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Sep 5, 2018

Forward thinking brands are picking up on the rising trend for online coaching

Fiona Bugler examines how forward thinking brands are picking up on the rising trend for online coaching, and making education a core value

Online education and coaching is big business. There’s a plethora of apps and platforms that share at-home workouts, provide the ability to log and track training and learn about the best nutrition advice. And there’s a big growth in online education platforms (Linked-in Learning, Udemy etc) that are making learning and developing skills something you can do on the tube to work and meant education and expertise is available to all.

The Higher Purpose

In a previous feature for Sports Insight, we saw that when it comes to millennials, brands who have a higher purpose and seem to be giving back are favoured by the socially conscious 30-somethings. Hardly surprising then that a brand such as Coca-Cola has included education as a pillar of its giving back arm, the Coca Cola foundation.

Research has shown two thirds of consumers prefer content marketing that educates and informs them about a subject or product, meaning it could be even more effective than pure entertainment.

Teach them about your products

If you’re in the business of sport, you can use coaching/online education as an effective form of marketing – and potentially a way to leverage sales. Many companies take advantage of education to teach customers about their products and to keep customers coming back for more with great success. Training and educating customers can help a brand build a relationship and develop customer loyalty. Education means providing valuable information about the product and showing the customer how to get the very best of their product.

A great example of this is Precision Fit from Mizuno ( www.myprecisionfit.com/) where a user fills in a series of questions about them, their feet, their running style etc. and then is able to recommend a shoe specific to them. Mizuno originally launched this in 2010 and have recently added training plans, extending their bespoke online offering.

Brands replacing personal trainers and online coaches

Online training and schedule advice has also been a strategy of ASICS (https://my.asics.com/uk/en-gb/), who acquired the app Runkeeper in 2016.The brand has a wellestablished foundation in education through its ASICS Institute of Sports Science, which carries out extensive research and academic presentations. The Runkeeper app provides a bespoke training package for runners taking on 5K to marathon and has around 55 million users.

According to an ASICS spokesperson, ‘The app experience is very much focused on the user and developing features and resources to better help each individual to achieve their running goals,’ however there are of course ‘fringe’ marketing benefits, too. ‘Runkeeper does occasionally offer branded experiences within the app including challenges, exclusive rewards, and more.’

ASICS also recently launched a new app called ASICS Studio, with a monthly subscription fee of £7.68. This is a general fitness app that is designed to bring the group fitness experience to users whenever and wherever they are able to work out. It provides unlimited access to audio workouts led by real trainers in strength training, cardio, and more – there’s videos, music, and photos and the whole thing can be integrated to the Apple health app. “The digital workout experience is convenient,” says an ASICS spokesperson and, “Offering services that help consumers reach their fitness goal allows brands to connect with them on a more personal level. There is a major trend right now in personalisation and connecting consumers with the products and services they need when they need them. We expect to see this to continue in the coming years and ultimately become more sophisticated.”

And it’s not just brands in the specific sports market who are getting in on the act. Simply Health, the insurers have partnered with the Great Run organisation, and as well as branding of their big races (for example, Simply Health Great North Run hoarding is now on the Tyne bridge) they have provided training schedules to the running company and by doing so have positioned themselves as a trusted expert in all things running, health and fitness.

And of course, signing up customers to online training packages and apps gathers data that can be used to shape the business and provide the ultimate in tailored shopping experiences. A great example of this is Nike’s latest store, built in Los Angeles, which opened in July 2018. It was shaped by the insights they gathered from the NikePlus App, which according to Nike revealed their customers ‘are running and style-obsessed. They are on the competitive side but are also visionaries. That reality is what spurred Nike to develop Nike Live, a new store concept that will be inspired by and built as a hub for its local NikePlus members.

The Store Experience Matters

In the physical space, specialist sports retailers often engage the local community by offering advice, workshops and courses for customers. For example, Sweaty Betty have been running classes in store for ten years, and now offer a range of 70 free classes for customers that can be booked in store, or via its own online booking system. Anyone in sports retail will know that the experience is what matters most. Talking to Marketing Week, global director of digital and retail marketing at Adidas, Swave Szymczyk highlighted a trend, saying: “Stores will change, there will be less products, there will be more interactions in stores. For bigger brands like Adidas it will be about providing more and more of those interesting, creative experiences that actually mean something to the consumer.”

A Lasting Legacy

As mentioned earlier Coca Cola’s giving back arm features education, and other brands with philanthropic foundations are choosing education as a way to leave a lasting legacy. The Ironman Foundation for example has teamed up with Women for Tri and is providing grants for ambassadors and clubs to offer workshops and events that encourage more women to get involved. And Nike’s Global Community Impact (https://communityimpact.nike.com) with its stated mission to help kids ‘reach their greatest potential,’ is funding community projects which focus on getting children into sport, with Nike employees actively involved, ‘on the ground’, in community projects.

Children are the focus for other leading brands, too. As we reported in Sports Insight, DW Fitness First have got in on the education game by teaming up with the UK’s four National Governing Bodies of Athletics and Running to help busy parents incorporate exercise into their lives with the on and offline campaign, The School Run. The package includes a family fitness guide, with a selection of exercise routines designed to keep kids entertained and get the whole family moving in sync. The declared aim of this join marketing strategy is to ‘create an ecosystem of exercise’.

Nelson Mandela said: ‘Sport has the power to change the world’ and now, more than any other time, so do sports brands. Being a genuine part of that change and making a difference is a sure-fire way to gain more loyal and engaged customers. And offering a personalised package of goods and services, that educates, informs and teaches an individual what they need to know about your product and services, is part what one scholar called the ‘new paradigm for business… Mass market is dead and personalisation is the emerging trend.’

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