Reebok Complete Domination of People Sports
The British Brand’s Rise to Fame by Creating Opportunities to Share Content
When it comes to sportswear, two of the most popular brands that have long dominated the all-important US market are Nike and Adidas. The rivalry between these global companies has spanned for decades, besting New Balance, Under Armour, and Puma. But an old competitor is setting the industry abuzz with excitement once again through smart and effective marketing that is engaging people like no other, coming out with solid collections, exciting collaborations, and a healthy dose of celebrity endorsements. I’m talking about British sportswear brand Reebok!
Reebok and Adidas
Although Reebok is one the most successful athletics companies in the world, the brand has been sidelined by Nike’s aggressive marketing and billion-dollar celebrity endorsements. However, Reebok showed no signs of slowing down. Apart from merging with Adidas in 2006 to the tune of $3.8 billion, Reebok is breathing life back to its heritage sportswear line, which cemented the brand as a leader in fashion during the 80s and 90s. The merger with Adidas unleashed the Reebok brand to the rest of the sports world.
In 2010 when major athletics brands were focusing on existing major sports for growth, Reebok went a different way. Thanks to clever marketing and a massive brand overhaul, Reebok has bounced back in performance and demand. The brand played a major roll (and bet big) in the creation of new major sports, Crossfit, Obstacle course racing (OCR) and UFC , keeping up with the growing trends and betting on sports governance to promote growth in the athletics segment. Adidas' acquisition of Reebok did not stop at creating a stronger brand in the lifestyle and athletics segments, it also made Reebok appealing to US football and basketball fans.
The Emergence of People Sports
Reebok’s virtual reinvention based on understanding consumer insight is a fine example of marketing a product the right way regardless of who their target audience is, that created a case study to marketers all over the world.
After re-establishing itself as a global brand, Reebok shifted its focus on emerging sports that are equally popular with consumers as major sports; however, they were easy to join and had immediate results. The move proved to be lucrative, the British lifestyle brand was able to enter and thrive in OCR (obstacle course racing) through the Spartan Race partnership and other lifestyle sports like Crossfit, and mainstream sports like UFC with a lot of impact compared to its efforts to penetrate professional football (soccer for my dear American readers J) or the NBA.
Reebok started its campaign by reinforcing long-standing partnerships with CrossFit, Spartan, and UFC as well as focusing on the women’s market where stylish athletic wear is high on demand.
To appeal to the Millenials, Reebok teamed up with CrossFit. CrossFit, which is a brand of fitness regimen that fuses lifestyle sports with competitive fitness, have millions of members across the world. The partnership meant Reebok would enjoy exclusive licensing rights to CrossFit's trademark as well as title sponsorship of its summer events and championships. It was in 2012 when Reebok invested on CrossFit suits to promote its brand through the growing popularity of the CrossFit movement. According to Adidas Group CEO and chairman Herbert Hainer, "The real test is still in front of us—making the Reebok brand more relevant to consumers.”
In 2014, Reebok inked a deal with UFC to appeal to its legion of 20 to 30-something fans. Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC is an American is a fighting promotion outfit that feature top caliber fighters in mixed martial arts. The company produces events worldwide. The $70 million, 6-year partnership gave Reebok exclusive rights to provide uniforms to UFC fighters. This week, UFC completed its sale to the new owners through a US$ 4 billion acquisition the Reebok deal helped escalade the UFC into a stronger position and gave the brand into a more professionalized and institutional discipline.
According to Matt O'Tootle, Reebok's brand manager, part of the reason why Reebok was chosen to represent the UFC brand is the company’s understanding of the fighter culture and its ability to provide products that are consistent with that culture. He added, “The UFC is an extremely popular sport in a lot of major markets around the world. This gives us an opportunity to get our message out as well. But it really started with us wanting to understand the sport and the athletes.” It’s also worth noting that the UFC is also extremely popular in some emerging markets like Brazil and UAE.
The deal led to the release of Reebok fight kits during the International Fight Week in Las Vegas in 2015. Gone are the mishmash of logos and sponsor patches seen on fighters' shorts, Reebok entered the mainstream market with a bang while eliminating the competition simultaneously.
Finally, Reebok also signed a 2-year deal with Spartan Race. Spartan Race features a series of obstacle races with varying distances and difficulty. The series, which are franchised to 14 countries, are not watched by millions of viewers in the US and the world; they are also shared through all the social media channels by the race participants. The sports deal was meant to help Spartan Race stand out in a crowded market and boost brand awareness on a global scale. The multi-million team up gives Reebok exclusive rights to host Spartan races, championships, and provide uniforms for the competing athletes.
Reebok’s reinvention did not stop at inking multi-million deals and bagging celebrity endorsers. The brand also turned to the internet to spread brand awareness and promote its lifestyle and sporting gears. Reebok utilized social media networks and UGC (user-generated content) to refine its social media footprint while hosting various sporting events to appeal to its younger target audience.
Reebok refreshed its marketing campaign with a new plan: to focus on building a meaningful connection with fans rather than assaulting the senses with ads. In a nutshell, creating opportunities for people to share content that they want to share! So it’s not just about creating content, they went a step further to actually give people the opportunity to create content and share it willingly in an exciting and engaging setting!
“Yes, we’re in the business of selling shoes,” said Ben Blakesley, who heads social media marketing for Reebok. “But if that’s all we did, and that’s all we used social for, we wouldn’t be here.” They became in the business of selling the attainable sports lifestyle.
The new marketing ploy led to a 163% increase in Instagram follower, the highest among its rivals. On Twitter, Reebok shifted the focus on user engagement, encouraging its legion of followers to participate in conversations. Reebok’s new marketing strategy led to an unprecedented growth of 8000% in just 18 months.
It’s interesting how Reebok managed to defy the odds by refreshing its branding while staying true to its roots. Despite the cutthroat competition, Reebok has booked multi-million deals that refreshed the brand and accelerated its growth.
Reebok is not only thriving, it is gearing up to dominate in the athletics wear industry thanks to connection-based campaigns and a modern approach to marketing the Reebok brand with a human touch. Riding high on its second wind, the British heritage brand is back in fighting form and bigger than ever.
Amro Abbas is the founder and head of strategy and development at Polar|Cloud marketing consultancy. As a successful entrepreneur, Amro has founded several businesses including: Polar|Art virtual gallery, Call Restoration service, Digin Grooming and Polar|Media.
An art enthusiast, media junkie, marketing addict, tech obsessed and serial entrepreneur, Amro continues to work on numerous ventures on a wide range of sectors. He is committed to sharing his expertise in online promotions to help business owners grow their respective businesses and inspire others to succeed. Amro holds an MBA from London Business School and is married to a lovely wife and father to one beautiful (and extremely cute!) daughter.