Thursday, December 20, 2012

Facebook Unveils Plans for Video Advertising

Facebook unveiled plans this week for a new app that will offer video advertisers the opportunity to target Facebook users. The product is expected to launch in the first half of 2013 and will add an advertising element largely unfamiliar to the Facebook interface: video ads.

According to AdAge, the ads will show up in users' news feeds on both the desktop and mobile version of Facebook. Advertisers will be able to show the same video to a single user up to three times a day. Facebook will also likely cap the length of these videos at 15 seconds, which may add a challenging layer of content creation for advertisers accustomed to scripting the traditional 30 spot.

This is not the first time Facebook has served video ads to users. In 2010, Facbeook experimented with video advertising in the bottom right of the screen, as seen below, but later removed the premium video ad feature.

This time, the ads will be much more intrusive in that they'll likely be set up to auto play. Therefore the ads will expand out of the news feed and into the left and right hand columns of the interface without any action from the user.

The new feature is expected to incite outrage from Facebook users, and loud applause from advertisers and investors. In addition to raking in millions of dollars, the new feature will also present a massive opportunity for brands to extend their reach to a new web audience by leveraging Facebook's existing targeting tools.  It will also be a great place for advertisers to extend their campaign story with additional content that might not necessarily have made it to TV.

The details around targeting are still in the works. While it's certain that advertisers will use information in a Facebook user's profile to serve ads, it's still unclear as to whether or not that user, or anyone in their network, needs to have "liked" the advertiser's brand page in order to see the ad in their feed.

Though many are speculating this could have negative implications on Facebook membership, I have a feeling that Zuckerberg will be just fine. According to the Facebook newsroom, the site had about one billion monthly active users as of October 2012. Just as we've gotten accustomed to static ads on the site, we'll get used to the TV ads. And just as we've gotten used to a couple seconds of ad pre-roll before any Youtube video, we'll get used to this. If anything, it might discourage users, myself included, from checking Facebook eight times a day, which wouldn't be the worst thing to ever happen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Foot Locker Opens Premium Retail Store for Women

As a female I have become accustomed to walking into athlete destinations like Finish Line and Champs to find a meager selection of women's shoes and apparel hidden in the back corner of the store. And though niche brands like Lululemon have latched on to the burgeoning female athletic population, there still exists no one-stop-shop for females of multiple athletic disciplines...until now. It looks like Footlocker has become the first athletic company to offer an elevated retail experience devoted entirely to women.

This holiday season, three new stores in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Texas open their doors to female athletes. The retail concept is called SIX:02, and it will be the first to offer females a wide variety of top athletic brands (such as Nike, adidas, ASICS, and Under Armour) in an environment created specifically for them. SIX:02 features dedicated fitting zones, comfortable lounge areas and knowledgeable staff to assist customers in finding the correct fitness pants, sports bras, tops, and footwear for their specific body type, activity, and style. Women will also be inspired throughout their shopping experience with relevant imagery, verbiage, and music within the store.

According to Stacy Cunningham, EVP of Marketing at Foot Locker, the project stems from the idea that today's woman "deserves a place to find premium fitness and athletic gear that allows her to combine her personal style and versatility with performance features." Footlocker has long been a proponent of enhancing the shopping experience for athletic women (read: Lady Footlocker) and now they've taken the idea to an entirely new level.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Timberland Footwear Embraces Gore-Tex Technology

This winter, Timberland has joined the ranks of outdoor brands working with Gore-Tex to provide  customers with a quality waterproof lining in their favorite Timberland products. Gore-Tex technology is now available in Timberland's winter hiking boots such as the Gannon Mid Hiker and Washington Summit Mid, as well as day wear items like the Traditional Handsen Oxford.

For those that aren't privy to Gore-Tex's flagship technology, the brand offers an internal, permeable waterproof membrane that keeps feet dry and protected, but also allows moisture vapor from sweat to pass through to prevent leaks.

Gore-tex technology is also available in other outerwear and footwear products from brands like Under Armour, Vasque, The North Face, Salomon, Patagonia, Nike, Marmot, Merrell, L.L. Bean, and Garmont. Of these, however, Timberland arguably offers the strongest blend of high quality outdoor gear and high fashion apparel on par with current trends. Timberland's adoption of Gore-tex reflects the increasing consumer need for hybrid gear that can perform both out in the elements and on the street.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Instagram Moves to the Web

Instagram announced on Monday that it will begin rolling out online profiles for its users this week, a group that now tops over 100 million. The new web feature showcases a selection of the user's recently shared photos in what looks like a more dynamic version of the Facebook cover photo, perhaps the first subtle integration we've seen of the two platforms since since the Facebook acquisition several months ago.

The online profile incorporates all functions provided by the mobile platform, and easily enables the user to follow other users, comment and like photos, and edit their profile from their desktop. It's also a simpler way to discover and connect with new users, given that it's now possible to post your Instagram profile on Facebook and Twitter and share your photos with a wider audience.

Which of course, is good news for brands. The new web profile provides yet another platform on which to drive online traffic and invite user engagement. Community managers can manage their Instagram community right from a computer and seamlessly integrate it with other profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Greatest Marketing Stunt of All Time?

When I woke up last Sunday morning, the first thing I did was check my Twitter feed. Almost every single Tweet directed me to a live YouTube stream of Felix Baumgartner, an Australian skydiver minutes away from jumping down to Earth from an altitude of 128,000 feet and becoming the first person ever to break the sound barrier.

I watched in awe, along with the rest of the world, as Baumgaterner landed safely on the ground, breaking three world records for the highest jump, longest free fall, and highest vertical velocity and forever changing my perception of the word 'marketing.'

Over 8 million people watched the YouTube Live stream of the Redbull-sponsored event that day, which beat out viewership of President Obama's inauguration ceremony. The jump was shown by over 40 TV channels and 130 digital outlets. And Red Bull's coverage of the event earned the brand about 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments, and over 29,000 shares on Facebook within 40 minutes.

While it's difficult to predict if Red Bull's mass exposure will immediately translate into an increase in sales, one thing is for sure: this was infinitely more compelling than the typical, eye-roll worthy PR stunts we've become accustomed to. The event signifies a breakthrough in content marketing and serves as a bellwether for the shifting landscape of storytelling through marketing and entertainment in general.

In fact, according to Huffington Post's Janean Chun, the energy-drink-turned media company "broke the traditional barriers of marketing, sponsorship and social media, skyrocketing from an energy drink known for providing a quick buzz to a big-time generator of international buzz that makes the endeavors of other marketing innovators like Apple look small by comparison."

To me, the spectacle doesn't come as a huge shock given the brand's history of hosting massive and buzzworthy events, like the Red Bull Air Race and Supernatural Snowboarding Competition. Over the past few years the brand has become the name and face behind anything extreme, producing content and providing experiences to its loyal audience of skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, and other extreme athletes. But if the massive following behind last weekend's event is any indication, Redbull's audience from this point forward will now greatly extend beyond a niche group of adventurists to capture anyone and everyone itching to see something they've never seen before.

Clearly the event pulled off was not without great risk, but in this case the payoff was high reward. Redbull did everything right in crafting a story, delivering content, and extending the conversation well beyond the event's duration. And not only has it left a lasting impression on anyone with internet access and a screen, its also earned Redbull a huge chunk of ownable content and intellectual property particularly because of the synergy between the event itself and the company's tagline: "Redbull gives you wings." Baumgartner didn't need to crack open a Redbull, take a swig, and take the plunge down to Earth. We got it; the message was just inherently there.

If this is indeed the new standard of marketing, we all have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GORE-TEX® Takes on the Big City

A rainy day in the city doesn't sound like something folks at GORE-TEX® would normally trouble themselves with. Typically a champion of the rugged outdoors, the purveyor of the outdoor industry's flagship waterproof technology is normally positioned as a solution for hard-core athletes like climbers and skiers.

But in their latest print advertising, featured in GQ Magazine's September issue, the brand targets urban dwellers looking for a fashionable, waterproof boot for those walks through flooded city blocks.

The ad reads: "A gray, rainy day in the city. You can't walk ten feet without hitting a puddle. So, if you plan to be out in the city today, a fashionable pair of waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® shoes is essential. They're durably waterproof and breathable enough to keep you comfortable through hours of urban exploring."

The technology, typically featured inside jackets and other winter gear from brands like Patagonia and Arcteryx, can now be found inside stylish shoe brands such as Timberland, Tretorn and Danner. It seems wise for GORE-TEX® to extend its reach in this way, especially given the growing desire for footwear with hybrid capabilities.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Under Armour Launches Massive Women's Initiative

For decades, women have been an afterthought in the world of sports. Only recently have athletic brands caught on to the idea that the female athletic segment is growing far faster than that of their counterparts. Under Armour, certainly cognizant of this shift, can be considered a pioneer in the realm of female-targeted messaging.

UA has launched an aggressive multimedia initiative to corner the female market with the some of the industry's first ever female-specific TV ads. The campaign, titled "No Matter What, Sweat Every Day. I WILL." hinges on the concept that no day should pass without breaking a sweat. The title is a mantra, a challenge, and a rally cry wrapped up in a single tagline. It reminds women that the best part of their day is the moment they feel that release from working out, pushing limits, and reaching goals.

Digitally, UA will support the initiative on their Facebook and Twitter platforms and through a dedicated landing page at The campaign will also feature the second installment of UA's What's Beautiful Competition, a quest to redefine the female athlete and reward those that challenge themselves to meet personal athletic goals. The competition is accessible through a mobile app, which allows participants to document and share daily workouts and post photos, videos, and diary entries.

The campaign also lives within :60, :30, and :15 second spots, which will broadcast across online locations like Hulu and, and on lifestyle TV networks such as Barvo, E!, VH1 and Nickelodeon.

The anthemic :60 spot builds upon UA's unique relationship with the female consumer using its gritty, raw brand voice. UA understands that its female consumer is intense, goal-oriented, and always pushing to improve. In line with much of the brand's past creative, the spot shows respect for the athletes it features and depicts them in a variety of authentic training environments.

And while "Sweat Everyday" certainly nods more lifestyle than to product, it does subtly support UA's new StudioLux Noir black-on-black collection, featuring leggings, jackets and tanks. The gear, donned by the spot's featured athletes, will be available in participating retail stores next month.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vibram Achieves Success with Mobile Ad

As an avid smartphone user, I'm usually quite reluctant to embrace mobile advertisements. And I would assume the same goes for most individuals trying to use their phones. But despite the expected resentment towards towards this kind of interruption, Vibram has achieved success with a rich media mobile ad.

Vibram's app, supported by Amp Agency, Nail Agency, and Jumptap, uses touch screen technology to gamify the barefoot running experience. It allows users to virtually test out the versatility of Fivefingers technology on a variety of different terrains like grass, a dirt trail, and a blacktop road. To participate, users use their fingers to tap the virtual pair of FiveFingers shoes on the screen and 'run' to the nearest Vibram store. Before embarking on this virtual run, users enter their zip code to find the location of the nearest Vibram store, adding a layer of utility to the ad.    

The ad was also quite successful in driving viewers to online stores with embedded links in the app. The ad inspired 1.41% ad expansion, drove brand awareness, and resulted in a 1.3% click-through rate on iPad devices.

The mobile ad follows the correct formula for increasing mobile consumer engagement: gamification and utility. According to an executive at Jumptap, effectiveness comes from visually appealing creative, engaging content, and apt audience targeting to increase the relevancy of the rich media unit. Judging by their 60% engagement rate, Vibram achieved all three.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

REI Reveals New Partnerships

Folks at REI have certainly been busy. The leader in outdoor retail announced two new partnerships this week with LAN Airlines and Salomon Sports.

REI is working with Lan Airlines, the leading international airline in South America, to award a lucky winner an all-inclusive travel package to Patagonia. The adventure package also includes tours through Buenos Aires, Los Glaciares National Park, and Chile's Torres del Paine. REI prides itself on helping to encourage fans and customers to get out and explore the world, and this partnership seems to be an extension of that promise.

The retailer will also team up with Salomon Sports to extend their combined passion for trail running to urbanites. The companies will collaboratively host a month long trail running seminar, making 14 stops in ten states. REI and Salomon footwear specialists will present about trail running safety, accessibility of local trails, how to get involved in the trail running community. Attendees will also have the opportunity to test Salomon's line of trail shoes, the XR Crossmax, Speedcross 3, and XR Mission.

The tour seeks to embolden those who live in urban areas to step outside their fitness comfort zone and discover the trail running lifestyle. The partnership follows a common thread amongst outdoor companies, for whom education and outreach continue to be a integral component of the marketing efforts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nike Deems August 12 as 'Most Active Day' Ever

Nike has set out to make this Sunday, August 12 the most active day ever, using its Nike+ digital ecosystem. Nike+ is calling on its fan base of over 8.5 million members to engage in the "Greatness is Ours" mission by sharing their activity with fellow participants, no matter the sport or endeavor. Sunday's event will be supported heavily in Nike Running's social media channels, using the hashtag #findgreatness.

Fans can share their activities and achievements on Facebook and Twitter, which are then aggregated on an online hub, The site encourages users to interact and motivate fellow athletes to get outside and achieve fitness goals.

The endeavor is part of a the larger "Find Your Greatness" campaign story, which Nike launched on Youtube several days before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games. This is a great example of Nike's ability to keep their audience engaged by extending their story with fresh and exciting creative.

Nike launched a new spot yesterday to support the challenge.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Teva Signs on First Winter Athlete, Looks to Expand Audience

Teva, an outdoor company that has cornered the market for high quality sports sandals, has signed on its first winter athlete to support the launch of a new line of winter boots this fall. Lel Ton, a professional ski patroller and heli-ski guide, will join the rest of the Teva brand team of athletes to support the new series, known as the Lifty Collection. According to Teva, this push will represent the brand's first entrance into the winter sports market.

I'm interested to see if the new boot will gain traction with Teva's loyal fan base. Teva has achieved such credibility for their stronghold on sports sandals, which have been popularized by paddle racers, kayakers, wake boarders and other water athletes. Ton's presence could strike a chord with winter athletes who might look to Teva for their winter gear solution. Or it could be seen as a misguided attempt to enter a market already controlled by longstanding competitors. Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nike vs. Adidias: 2012 Olympics Edition

The 2012 Olympics mean big business for sport apparel leaders Nike and Adidas. Every four years, the Nike-Adidas rivalry is revived during the Olympic Games, but this year it’s more heated than usual. Adidas has invested an estimated $150 million to become the official sponsor of Olympic athletes, and Nike’s not happy.

The problem stems from Nike sponsored athletes donning the official Adidas sponsored Olympic gear. In past Olympic Games, the two companies have upheld a gentleman’s agreement that allowed for sponsorship conflicts to be overlooked. Now, with more money on the line, Nike and Adidas are no longer content sharing the spotlight.

In recent days Nike sponsored athletes have taken to Twitter in protest of Olympic rule 40, which prohibit athletes from advertising for non-Olympic sponsors. The Olympic committee stresses the fact that this rule is only active for 30 days every four years and hardly makes an impact on existing sponsors. Nike doesn’t see it that way, and neither do the athletes who have a personal service agreement. They know it's Nike who will continue paying bills after the Olympics, and none are keen to endanger that relationship. Adidas’s $150 million gamble might ultimately hurt the brand’s perception if athletes continue to voice their disgruntlement over not wearing their beloved Nike products.

The conflict sheds light on the ever-problematic details surrounding athletes and sponsorships. In order for celebrity brand ambassadors and spokespeople to be credible in the eyes of consumers, they should be donning one and only one logo.

 *Thanks to Mark Stephens, our Media Team intern, for the guest post!

The North Face Nods to Heritage with "Back to Berkeley" Boot

It's often easy to forget that The North Face, now heralded as one of the most innovative and comprehensive solutions for climbers, hikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts, began as a modest mountaineering store in a small Bay Area neighborhood back in 1966.

But much like Merrell has done with the Origins Collection, TNF has introduced their "Back to Berkeley" Boot in an effort to return to their 1960s California roots. The boot mixes brand heritage with the modern technical innovations that have enabled TNF to ascend the ranks in outdoor gear. The boot, available in three color sets, incorporates 4-season protection from the elements, waterproof mudguard and Hydroseal membrane, and a layer of insulation to protect feet from the cold.    

The boots will launch in October as part of the Fall/Winter 2012 line and will be available in TNF stores for $170. I'm interested to see if they'll feature the new style in advertising across print, digital, and TV.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vibram Taps London Audience with FiveFingers

Via an outdoor ad campaign beginning this week, Vibram FiveFingers will insert their brand in the Olympic conversation using a staple of London's tourism culture. Those ubiquitous, bright red double-decker buses will be branded with Vibram ads in order to promote the barefoot shoe and increase brand awareness during the 2012 summer Olympic games.

The outdoor campaign, titled "Train With," capitalizes on the athletic focus and competitive environment of the games and positions FiveFingers as the perfect training solution for any sport. The promotion will run for four weeks, and aligns with the heavy traffic and increased tourism that will result from the Olympics, commencing on Friday.

This strategic move from Vibram is sure to be recognized by tourists eager to catch a ride on this key component of London urban culture, and even Londoners themselves. According to Transport Media, the group responsible for Vibram's ad placement, 91% of Londoners are able to recall bus ads and 73% claim they even prefer buses featuring advertising.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Under Armour's "This Is How We Run" Spot Hits YouTube

We learned a few weeks ago that Under Armour's Spine Footwear Line would land in stores this month, and with it UA's biggest marketing push to date.

The new TV spot hit UA's YouTube channel and Facebook page last weekend.

I find it interesting that the commercial focuses much more on the athletic prowess of the shoe's spokespeople than the product itself, especially given the technology-loaded nature of the Spine series. There's only a subtle, somewhat ambiguous nod to the product benefit towards the end of the spot with the "backbone" reference. 

I do appreciate neutral use of the shoe in the commercial. Superstars Cam Newton and Tom Brady are shown using the product in the gym and on the street, rather than on the football field. This positions the product to a wider audience, suggesting it can be used by any athlete who runs to stay in shape.

I'm interested to see how fans will react to the spot, and whether the message of innovation has been communicated clearly enough for such a groundbreaking product. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The North Face Launches Role Models Challenge

Now that school is out, the North Face has decided it's time to start a movement for outdoor exploration and get the whole family outside. This week, the North Face rolled out their Role Models campaign, which lives in a Facebook tab on TNF's brand page. The goal of the campaign is to empower outdoor enthusiasts to share their passion and create a new generation of explorers.

The campaign asks participants to pledge their commitment to sharing the beauty of the outdoors with someone this summer, whether it be a family member, friend, or stranger. Those who take the pledge and share photos of the experience are automatically entered to win TNF gear to guide their outdoor adventures. TNF will also donate $1 to the Child and Nature Network for each pledge they receive, with the ultimate goal of recruiting $10,000 pledges throughout the campaign.  

Accompanying the online experience is a Role Models Clinic Tour, on which TNF's team of athletes will travel to TNF and REI stores across the country to give tips for getting outside as a family and share their experiences with their own children.

Though this is quite consistent with The North Face's mantra to "Never Stop Exploring," the campaign represents a departure from TNF's usual positioning as a solution for the hardcore athlete in the most extreme conditions. The Role Models campaign positions the outdoors as a family-friendly, welcoming environment for all to enjoy rather than a challenging conquest.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Merrell Taps Fashionable, Urban Audience

Launched in 2011, the Origins line is nothing new from Merrell. But a new spread for the Origins collection speaks to an audience largely different than their typical hard-core athlete, minimalist runner market for the Merrell Barefoot series. 

The Origins collection is a throwback footwear series that revisits the brand's history and reintroduces the classic designs that brought the company to the forefront of the footwear space in the late 80s and early 90s. The new ad, featured below, engages a younger, urban demographic of fashionable influencers. 

The spread is featured in WAD Magazine, a provocative France-based magazine that focuses on urban culture, style and art and seeks to highlight brands that are innovative in their messaging and design. The spread positions Merrell Origins as street wear, to be worn in an urban setting. This is slightly different than the way the Origins collection has been depicted in previous messaging.

Shown above, the older Origins ads, though quite fashion-forward, still place the shoe in an outdoorsy, picturesque nature setting. I'm interested to see what's next from Merrell, and whether the new spread will surface in the United States. The ad below is what we're used to seeing from Merrell stateside.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Under Armour Introduces Spine Footwear Line

With minimalist footwear dominating the running conversation these days, it's easy to forget about athletes who don't wish to adopt to this kind of lifestyle yet still need a great running shoe. But Under Armour hasn't.  Committed to their mission of bettering athletes through the relentless pursuit of innovation, UA will introduce the Spine RPM footwear line, available in stores July 9.

Spine, aptly named for a responsive inner core that's inspired by the function of the human spine, is designed to be lightweight and provide strong foot support for athletes who use running as an integral component of training. The shoe uses revolutionary Micro G foam for flexibility and a Spine Cage in the sole to keep the foot locked in place.

The shoe will launch in conjunction with an extensive, integrated advertising campaign, titled "This is How We Run." The campaign will launch across TV, print, digital, and social channels and will include appearances by world famous athletes and shoe spokespersons Tom Brady, Lindsey Vonn, Cam Newton and Kemba Walker. Spine invites all athletes, not just hard core runners, to join the Under Armour family. 

Not surprisingly, "This is How We Run" is expected to UA's biggest marketing push to date. In what UA CEO Kevin Plank calls a "transformative moment for the brand and for the performance footwear landscape," the launch could potentially shift some focus away from the barefoot running movement and revisit the general athlete.  According to UA executives, the next move will be to extend the Spine prototype into baseball, basketball, and football shoes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adidas Launches Tumblr Campaign

About two months ago, we learned that Tumblr was inviting brands to leverage the platform in order to reach consumers. Last week, the blog site teamed up with Adidas in a month-long advertising campaign launched in conjunction with the 2012 UEFA European Championship.

The site features static images, animated GIFs, and Youtube videos grouped in different categories that speak directly to the interests of Adidas's core audience of soccer fans. The blog also links to external sites like EPL Talk, a news site dedicated to the English Premiere League, and A Football Report, another online hub for soccer lovers.

The month-long Tumblr program earns Adidas a daily top posting in the Tumblr Radar slot on the user dashboard, which greatly increases the visibility of the post to the millions of loyal Tumblr users out there. It will also push Adidas posts to the top of the "football" category feed, which is accessible on the viewer sidebar.      


The creation of a Tumblr campaign is an incredibly strategic move for Adidas because of its concurrence with the European Championship. It allows the brand to deliver fresh content in real time to an incredibly engaged audience who might be seeking something extra, particularly because soccer certainly does not dominate the sports landscape in the United States. Without pushing any product message, Adidas interacts with and becomes top-of-mind for the online audience by providing an enjoyable and exciting experience.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Merrell Launches M-Connect

Barefoot runners rejoice, Merrell has announced it will greatly expand its athletic department with M-Connect, a new footwear series built to connect the outdoor athlete to a full range of activities. M-Connect includes four collections: the Mix Master Trail, Proterra Light Hiker, and upgraded versions of the flagship Road Glove and Bare Access prototypes. 

Deemed the "intelligent evolution of barefoot," M-Connect extends beyond road and trail running. The new series provides fast and responsive design that enables runners to enjoy the benefits of minimalist footwear inside the gym and up steeper hiking trails. For example, the Proterra Hiker, arguably the boldest of the pack, gives greater stability on rugged trails with enhanced cushioning and a large arch.       

M-Connect comes a response to the ever-increasing cohort of barefoot runners and Merrell's vision to expand the technology to new audiences. By aligning the technology with terrain, Merrell invites serious hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to make barefoot a part of their athletic experience. The series will also likely infiltrate Merrell's loyal following of road runners who may want a different shoe to take on new challenges. 

M-Connect expects full launch for the Spring 2013 season.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Outside Television to Launch June 2012

In the upcoming weeks, Comcast will launch Outside Television, a cable network born of the 35-year-old Outside Magazine. The network will provide content focusing on skiing, running, hiking, surfing and other outdoor activities to a group of approximately 140 million outdoor enthusiasts across the United States.

The network will be available as part of a package of specialty sports and lifestyle channels on Comcast's Xfinity TV in key markets near coastlines, mountains, and the Great Lakes, where outdoor activities dominate the local lifestyle. The birth of the new channel reflects the continuous increase in spending time outside as more Americans aspire towards healthier lifestyles.    

Some of the channel's content will be supported by a brand or sponsor, such as the North Face Expeditions program and Warren Miller Entertainment. Outside TV will also work collaboratively with Outside Magazine to provide integrated opportunities for advertisers across television, print, online, mobile, and social media channels. 

Outside Magazine's video content has until recently lived on YouTube, so the new TV network serves as a significant step for mass distribution. Dennis Gillespie, senior VP of Distribution for Outside Television, hopes the new network will encourage an influx of converts to the outdoorsy way of life.

Outside Magazine already acts as a Bible for those who are passionate the active outdoor lifestyle. I think extending their reach with a TV network has the potential to be hugely successful in speaking to a larger audience, and thus allow brands to gain greater awareness and customer loyalty.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nike Men's Tailwind Tee "Runs Hard, Feels Soft, No Sweat."

In preparation for the impending summer season, Nike has reintroduced their Tailwind V-Neck T-shirt. A summer staple of the Nike Dri-FIT collection, the Tailwind Tee has a cotton and polyester blend that makes it softer against the skin and wicks moisture away from the body to keep runners dry and comfortable in the hot summer months. There's also a small back zip pocket to stash essentials like keys and cash.

The shirt enables air circulation with underarm ventilation pockets, leverages moisture-wicking and quick-drying technology, and provides a nonrestrictive and natural fit. Nike positions Tailwind as an item that "Runs Hard, Feels Soft, No Sweat." The tee quickly wicks away sweat instead of using it as a resource, and the product is a favorite amongst hard-core runners.

The Tailwind technology line also includes a collection of footwear, jackets, and sunglasses. The products are multi-sport appropriate, though Nike leverages Tailwind to support its ever-expanding audience of runners.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Life is good Transforms Digital Presence

Speaking from my vast expertise within the world of online shopping, I can say with confidence that it is incredibly rare to have a memorable experience.  In fact, I usually end up feeling pretty guilty about my behavior. I've found that most e-tailers offer the same streamlined process that quickly pushes the user from browsing to the shopping cart to check-out, with no attempt to reinforce what they stand for as a company or provide a chance to engage with the brand. And while I understand that the main goal is to drive sales and it's hard to differentiate from other e-commerce platforms, Life is good has managed to create a premium online experience that merges content, commerce, community and charity into one branded digital ecosystem.

Life is good recently partnered with digital agency Fluid Inc., a digital commerce innovator who has also worked with major outdoor brands such as The North Face in past years. Life is good tasked Fluid with the challenge of elevating the brand's message of optimism within each element of the site, in everything from user interface to product photography. 

The new website, which is now divided into four core modules, is an absolute reflection of the brand's commitment to to spreading the power of optimism and helping children at risk of violence, illness, and poverty. The site structure makes sharing, donating, and volunteering to Life is good's charitable arm incredibly easy for the user by integrating tools into each vertical of the site. For example, it's incredible simple for the user to add a donation to a clothing order during the shopping process, without traveling to a new hub within the site. Curated social media feeds built into the interface also allow visitors to browse and share user-generated content to create an ongoing cycle of brand engagement.

Life is good is ultimately working to create a model in which optimistic content and product are invariably connected, and so too are the experiences of online shopping and brand engagement. Moving forward, both content and products on the site will be tagged, so keywords searches will returns results for content and product that share those tags.


Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Embraces Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest during Playoffs

It's nearly impossible to find a group as impassioned and knowledgeable as die-hard sports fans. Not only are these individuals religiously tuning in to catch the game, they're also seeking to engage with the program on a heightened level by unlocking premium content through social media channels.  According to a recent Mashable infographic, 80% of sports fans monitor social media sites while watching the game on TV, and even 60% of fans do so while attending live events. With buzzer-beating baskets and game-changing fouls happening at rapid fire speed, there's a beautiful marriage that exists between sports and social media, an entity known for its immediacy.     

Cognizant of this harmonious relationship and the extensive presence of their fans on each network, the NBA is leveraging the power of Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest to unite basketball fanatics around the excitement of the NBA playoffs. The NBA will launch its community-rooted "Hoops around the World" program, and encourage fans to tweet photos of their neighborhood courts using the hashtag #hoops. The @nba Twitter account will retweet its favorite shots, and the stunt will culminate in an interactive world map illustration of all submissions before the finals begin.

The NBA will expand to greater audiences with Tumblr and Pinterest, two platforms not typically exploited by the association. The NBA will devote its Tumblr page, launching next Wednesday, to photos from professional basketball history, including shots from classic match-ups and iconic moments from the game's greatest players (pictured above). The NBA's Pinterest page, expected to launch late next week, has a two-tiered strategy. It will drive fans to the NBA's e-commerce site to browse throwback apparel, and feature funny moments in NBA history, quirky characters, and other storylines that reinforce to fans why the NBA is so fun to follow off the court.  

With TV ratings for the impending NBA playoffs expected to shatter those of previous years, the NBA is rightly vamping up its social media outreach. I'm particularly intrigued by the use of Pinterest to interact with fans because of the site's heavily-skewed female audience. It will be interesting to track engagement on each platform throughout the playoffs and see where the league is seeing the greatest success.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New L.L. Bean Campaign Encourages Outdoor Discovery

Last week, L.L. Bean launched its spring "Discover Something" campaign in celebration of the brand's birthday and 100 years of dedication to helping people discover the great outdoors. The campaign features four long-form thematic videos running both online and in cinema across the country. The spots depict the stories of real L.L. Bean customers and their drastically different yet equally profound experiences with nature.    

Each spot offers an emotional, unpretentious approach to the outdoors that can resonate with consumers of all ages. In one video there's a message of personal discovery, while another illustrates a mother's appreciation for the positive impact that nature has had on her young son. For L.L. Bean customers, it's not as much about the conquest of the hardcore elements as it is about doing anything outside that makes you happy, whether it be collecting leaves in your backyard or climbing your 10th mountain. The spots are not heavily product focused, but instead highlight the value in getting outside and using nature as a playground. 

The campaign represents a departure from L.L. Bean's previous messaging, which is usually quite product-centric. The spots are genuine and beautifully portray the freedom that exists in outdoor discovery. L.L. Bean also invites customers to share stories through social networks about when they too discovered something outside, and for each message the company will donate $1 to their charitable Million Moment Mission. Check out the spots below.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Under Armour Launches Competition for Female Athletes

On April 23, Under Armour will kick off their "What's Beautiful" competition, a quest to redefine and empower the female athlete. Participants will vie to become the new face of Under Amour throughout a grueling nine week journey, during which they'll be required to declare a goal and complete 19 challenges along the way.

The journey will live in an microsite, on which competitors will have their own profile page. Through the microsite, Under Armour will help participating women along with gear giveaways, tips from trainers, and motivational content.

Participants will also be asked to upload videos, photos, and powerful vignettes throughout the duration of the competition that illustrate their drive, competitive spirit and ability to influence their communities. Thus, the competition will be as much about compelling story-telling as it as about athletic pursuit. Winners will be selected based on who can depict the most impressive, impassioned, and monumental journey, so it's a given that we'll see some truly interesting, inspirational content. Competitors can access an on-going activity feed on the microsite to track the progress and content of their adversaries, and fans can follow along with the competition on Facebook and Twitter.

Two winners will be selected by Under Armour and the third will be chosen by the public, which imbues the competition with a broader social element. The winners will earn a year-long sponsorship from Under Armour that will include free training with UA celebrities, nutritionist consultation, access to special events and much more.

The nature of the competition speaks to the burgeoning population of hard-core female athletes, and the growing opportunity for activewear brands to engage with these individuals. No longer is athletic challenge the exclusive domain of a male audience, and sportswear brands need to find ways to speak to women about athletics in a meaningful and relevant way. With the presence of dedicated athletes, healthy competition, and a social community, What's Beautiful undoubtedly achieves this.

Check out the video below for more competition details.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tumblr Introduces New Tools for Brands

Internet memes rarely amount to more than a fleeting laugh or two, but last week a Tumblr-based meme reached both the press and the highest levels of government. "Texts from Hillary," a Tumblr that began as a joke between two friends at a bar, became a national conversation about Secretary Clinton and even garnered a response from the ex-first lady herself.

And though every Tumblr creator may not gain enough exposure to earn an invitation to the State Department from Hill, there's still plenty of room for optimism. The numbers are staggering. Brands take note: with over 120 million users, 50 million blogs, 20 billion posts and 4.5 billion weekly impressions, Tumblr has reach and relevance. And while CEO David Karp initially cringed at the thought of advertising on Tumblr, numbers like that are hard to ignore.

Karp contends that while Tumblr was designed without brands in mind, they began showing up about a year and a half ago on the blog platform, particularly in the fashion and publishing categories. Since then, he and his team have been digging to find out what exactly these companies find valuable and how Tumblr can become more brand-friendly.

Karp announced today at the Ad Age Digital Conference that Tumblr will begin rolling out a new package of features for advertisers, starting with a tool for planting branded Tumblr posts into the blog's Radar feature. Radar, which gets 120 million impressions per day, highlights editorially selected posts in Tumblr's dashboard and exists as a space for brands to advertise both on the site and in Tumblr's mobile app.

The Radar ads will augment two already existing brand-friendly features. In February, Tumblr launched "highlighted posts," allowing Tumblr users to pay $1 per post and gain greater visibility for their work. Tumblr has also experimented with promoted directories, which enables users to achieve a top listing in Tumblr's blog directory. Brands like Huggies, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and GQ are already finding ways to effectively reach consumers on the platform.

The Radar ad units will launch on May 2, but Karp's core goal for Tumblr is still all about empowering creativity for users. He has mentioned repeatedly that he has no interest in running traditional display ads, so brands will need to work on creating engaging content that is still organic to the Tumblr environment.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The North Face Continues Collaborations with Supreme

Next week, The North Face will release another product collaboration with skate brand Supreme as part of their 2012 spring/summer capsule collection. The launch will include a waterproof jacket, backpack, and duffel bag, priced at $257, $193, and $283, respectively. Each item is available in both tan and black, and will feature all-over print of world map imagery along with both The North Face and Supreme brand logos.

The partnership is certainly not a new venture for the two brands, who teamed up last year on The North Face's Nuptse Down Jacket. The item was sold exclusively at Supreme stores and online last November, received widespread attention for its appearance in rapper Drake's music video for The Motto and sold out in a matter of days.

The collaboration with Supreme is historically hugely successful for The North Face, though it represents an interesting departure from their usual approach to product offering. The brand is known for their positioning as a highly innovative, high-performance gear manufacturer and their appeal to the extreme athlete and serious outdoor enthusiast.

Alternatively, Supreme, founded in NYC in 1994, caters to the skateboarding, underground hip-hop, and punk rock cultures. The brand embodies a young counter culture at large, and partners with groundbreaking photographers, designers and musicians to help define its unique identity.

The presence of Supreme's logo on their products communicates a different message for The North Face, and speaks to the brand's infiltration of a more urban audience and legitimacy within the casual sportswear market. The brand maintains a stronghold on two very different segments, and provides a great example of the success that can result from recognizing potential within the changing environment of the fashion industry.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Patagonia Extends Partnerships to Support Common Threads Initiative

Patagonia announced last week that consumers can now recycle their old jackets by turning them into fuzzy, durable Kindle covers and iPad cases. The company has partnered with ReFleece, who strips pieces of outerwear products, converts the fleece into a felt tablet case and sends it back to the original owner of the jacket. With customizable covers for iPhones, iPads, and other electronics all the rage these days, Patagonia strikes a chord with tech savvy consumers while simultaneously encouraging sustainability. Plus, Patagonia becomes top-of-mind for the customer whenever they reach for a good book or browse the net.

And if jacket owners aren't quite ready to see their products torn apart, they can travel to Patagonia's Ebay storefront, which was launched in conjunction with the Common Threads Initiative in September 2011 in another strategic move. After all, if a company's goal is to encourage reuse and rewear of their products, why not seek the help of Ebay, the world's largest marketplace for used and refurbished goods?

The branded Ebay platform extends the useful life of Patagonia products by providing a simple marketplace for users to buy and sell items. If customers would prefer to donate rather than sell, they can travel to the Common Threads hub on The partnerships are part of a larger effort to create a new standard of sustainability within the retail industry, which is plagued by over-consumption.

The Ebay platform makes it incredibly easy for consumers to take the pledge to reduce America's widening environmental footprint. This is key because today's consumers, particularly outdoor enthusiasts, lead incredibly busy lives. Even the strongest proponent of environment sustainability can be turned off by a complex system, so any effort to simplify the process will contribute to long-term success for these initiatives.

Monday, April 2, 2012

YouTube Introduces New Ad Model

I almost never watch TV. Sure I watch a lot of TV shows, but I rarely manage to catch my favorite programs from the comfort of my couch as they are aired live. So, like many other Millennials, I turn to online formats like Netflix, HBO GO, and Hulu to catch up on what I've missed because I can access these portals from almost anywhere. And since it's so quick and convenient, TV viewership is moving rapidly into the online space.

Cognizant of this shift, Youtube has launched a new ad model to support its collection of video channels by selling channel sponsorships to advertisers. Within the Youtube platform already exists clusters of episodic content organized into channels. For example, some channels have themes such as "Young Hollywood," "Mom's View," and "Automotive."

The new ad model will allow brands access to 96 different YouTube channels via sponsorships. The sponsorship package includes standard display ads, overlay, and pre-roll video and deems the sponsor as the sole advertiser on that particular channel. Youtube will cover the cost of production, and then share revenue equally with the sponsor once the investment is reimbursed.

The model uses keyword targeting instead of demographic stats for sponsorship packages, so it's a great way to interact with different lifestyle communities on a platform they're already loyal to.
Brands such as Uniliver, Toyota, GM, AT&T and Lowes have already signed up for the new advertising format and are paying a hefty price. According to Adweek, the ballpark value for sponsorships is an annual $4 to $6 million, depending on the channel. Channel sponsors in the music, pop culture, and sports categories will likely cut the biggest checks.

As online video entertainment reaches the forefront of the digital space, the arena is sure to become more competitive. Since the new format grants brands exclusive share of voice among key influencers in particular channels of interest, this is an incredible opportunity for brands with engaging, consistently refreshed content to stake their claim.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Snowboarding gets Shazamed

If you weren't planning on tuning in to Red Bull's Supernatural snowboarding competition on NBC this Saturday, I highly suggest it. It's going to be epic. The event will feature two hours of the raddest snowboarders in the world shredding through man-made obstacles, jumps and drops, and you can catch the madness from the point-of-view of the boarders as they tear down the slopes.

Thanks to the media-discovery Shazam Application and Contour, an industry leader in video storytelling, viewers nationwide can watch exclusive footage streaming straight from the helmets of top competitors and feel like a part of the action from their own living room.

Intermittent visual reminders throughout the event will prompt viewers to download the app and engage with it during the show, and boarders will urge their fans to get involved through their personal social network profiles. Once Shazam is activated, fans can can unlock content and connect with other viewers through Facebook and Twitter to keep the conversation going.

The Supernatural event is just one installment of the Red Bull Signature Series, an NBC broadcast featuring 35 hours of extreme programming that will roll out in the coming months. And though we've become accustomed to seeming some pretty intense stuff from the world's top athletes, a Red Bull stamp on this event means it's likely to be like nothing we've ever seen.

So the lesson here is that an event this disruptive should be paired with technology that's equally as mind-blowing to enhance the viewer experience. Like many other snow enthusiasts during this snowless winter, I didn't have a chance to hit the slopes these past few months. So a chance to land every jump and flip through the eyes of those competing is the next best thing. Check out the preview of Supernatural below, and follow along with the action Saturday at Twitter handle #supernatural.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tribesports Leads the Pack in Sports Social Networking

With the 2012 Summer Olympics kicking off in only a few short months, London is busy gearing up for one of most widely enjoyed, legendary sporting events in the world. And while most of us will never be Olympic athletes, it doesn't mean we can't strive to grow our athletic prowess and link up with other enthusiasts who share similar skills and interests. London's got us covered in this endeavor as well.

Tribesports is a London-based, social networking site that provides a hub for the sporting community to share advice, athletic interests, equipment preferences, and fitness challenges. The beta site launched last June, and it's quickly gaining momentum and revenue as more sports fans opt in.

Here's how it works: users first create a profile bio indicating sports they play, their favorite equipment, skill level and other sporting achievements. They can then create challenges to reach any number of goals, ranging from getting a better night's sleep, to training for a 5k, to eating only one bowl of cereal a day. Users can take on the challenges of other Tribesports members, and the site features a live feed of who's doing what.

The site stretches its social legs even further with the invention of "Tribes," which are active communities of users who share sporting interests and can be centered on a discipline, location, skill set, quirky attitude, or even preferences in running music. Through the Tribes vertical, users can organize events, schedule meetups, and seek advice from those at their skill level or more experienced athletes.

And then there's the product side of the platform. Using an intelligent aggregated shopping solution database, Tribesports enables users to search through millions of sports products from over 250 retailers and add their preferences and product reviews to their personal bios. Members can click through directly to retailers, and Tribesports takes commission on all products sold through the website.

The Tribesports community has huge influencing power within the athletic realm. According to website founder Steve Reid, "Sportspeople love talking about their equipment. On Tribesports users can search for more than 1 million products across over 1000 different sports, adding items to their equipment list, or wishlist and add reviews, ask questions or request validation on which equipment best suits their needs."

There's also a huge opportunity for brands to gain exposure within the site, as Tribesports can create targeted sponsorship and advertising packages for companies to directly target any type of athlete, from barefoot runners to archers, in specific markets.

Though sport-specific online communities multiply at an alarming rate, Tribesports is one of the first destinations for all athletic enthusiasts. It provides an easy to navigate interface and non-intimidating format for even the most novice athlete to connect with helpful members. We're excited to see how the site develops as more and more consumers seek to connect their online habits with offline activities.