Sports Business/03/07/2019

From Yours to Ours - Successful Strategies for Community Building

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"We are family" - If companies were allowed to describe themselves with a song, then it would probably be Sister Sledge's hit. Since in the last few years, winged concepts such as community marketing, community building, community branding and "community" in general have been buzzing through the company corridors, the "we" feeling has undoubtedly become a top priority in the marketing departments. The questions of how to turn customers into a community and how to maintain this intrinsic community, however, are often not so easily answered. presents successful strategies.

A long queue of runners, equipped with headlamps, passed through the Olympic Parkin Munich at temperatures just above the freezing point.
At the ISPO Munich Night Run 2019 presented by BUFF® many runners came together.

Events - When a Brand Becomes a Shared Experience

Invite people to spend a good time with like-minded people and go home with a nice feeling of having made new friends. Sounds simple, but requires a lot of planning, human resources and, of course, financial commitment. But it can be worth it:

European Outdoor Film Tour

The European Outdoor Film Tour (E.O.F.T.) certainly plays a pioneering role. With an 18-year history, it is not only one of the most long-lived film festivals in the outdoor community, but also one of the largest.

While in 2001, the year it was founded, almost 4000 spectators came to 16 small city cinemas in Germany, today over 300,000 adventure and outdoor fans flock to the biggest event locations all over the world; which in the days of Netflix and Co even Hollywood blockbusters can no longer manage without further ado.

But what is behind it? And especially who? It is the brands Mammut and Gore-Tex® that, together with the Munich agency Moving Adventures, had the idea 18 years ago to develop a local marketing tool for their dealers. The cinema tickets were available exclusively at the "sports shop of trust", which, in addition to the tickets, also sold a jacket at best and, above all, a sworn attitude to life. "Community building was not in the foreground at the time, especially as the spectators were very different in their sporting interests and the hardcore mountain bikers and climbers had little to do with each other in the beginning. Over the years, the various core communities have grown into a large community and the E.O.F.T. has become a community event," says Stefan Mauerer, Managing Partner Moving Adventures.

The North Face Mountain Festival

The North Face also focuses on customer loyalty in the form of a major event. The Mountain Festival goes one step further and not only focuses on joint hours, but since 2015 has promised a weekend full of outdoor activities for adventure hungry people from all over the world. They sleep in tents in the base camp, TNF athletes give tips on climbing or trail running and the participating tourism regions provide culinary delicacies. Of course you can test products and buy them outdoors in the truest sense of the word. In three days the visitors share joy and sorrow, sweat and chat and inevitably grow with each other and with the brand.

The BIKE Women Camp of the mountain bike magazine of the same name works quite similarly and project manager Linda Schroeder appreciates "the intensive personal exchange with readers, which can never take place in the social media like this".

Ortovox Safety Academy

Ortovox is known for its highly functional merino clothing and quickly became the favorite of fashion-conscious ski tourers. In addition, safety is the central brand value of the company, a philosophy that does not stop with the sale of safety equipment: In cooperation with partner mountaineering schools, professionals and mountain guides, the SAFETY ACADEMY was brought to life.

"What initially began as an initiative purely for avalanche courses now stands for a comprehensive alpine safety education - in summer and winter, digital and printed, which we are continuously developing," says Rabea Zühlke, PR and Content Marketing Manager.

When Marketing Manager Frank Ammon emphasizes that "classic community marketing is not the main focus", the Safety Academy impressively proves all the more how brands can achieve and build a community through top positioning.

Regular Community Meetings Offline / Online

What is known in Bavaria as a regular's table and in gaming circles as a LAN party, sports brands often call chapters, clubs or city ambassadors. The aim is to establish a local community and thus ensure local visibility.

Running Communities

Especially shoe and clothing brands have recognized the potential of these chapters and partly work together with existing local running groups or recruit and install some themselves.The Adidas Runners, the Asics FrontRunner and the Nike+ Run Club, which rely on successful brand loyalty through shared experiences, now have a worldwide network.

Rapha and the Racing Bike Hype

The English cycling clothing brand Rapha celebrates a formal triumphal march. It was founded in 2004 and has taken the urban road cycling scene by storm. "We have built up our community organically over the years, simply because people wanted to ride with us and we have made corresponding offers (Rapha Rides, Events, etc.)", says Dirk Kaufmann, Press Officer at Rapha.

One result of this is the Rapha Cycling Club. As a member you get invitations to events, limited collections or recently even accident insurance. In the course of time, clubhouses have also been expanded and serve as a community hub with its own barista and shop. "Our activities at the RCC are about getting people on their bikes and stimulating Memories & Friendship. We think that these (positive) memories and closed friendships will be associated with our brand and will lead to higher customer loyalty in the long run", explains Kaufmann.

Social Media Communities

Sometimes a single (well chosen) hashtag is enough to build a community, as the fitness industry proves impressively.

First and foremost fitness influencer Kayla Itsines, who has built up a followership of millions on Instagram with her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in no time at all. Behind the BBG is an e-book with a training and nutrition plan, but above all the proactive call to become part of the #bbg community. It works: Under the hashtag there are 2.5 million posts and a community of fitness enthusiasts who enjoy commenting.

Garmins #BeatYesterday has also developed into a community tool. "BeatYesterday was and is our online magazine in which we want to tell exciting stories from the Garmin worlds without putting the products too much in the foreground. It's more about communicating the attitude behind #BeatYesterday", says Marc Kast, Public Relations Manager DACH at Garmin.

Obviously, the customers have quickly internalized this, there are more than 830,000 posts and athletes share their successes, training secrets and of course their common passion. The idea of not relying on products but on a feeling pays off for Garmin, as Kast outlines: "We are definitely satisfied with the online magazine. We see this in the growing awareness and in the amount of positive feedback we get about it."

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