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Sep 29, 2017

Odlo are aiming for community growth

James Clark, Country Manager Odlo UK & Ireland, talks to Mark Hayhurst about the brand's expansion plans for the UK and Ireland

Odlo has big plans to strengthen it’s position in the UK marketplace. With over 70 years of history, the brand’s initial focus was mainly on Nordic winter sports but they have expanded their footprint to become a true performance brand.

James Clark, Country Manager Odlo UK & Ireland, while acknowledging that Odlo is not the biggest player in the UK and Ireland, is aiming to push the brand’s recognition into new realms.

James said: “If you look at the major events that we are involved in they are very winter sports focused. The main reason for that is it’s low hanging fruit for us for picking up consumers. Certainly, from a UK perspective, we are so small that we could just focus on skiing and we would double our turnover in 12 months.

“The skiing industry should be a relatively straight forward approach. It’s where we have been for a while, Snow and Rock is one of our biggest customers for example, but the biggest drive is actually to create and build the sports underwear business as a whole.

“It almost doesn’t exist in the UK as it does in Europe. You still see a lot of people wearing a t-shirt or a vest underneath their day-to-day shirt but not high performance anti-bacterial shirts like we do. So it’s trying to transform the whole underwear base layer approach to a more technical market.”

The brand wants to diversify its consumer base and for extremely practical reasons.

James added: “Running and cycling is where we need to drive the business. If we have a bad winter and are 70-75 per cent into that season and it doesn’t snow or it’s not cold then that is bad for us. If the weather is warm – more people will be out running and cycling so we will pick up the business there. It’s about spreading our risk.”

To target the cycling and running markets Odlo are looking to build up from a grassroots level, through local communities and a visible presence at events.

James said: “A big part of what we do is community driven. So, as an example, with some of the local running shops we put on Odlo evenings events – runners come along, they meet at the shop they can get a discount on our stuff, there’s some of our shirts they can try on the night and if they come to five of the six evenings we give them a free baselayer, so there is an incentive for them to come and build the community and running events.

“As part of that we held the Odlo Run Club in London this summer, which was 12 events from Covent Garden. If runners attended nine out of the 12 you got an Odlo outfit and free entry to the Richmond 10k, and its hard to get an entry into that. We had 26 people that ended up doing the race for us as kind of a Team Odlo.”

But it is not just through community events that Odlo are looking to build their brand. Social media and brand ambassadors will also play a big part in their plans.

James said: “The ambassadors programme is one of my next big projects. We will be aiming to use athletes, some key influential bloggers, social media bloggers, instagram accounts but also local champions.

“The Ambassador program is more grassroots content driven and what I am looking at doing is using a new app called Picstars. It will have athlete driven content where they are rewarded on the interaction of their content. So if they do a post and it’s ‘hey look at me I am wearing my Odlo gear and doing a backflip’ and that picks up 1,000 likes, we may pay them 10p a like. So we will agree that before they do the post and agree how many posts they can do and the budget over the year. Of course, if they absolutely smash it and get a million likes and it costs us a fortune then hopefully we’ve got the benefits of it in sales.

“You can also hashtag that in to retailer links so it can go directly through to a product page and we can also reward the athlete based on that trail. So if they put a link and it goes to a retailer and they sell 100 shirts we can set it up so the retailer pays the athlete a five per cent commission or something like that. It becomes a lot more manageable and accountable.

“We hope to have that launched by the end of November.”

The aim is for Odlo to become a fully encompassed sportswear brand, covering cycling, running and training.

James said: “One of big focuses is women’s training and we have just launched a partnership with Pilch Intersport, at Jarrolds, in Norwich. They’re trialling one of our new massive bra fixtures and will also be one of the first to have our new Women’s flash program, which is just about to be launched in Europe and then the UK in Spring, with a few selected retailers. Every month we will refresh women’s training.

We will do a completely bespoke women’s athleisure training outfit every month, it’s not available online or before or after the month starts. Whatever is left at the end of the month we take out of the store and change it to something completely new.”

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