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It takes a village: how Asics got a small town to lace up and raise money for Mind UK


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

September 14, 2021 | 7 min read

Building on its commitment to help customers improve their mental health through movement, Asics has partnered with mental health charity Mind to realize its ambition of lifting the mood of an entire town. As part of our Experienital Marketing Deep Dive, The Drum caught up with executive vice-president Gary Raucher to find out what he hopes the legacy of its attempt will be.

Asics Mind Uplifter

Partnering with Mind UK, the brand will be hosting a unique day of activity in the small town of Retford, UK

When the Covid-19 pandemic caused Asics to revisit its founding principle of ’healthy body, healthy mind,’ the sports brand turned to its customers to fuel its research into the power of movement on mental wellbeing.

Partnering with Mind UK, the brand will be hosting a unique day of activity in a small town in England in the hopes of getting the community moving and gaining insights into its impact through the use of its Mind Uplifter Tool.

To discern where its event would be most impactful, Asics commissioned a survey by BF Media to discern an area of the UK most motivated to improve its mental wellbeing through movement.

All surveys were conducted between May 10 and May 27 2021. The sample comprised 6,474 adults from 40 English counties, with a minimum of 150 respondents from each county. Participants were asked to score themselves out of 100 (0 being the lowest and 100 the highest) across 10 emotional (feeling composed, relaxed, positive, content, confident and resilient) and cognitive (feeling alert, calm, focused and energized) traits.

Following the research, the Asics State-of-Mind Index identified Nottinghamshire as the English county that most wanted a mental uplift (80%), with the small town of Retford being reported as one of the most motivated to improve their emotional and mental wellbeing.

“We were looking for a willingness to participate alongside a desire for an uplift,” explains Asics executive vice-president Gary Raucher.

A day of movement

On the day of the experiment, which will take place on September 25, residents of the town of Retford will be invited to partake in a series of movement initiatives and measure the collective impact on their mental wellbeing. Dr Brendon Stubbs – a leading expert on movement and mental health – is overseeing the experiment having helped design the events of the day.

“We’ll be transforming the streets into a movement-inspired gym,” says Raucher. “People can register ahead of time in order to be assigned a time slot and go around the course in small groups.

“The circuit itself is about a mile long, so it’s very accessible and all along the course there will be different stops where people can get involved in various exercises.”

Raucher adds that alongside aiming to be accessible, the day also aims to line up with necessary Covid restrictions and concerns over the Delta variant of the virus.

“What is critically important is the health and safety and well being of all participants and we’d absolutely have protocols in place to ensure that we’re aligned with the latest governmental suggestions as well as regulations.”

However, Raucher says that organizers have tried to make the event fun and memorable by incorporating the town as much as possible. “The bus stop has become a ’bus start’ and the River Idle that runs through Retford has become the ’River Lively’.”

Asics sports ambassadors will also be present on the day and Raucher pledges there are plenty of surprises in store.

“Not only do we hope that by participating in movement we’ll be able to demonstrate the uplifting power of sport and the role that athletes can play in that, but we’re hoping that, in general, people will look back and say that they’ve had a great experience, while – perhaps most importantly – we also want to make a lasting impact, so we’re in discussions with the council about sort of the legacy that we can leave behind.”

Investing in community

Elaborating on the legacy Asics hopes for, Raucher explains it will leave behind an infrastructure – both physically and mentally – that will encourage the local community to keep moving, even after evening falls on the event.

“We know that there are some tennis courts and also a running track that is in need of some repair, so we’re working with the council to really make sure that this isn’t just a one off event, but that we’re making a commitment to helping people uplift their minds on an ongoing basis.”

Back in July, to coincide with the launch of its Mind Uplifter Tool, Asics was already getting involved in local communities to encourage its uptake, such as setting up local running clubs near its store locations.

“This allows us to have localized insights into what additional activities we could be setting up – we have sports marketing assets, ambassadors, coaches and trainers that we can encourage to engage with local communities to encourage people to be active,” Raucher said at the time.

Uptake of the Mind Uplifter Tool will be encouraged in Retford on September 25, as once a participant has registered a Mind Uplift via the tool their individual data will be combined with results across the town in order to demonstrate the uplift that movement can have on the mood of the whole town.

Every participant who captures a Mind Uplift on the day will raise funds for Mind’s work across the country, supporting the charity’s commitment to fight for better mental health.

Raucher concludes: “The last 18 months have been tough on people’s mental wellbeing, but we know exercise can be a positive source of energy. Asics has always believed that exercise is not only good for the body, but also for the mind. Now, we aim to demonstrate our brand belief in action by seeing if movement can uplift the mood of a whole town. We hope residents of Retford will lace up and be part of this unique experiment to raise spirits and raise funds for Mind.”

From festivals to retail installations to unmissable activations, we examine the avenues open to marketers to reach consumers enjoying their newfound freedom in The Drum’s Experiential Deep Dive.

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