When New Balance first sponsored the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation’s Nationals competition in March 2011, the sportswear brand realized that none of the athletes were wearing New Balance gear. That was a problem.
New Balance decided to get building and bet that small could add up. Along with its agency Almighty, the brand built an app and let every athlete connect their bib number to their Facebook profile. For the next three days, everything they did on the track found its way to the people who care the most about them. New Balance connected start times and start lists to trigger posts notifying athletes’ networks minutes before they would appear on the live stream. New Balance tagged athletes’ finish photos and race videos so that their networks (family and friends) could share the experience. Real-time results were posted to athletes’ streams. Next, New Balance built profile pages for each athlete that contained all their content, across multiple meets, that they could access anytime.
“What we learned was kids will connect with a brand, but they need a very compelling reason to do it,” said Stacey Howe, director of global digital marketing at New Balance. “If you figure out what is purposeful to them and then deliver on that promise, it will spread.”
With 3,000 athletes competing over three days, New Balance averaged 137,000 page visits to Facebook, 233,000 photo views and 40,000 event video views. Also, this summer, when New Balance repeated the program for the fourth time, there were tons of kids wearing New Balance gear. Additionally, one year after the first effort, New Balance got 35,000 new likes on the New Balance National Facebook page.
“We were basically creating content for the athletes and their loved ones, and people are really happy about it,” Howe said. “The success in this event is about the athlete as a participant in a social experience and not just the audience or a source of content. They are crafting the experience and telling us this is how we want to work with you.”