At AskMen, native advertising means hosting running events for Asics

The next phase of native advertising might involve flexing a few experiential muscles.

AskMen, the men’s lifestyle news site, has over the last few months focused its native ad agency into evolving its native ad offering beyond digital content and into the real world.

The result is its new campaign for the new Asics shoe, the Gel-Quantum 360. Dubbed “G.E.L: Go Explore Life,” the campaign features newsletters, a video integration that lives alongside AskMen’s fitness series articles and, more interestingly, real-world running events.

BrandFusion, run by former AskMen editor-in-chief Armando Gomez, has evolved in tandem with the editorial side of the business. Over the last few years, the site has gone from a Maxim-esque property that featured stories like the “Top 99 most desirable women” to content that is more social, more relevant and more befitting the modern man. (“Top 99 most desirable women” has given way to “top 99 most outstanding women.“)

There are still pictures of attractive women, but they’re packaged into more well-rounded stories like “how to flirt with a girl on Instagram.” And a lot of socially-relevant content has meant nice numbers as well — the publisher boasted 40 million views in October. 

And on the design front, advertising has taken as much of a central role as editorial content. In late 2013, the publisher rolled out a new website design that put its focus squarely on advertising just as much its readers: display ads and paid content would take up equal space as articles, with the brand comparing it to print magazines with full-page ads that enjoy equal real estate with the editorial content.

Horizon Media’s digital media director Alex Stone said he works with the site and other similar men’s niche sites now to reach what he calls a “go getter” male audience that prizes hobbies and passions. “AskMen.com has a known ability to produce high quality custom content to be redistributed across social and native platforms and we have had great success in our partnerships with them for past client campaigns,” he told Digiday.

“We’ve sat here and looked at new internal native advertising agencies that other places, like Thrillist, put in place years ago, and thought, ‘native advertising is the only way we can make this business work’,” Gomez told Digiday. “But, we’ve also moved away from just consuming ads. We launched now native video and native offline events that works along with native content.”

Jonathan Sandals, native content manager, said that a brand like Asics fits best with the new, evolved AskMen brand. When the team looked at the core Asics audience, it found that it was mostly more serious runners, less lifestyle-oriented ones, who ran multiple marathons.

“Those people go to micro-communities online to read about shoes, so we have to break out of the normal routine of doing straight-up content and actually get the shoes in their hands. The events, which include a “Shore Road Summer Series,” a series of races and running events, are hosted by fitness expert Jeff Halevy and done in partnership with runnings clubs across America. There are 50 different executions. In the week since the campaign has launched, 700 people have sampled the “experiential” part of the campaign and the publisher says 300,000 people in all have been reached.

The agency still has other brands like Jim Beam coming to them for what Sandals calls “classic” AskMen content, such as a story on “how a man should practice chivalry.” “But other brands are evolving and want to be exploratory,” said Sandals.

Image courtesy AskMen

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