Given their target audience, outdoor and athletic brands are afforded viable marketing opportunities in endurance challenges. Like food brands that sponsor eating contests, or tech brands that sponsor hack-a-thons, outdoor and athletic brands that sponsor endurance challenges are finding perfect, on brand ways of marketing their product and sparking lifts in online engagement. With these challenges, brands aren’t just attempting to fill signup sheets—they’re taking shots at virality, receiving hundreds of thousands of mentions across social media.

The North Face Endurance Challenge New York recently took place in Bear Mountain State Park. Participants of the challenge were pushed to the edge as they raced through trails along the shore of the Hudson River and up the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Three key brand benefits arose from The North Face’s sponsorship of this challenge.

1. Brand Awareness:

For brands seeking new ways to increase engagement, awareness may be the most pronounced benefit of sponsoring an endurance challenge, given how subversive these challenges are to the perception most jaded consumers have of digital marketing.

To a generation bombarded with hundreds of campaigns a day on their timelines and newsfeeds, promoted tweets and paid-for posts are easy to spot. But what’s unique to an endurance challenge is its earnestness. Its participants aren’t actors or influencers on payroll—they’re everyday athletes who honestly believe in the brand.

An Instagram post featuring a real athlete who willed his or herself to the finish line appears much more genuine than one featuring a paid model with a personal trainer.

 

2. Guaranteed Brand Ambassadors:

While this blog will always champion influencer marketing, for outdoor and athletic brands, an endurance challenge may be an easier path to brand ambassadorship. Again, earnestness is the key component here. Engaging with the audience of a paid influencer who may or may not genuinely be into your brand in fine and effective, but it’s also a negotiated agreement.

On the other hand, athletes who participate in endurance challenges actually volunteer their ambassadorship. It’s a much more organic relationship. Very few influencers can have a more resonate impact than an athlete who truly trusts, understands, and enjoys the product he or she is using. Winners of your endurance challenge will likely endorse your brand for years to come—with or without a paycheck. Using a social listening tool to monitor the activity of participants leading up to and after each challenge would be wise.

 

3. Real Time Product Testimonials:

Usually, when consumers hear the word “testimonial,” they think of bad acting and late night infomercials. However, with endurance challenges and live video on social, consumers have the opportunity to check your product out in uncut, unadulterated action—they have a chance to truly witness how an athlete performs in a brand’s gear or equipment.

 

 

Once exposed to these testimonials, the early stages of a consumer’s life cycle is accelerated and they find themselves deeper in the conversion funnel quicker. With brand awareness as a jumping off point, believable ambassadors sparking subsequent interest, and honest testimonials inspiring desire, endurance challenges may prove to be key differentiators for outdoor and athletic brands looking to drive action. Each step of this funnel becomes clearer and easier to navigate with social listening.

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