the best content marketing for running brands so far in 2018.

What’s our definition of content marketing for running apparel?

Our definition of content marketing is regular communication that adds deep value for a distinct audience. Content can be a weekly Tweet, a series of short Instagram videos, some ongoing podcast episodes, regular mail-outs, blog content, a movie franchise – or anything in between.

 

What’s important is that there’s an audience out there who desire information and entertainment around running apparel. And you’ve got a great chance to make it your brand that provides them with it.

 

How does content marketing actually work, and what does success look like?

Research shows that companies who create consistent marketing content experience conversion rates nearly six times higher than competitors who don’t. It’s not a quick sales fix, though – this is a marathon, not a sprint. The more you focus on content marketing, the greater the success.

 

Surveys conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that brands who reported the highest levels of success from their content marketing were more likely to have been doing it longer, have a dedicated strategy and deliver consistently.

 

Content marketing allows you to place yourself as experts in the field. It drives brand awareness and loyalty as you’re providing consistent value to customers who’ll keep coming back for more. And it allows you to place yourself where your customers are most likely to be, whether that’s on social media, YouTube or searching on Google. In return, customers will reward your content offering by buying your products and services – often directly from you.

What content marketing trends should running apparel brands be aware of?

ASICS running apparel

Brands like ASICS need to create content to stay competitive

 

With the challenges of social media’s ever-changing algorithms, content marketing is a constantly evolving field. Every time we spot a new trend or Facebook throws another spanner in the works, we’ll be noting it. As always, engaging content that incites emotion is key, but recent content marketing trends to take note of include:

 

Creating content to retain or attract in-house personnel

During 2018, we are seeing more brands create content hubs for their team members, to demonstrate how the company’s values translate to their working lives. Recruitment is always such a hefty undertaking – finding just the right person – that it’s worth doing inspiring work that your staff can feel good about.

 

A good example of this is GamePlan A by adidas. This shows people in the adidas team – or potentially recruits – how adidas see them best balancing family and fitness (like a running world record-holder), fighting the afternoon fog, and how to fit in fitness when you’re crunched for time.

 

Content platforms that deliver every time for a distinct audience and their needs do – we find – make much more efficient use of your marketing budget than editorial propositions that are trying to be all things to all people. Do you have an in-house content channel – or one for your business partners and suppliers perhaps – that could provide regular value to your human resources, as well as inspiring those outside who spot the content as well?

 

Engineering useful online tools as a type of epic content

What experience could you, as a running apparel brand marketing team, create that offers a seriously useful experience for your target audience? We have seen that an alternative to a video documentary series, a podcast interview series or a number of epic infographics, if you had a tool that told truly benefitted runners because it helped them learn how to improve, this is likely to be shared widely, and organically, in 2018.

 

The more people run, and the more people who get running regularly, the better it will be for your business. So what kind of quiz, or interactive functionality could you produce that would tell me as a consumer something deeply informative about how best to train, or what best to eat based on my training, or something else that I can learn? This is a trend used very smartly in other verticals, which could be very effective for runners.

 

Retaining your customers with fantastic content – not just using content at the top of the funnel

Running apparel brands are likely to benefit a lot in 2018 from having a CRM programme (usually via email) wherein where a user visits your site or makes a purchase, they are then emailed articles that showcase complementary follow-up purchases, or how to make the best of the product they’ve bought.

 

This is to add value to the customer as part of their customer experience – research states that the open rate of post-transactional emails is about 45% higher than standard marketing emails.

 

Useful content that a user can receive after purchase might include ‘How To Make Use of All the Best Features of your new Garment/Trainers’ or ‘The Best Gear To Buy Now That Complements Your Running Apparel Purchase.’

 

Taking your marketing directly to the customer

Speaking about digital trends at the ISPO Sports Business Network show in 2017, running expert Urs Weber noted that people don’t just come into running shops on their own any more, but instead retailers and brands need to show up where the runners are.

 

‘That can be an appearance in social networks, a booth at major running events like the marathon trade fairs or small local running competitions, or even an on-site visit with running groups,’ he said. We believe this trend is only going to get more important for the rest of 2018 too.

 

Instagram Stories

Instagram scheduler IconoSquare predicts that Stories are set to dominate even more this year, and all the evidence is certainly pointing that way. Launching in August 2016, 12 months later Stories had 250 million daily users, nicking a good portion of Snapchat’s audience on the way.

 

Instagram are really pushing Stories, live video (also one to watch) and ‘in-the-moment’ content. You can now see Stories on desktop, add highlighted Stories to your profile, search hashtags in Stories and make them interactive with polls. It seems immediacy is one of Instagram’s priorities at the moment, making Stories a top tool for sharing content.

 

Paying for Instagram posts

Instagram’s algorithm means users see content from accounts they interact with most in their feed, which tends to be friends and family rather than brands. You may well be seeing less engagement on your posts and stagnant follower numbers and that’s because Instagram wants you to pay, prioritising paid content over organic.

 

Research from eMarketer predicts that Instagram’s ad revenue will grow from $4.10bn in 2017 to $10.87bn by 2019, and that money has to come from somewhere! Although there is some good news – shoppable posts, tested with US businesses in 2017, rolled out to countries including the UK in March 2018.

 

Less reliance on Facebook

In January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was going back to its roots, prioritising users’ posts over public content (including posts from brands) and focusing on quality rather than quantity. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It just means that rather than putting a few quid behind your latest post, you need to really think about what your audience is looking for.

 

Facebook want meaningful posts that users connect and interact with, so if you really know your audience and focus on what they’re looking for, you could still be onto a winner. Tips from AdWeek include linking less, producing content that incites discussion, using live video (live video views have six times the interaction of pre-recorded) and looking at areas that are growing including groups, chatbots and messaging.

 

Personalisation

One size doesn’t fit all. Econsultancy say brand marketers are focusing on hyper-personalisation, creating many different versions of content to target different groups of customers. They also noted that, rather than being produced at global HQ, more brands were creating content from local offices who truly understand the local market.

 

What are the queries that your audiences have in each of your distinct markets? Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends report states that 70% of YouTube viewers use the platform to solve problems, which will include things they want to solve around hobbies such as running. Have your answered all their questions using your YouTube channel, in a way that’s optimised for YouTube search?

 

Voice content

Content doesn’t just have to be on social media, a video or a blog. The Digital Marketing Institute say that, over the rest of 2018, it’s time to think about going off screen too.

 

A growing number of people have Google Home or Alexa or Siri, and many sensors and devices are becoming digital and voice-activated. It won’t be long before we have a generation who barely type to search – creating interesting new ways to get your message across.

What are the latest running trends that could influence your content marketing strategy?

Stryd Sensor

Stryd sensor is a cutting-edge wearable bringing cycling-style power stats to runners

 

When it comes to content marketing, knowing what your audience are talking about and what they’re interested in so you can lead or join the conversation is key. That’s why we’re going to be updating this section of our content marketing article regularly with the stand-out running apparel trends to be aware of throughout 2018. So far, these include:

 

Wearable tech

Tracking your run is still a big trend, but it’s no longer just for serious runners. Even those just starting out who may not have a dedicated running watch are now interested in logging stats with their fitness bands and smartwatches.

 

Wearables from companies such as Garmin, Polar, Samsung, Fitbit, TomTom and Suunto were the number two trend in the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018, meaning there’s even more insight about how, why and when your customers run – and new and interesting ways to share and compare stats are a great way to create content.

 

Female empowerment

It’s the final death knell for ‘pink it and shrink it’. With thousands utilising the #MeToo hashtag at the end of 2017, highlighting the prevalence of sexual harassment, and 2018 marking 100 years since women were given the vote, this is the year of the woman. With females making up more than 50% of younger runners, Runner’s World US are predicting all-female running crews will be on the increase.

 

Triathlete magazine noted a number of brands at The Running Event Trade Show in Texas were making shoes and bodymapped clothes and accessories for women a priority. Women supporting women is a key content trend to watch.

 

Customisation

Salomon MESH Lab

The Salomon me:SH Lab in Annecy is set up to produce bespoke trail shoes

 

Runner’s World US are just one of many predicting the rise of bespoke shoes made specifically for the individual. Nike and Adidas are among the brands that have been offering low-level customisation – colourways and wording – for a while.

 

Salomon and Brooks are making bigger forays into the market, looking at an individual’s biomechanics and foot measurements. Customers will be looking for products and content that fits with their lifestyle and needs rather than one-size-fits-all.

 

Recovery

And relax. With interest in mindfulness and meditation on the up, runners are starting to realise the power of recovery (just check the hashtag #RunnersNotRunning on Instagram to see what they’re up to). Triathlete magazine noted that the booths dedicated to post-training and race recovery at The Running Event in Austin far outnumbered those showcasing shoes.

 

The Under Armour MapMyRun app named recovery and meditation as key running trends to look out for this year – with a cheeky mention for their own Under Armour Athletic Recovery Sleepwear in there.

 

Sustainability

A trend in life as well as running, sustainability is big news so far in 2018. Eye-catching reusable S’well bottles are all over the ‘gram, veganism is seeing a huge uprise, event organisers say environmental sustainability is becoming a more important factor in races, and Adidas’ Parley range (which uses recycled yarn and is working to prevent plastics entering the ocean) is ever expanding.

 

People are paying more attention to where their clothing comes from and how the clothes are manufactured. It’s never been cooler to be green.

 

Running tribes

Stance Socks

The Stance Socks running crew ready to run at the White Collar Factory

 

Running purists may turn their noses up at running selfies but with the proliferation of social media, who you run with and where you run has never been more important. Road race participation is falling in the US and social runs with urban ‘crews’ are on the rise. DIY running groups are taking over from more traditional and athletic running clubs, which can be intimidating to newer runners.

 

Meetups are being organised, discussed and shared through social channels – usually with a number of post-run pictures. And of course if there are pics, what you wear is more important than ever before. Apparel and accessories help you feel you belong to a certain running tribe – we’ve noticed micro trends for Ciele caps and Stance socks in our own run crews.

 

 

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