On the road to brand awareness: How grassroots social media strategy generated conversation about sports clothing brand SKINS

When international recovery and compression sports clothing brand SKINS wanted to replicate the grassroots loyalty they had secured in Australia and the USA in Europe, they knew that word of mouth chimed with both their early underground viral success and their ambitions to be a challenging and empowering brand.

Proving that with SKINS ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things; 1000heads discovered Quentin Field Boden – a 51 year old UK blogger and amateur road cyclist who had grand plans to ride the entire Tour De France route – and made his dream happen. While Quentin trialled SKINS’ new products by cycling the route three days before the professionals, uploading his experiences and engaging with cross-Channel sports communities along the way, a further set of influential cycling enthusiasts in the UK and Australia were sent SKINS products to trial at home through challenges that reflected the hardships of the Tour.

Spanning three countries simultaneously, Tour de Velo dramatically increased traffic to the international SKINS sites, generated high volumes of positive, independent WOM – and positioned SKINS as the company that promoted the voice of the ordinary fan amidst the saturated brand promotions at one of sport’s biggest events.

Before 1000heads developed their social media strategy, SKINS were in a position that saw them wanting to raise brand awareness outside of Australia in particular within Europe.

Whilst in the process of raising brand awareness, they wanted the campaign to achieve the following:

  • Educate consumers on the function and performance of their products
  • Provide SKINS with a more accessible and conversational story than it has had
  • Generate content that consumers will want to share and talk about
  • Position SKINS as a more accessible product than some perceive it as – not intimidating, and not just for the pros
  • Drive reviews and recommendations of new products
  • Extend SKINS conversation and significantly increase SKINS visibility within the cycling community and beyond
  • Create a better awareness and understanding of the benefits of SKINS compression through third party, independent word of mouth recommendation
  • Ultimately encourage people who have been exposed to the campaign to come to skins.net, check out the range and become SKINS customers

Implementation of Strategy: a consumer-led approach in a sponsorship-saturated world

Word of mouth was the obvious choice for a challenger brand which originated as an underground viral success, and the Tour de France was the perfect opportunity to connect globally with sports fans. But rather than compete with all the sponsorship splattered on jerseys and billboards, 1000heads and SKINS decided to take a different, consumer-led approach and speak through the voice of the everyday man.

Using word of mouth monitoring, 1000heads discovered Quentin Field-Boden, a 51-year-old UK blogger and amateur cyclist with grand plans to ride the entire Tour De France course. SKINS made his dream happen. Quentin would trial the brand’s new products by cycling the route three days before the professionals, uploading his experiences and engaging with cross-channel sports communities along the way. In parallel, a further set of influential social media cycling enthusiasts in the UK and Australia would be sent SKINS products to trial at home, via challenges reflecting the hardships of the Tour.

Quentin trialled SKINS’ RY400 recovery wear and new range of C400 compression wear before its global launch, and was provided with the necessary tech to monitor his position, time, speed and power output so that he could capture and share the data along with his personal impressions via blogs, tweets, photos and videos.

Using online presences strategically allowed Quentin’s real time content to spread. This included creating a Tour de Velo logo and tab on the SKINS Facebook page, helping Quentin redesign and upgrade his own blog and Twitter feed, creating a short video which introduced Quentin’s mission and kit, and using SKINS’ official website, YouTube channel and Twitter account.

The second stream of activity spread the campaign to more consumers via cycling communities in a highly personal way. Ten influential cycling voices within social media from the UK and Australia were invited to trial the new C400 range. They were provided with a long-sleeved compression top and top-of-the-range bib shorts and trialled them via three challenges that mirrored the traditional stages of the Tour De France – the Time Trial (15km flat route), Hill Stage (120km hill route) and Road Stage (150km flat route). They were then encouraged to report on their findings, post details of their rides on their and generate discussions within their online communities, providing engaging content and making it a truly collaborative project that connected with the SKINS target audience.

An innovative approach to brand awareness

The innovation of SKINS Tour de Velo was placing SKINS products in the hands of the everyman on an extraordinary journey rather than the professional athlete. Quentin’s completion of the Tour de France course was a remarkable achievement and it was all enabled by the SKINS brand.

Taking the story of Quentin’s SKINS journey to the wider cycling community, as part of the second phase of activity, amplified his achievement and produced a swell of collaborative action amongst the target market.

Results of Strategy

With a budget of €33,600 the campaign not only stimulated a huge groundswell of positive consumer conversation spread across relevant social media communities, but also garnered mainstream (including ITV) and cycle-specific media coverage. The content of this conversation was around the performance and recovery benefits of SKINS, demonstrating they were not only for professional athletes, but for the everyman too, and the active consumer behaviour that this drove – site visits, social activity and sales – testifies to the Tour de Velo’s ROI.

Quantitative Examples

  • 859 episodes of SKINS cycling conversation created since campaign kick-off
  • 124,675 people reached online
  • The conversation was 89.5% positive
  • SKINS gathered over 600 new Facebook fans and 400 new Twitter followers
  • Related tweets generated a reach of 287,928
  • 82.67% rise in Facebook referrals to the main website
  • 51.34% rise in visits to SKINS.net
  • 68.18% rise in absolute unique visitors to SKINS.net
  • 343.23% rise in German visits to SKINS.net (NB: TVC launched in Germany during this period)
  • 33.20% rise in UK visits to SKINS.net
  • 30.90% rise in French visits to SKINS.net
  • 21.99% rise in Australian visits to SKINS.net

The chart below maps conversation levels with visits to SKINS.net. As shown, after 13th June there is a strong correlation between visits to the store, and conversation levels during the campaign.

Qualitative Examples

“I would buy SKINS very much so, and have told the girlfriend to put some items on the Christmas list. I have already recommended skins to all friends and retain links on my blog site.” Phillip Shrimpton

“The mesh tank is meant to be worn under the bibs and jersey and works well in all climates providing extra warmth in cooler conditions as well as keeper the body more dry, due to its wicking design, in warmer temperatures. I absolutely loved the fit, super snug and comfy and the high quality is exactly what you'd expect from Skins. OK, so it's not cheap at £39.99 but if you want the best then you have to pay the price. I for one will be buying more of these. Exceptional! 9.5/10” Jason, velorunner blog

This case study was awarded a Commendation in the category of social media strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

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