Friday, June 16, 2017
Next week, I will write about my focus group experience with Brooks Running.
Last week, on Global Running Day, Brooks announced “the biggest athlete endorsement deal in sports history” saying that they want to endorse everyone who runs….with $1 and a chance to win Brooks running gear.
This would have made a decent April Fools Day joke, but as a serious attempt at building brand value, it is pretty weak.
Brooks would have done much better to follow the lead of Oiselle, a women's athletic apparel company that I have spoken and written about before in regard to their multi-level team of professional, semi-pro, and recreational athletes. The main differences between Brooks and Oiselle is that Oiselle provides value to the team members and creates shared experiences. Oiselle athletes get team gear (even though the recreational runners pay for the gear), and they get invited to numerous group events. Oiselle has state team leaders and helps connect the team members for training and races. The “birds”, as they call themselves, really seem to support each other.
Now, the Oiselle method is definitely more complicated, and it probably comes with various legal risks. For example, what if one the team leaders turns violent or what if a team member gets hit by a car on a run led by a team leader or what if someone gets a bit out of control at one of their camps or parties? (I am sure Oiselle has everyone sign waivers, but as we know, waivers don't always prevent costly litigation and liability). There is also a fair bit temporal and financial costs involved in creating the team singlet, sending out newsletters, updating social media, planning events, etc. But building real community and brand value is almost never easy. (And Oiselle is far from perfect and has its critics, but I applaud Oiselle's effort. That said, if they are still requiring the recreational athletes to both pay and only post photos of themselves on social media in Oiselle gear, that seems overly restrictive. If they are going for authentic, they should provide suggestions instead of mandates. With sponsored athletes, I better understand the restrictions, though even with sponsored athletes you can usually tell a difference between organic and forced marketing posts.)
Sadly, Brooks' “endorsement” isn’t about building community, rather it is a pretty transparent attempt to buy your e-mail address and lure potential customers for $1. (Also, I uncovered in the fine print that they limited the $1 payment to the first 20,000; they have over twice that many signed up already).
As I will write next week, I was impressed with the people running the Brooks focus group, but they didn’t ask us about this “endorsement” idea, and if they asked others about it, I think they got bad advice. Brooks might get a bit of press, and they will probably even get a fair number of email addresses from curious people, but I doubt they will get much of lasting value.
[I wonder how many people who signed up read the fine print. For example, there is a Code of Conduct that will be sent to participants. Also, see the clause below the break seemed incredibly broad.]
"We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Campaign or proceed in a manner we deem fair and reasonable. In the event that any technical, mechanical, printing, or typographical or other error causes more people are notified to receive a Gift than the number of Gifts available as stated above in these Terms, Brooks will award only the stated number of Gifts in a fair and reasonable manner.
By participating, you agree: (i) to be bound by these Terms and by all applicable laws; (ii) to waive any rights to claim ambiguity with respect to these Terms; (iii) to waive your rights to bring any claim, action or proceeding against any of the Released Parties in connection with or based on your participation in the Campaign or use of any Gift or Gift component; and (iv) to forever and irrevocably agree to release, defend, indemnify and hold harmless Released Parties from any and all claims, lawsuits, judgments, costs and expenses (including reasonable outside attorneys’ fees) that may arise in connection with: (a) the Campaign; (b) a violation of any third- party privacy, personal, publicity or proprietary rights; (c) typographical or printing errors in these Terms or any Campaign materials; (d) any interruptions in or postponement, cancellation or modification of the Campaign; (e) human error; (f) incorrect or inaccurate transcription, receipt or transmission of an entry; (g) any technical malfunctions or unavailability of any telephone network, computer system, computer online system, mobile device, computer timing and/or dating mechanism, computer equipment, software, or Internet service provider, or mail service; and (h) interruption or inability to access the Campaign, any other Campaign-related websites or any online service via the Internet due to hardware or software compatibility problems."