“‘Buy this shoe. Now here's another shoe for you to buy. Now here's another.' That's not what people want from New Balance.”
What helped make #SeeMyRun become successful was… telling a global story and uniting and igniting a community.
That's Patrick Cassidy, New Balance Athletic Shoe's Global Digital Brand Marketing Director. He says that's why they rebuilt the brand's global content strategy with a goal to earn loyal customers, not just a quick sale.
To do it, his team focused on what their customers were already doing globally — sharing their accomplishments and everyday running routines — and amplified it with a hashtag, #SeeMyRun.
“People from around the world were sharing photos of themselves running to the tops of mountains, winning races, and achieving their personal best in New Balances,” says Cassidy. “These were people from every corner of the globe who really had no expectation of hearing from New Balance in response to their posts. They were just psyched to be a part of this thing happening around the world.”
After New Balance started it in 2013, #SeeMyRun took off organically.
Pat says as soon as their content started to focus on what was happening “out there,” New Balance's social engagement went through the roof. And #SeeMyRun wasn't just gaining traction with New Balance customers — runners wearing other brands were participating as well.
“I didn't necessarily want #SeeMyRun to be New Balance branded,” says Cassidy. “I wanted to create something for runners around the world to rally around. If New Balance got recognition by proxy, that's great.”
A grassroots community was forming around #SeeMyRun. People using the hashtag became friends and even joined running communities in places all over the world, like Chile, Los Angeles, and Germany. And the photos themselves started to evolve. Images went from standard sunsets and landscapes to more and more elaborate shots, to the point where runners started to incorporate friends as photographers to stage the most dramatic and compelling shots of them running in exotic locales.
To take that enthusiasm a step further, New Balance handpicked people to join them in a #SeeMyRun brand ambassador campaign.
This year, Pat's team chose runners from around the world who were invested in the hashtag to share more in-depth stories of their running routines. Some they knew, some were strangers, and some just seemed like they understood the goals of the campaign.
Then, they delivered the ambassadors a toolkit including some New Balance shoes, a GoPro, and some written instructions and guidelines. They also set up phone calls to explain the types of content they were looking for and to talk about disclosure requirements.
Since New Balance operates in over 140 markets around the world, #SeeMyRun had to reflect that global brand perspective.
The possibilities we have for actual, live, in-the-moment experiences for streaming video are immense.
The #SeeMyRun brand ambassador campaign capitalized on that global presence to show runners in a park in Brazil, a trail through the woods in France, seaside in Florida, a snowy run in Norway, and other scenic routes.
“Certainly there are language, cultural, and legal barriers within different countries, and what it means to be an ambassador for a campaign or a global brand,” says Cassidy. “We have our regional teams and markets help us navigate a lot of it.”
“But there were no challenges in the enthusiasm.”
Pat says people who engage with #SeeMyRun on New Balance's site are there three times longer per session.
And with live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat popping up, they're excited about extending the campaign even further.
In fact, Pat's team has already been experimenting with Meerkat and Periscope to test stuff like live-streaming exclusive concerts for their global communities.
“The possibilities we have for actual, live, in-the-moment experiences for streaming video are immense,” says Cassidy. “Not just for #SeeMyRun, but also for our elite athletes and other New Balance stories.”
He says, right now, the question is, “How do we make that experience compelling and valuable?”
“Once you switch to live streaming, brands and individuals are finding out pretty quickly that there's nowhere to hide,” continues Cassidy. “If you're boring, you will lose the consumer immediately.”
Overall, their goal to build customer relationships stays the same.
“For every company, selling a product is the bottom line,” says Cassidy. “But what helped make #SeeMyRun become successful was that it wasn't product-based, and it wasn't even overtly brand-based. It was telling a global story and uniting and igniting a community.”
He says that as they introduce campaigns that are relevant to how runners are already participating in #SeeMyRun, the sales will come indirectly. More importantly, New Balance can build brand loyalty.
“It's much more important to me that what we build on social brings someone into the New Balance world for the next 5, 10, 15 years,” says Cassidy. “We want to become their go-to running brand over time.”
Follow Pat on Twitter and ask about his love of guitars. Pat's been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2014.