In the last 20 years, Reebok has undergone a serious image shift. Where previously the apparel and footwear company was known for its sneakers and its NFL partnerships, it is now a female-first fitness brand at its core. Losing out to the likes of Adidas and Nike in the fashion and sports sectors, the brand has done well to position itself in the fitness industry at a time when sales are booming. During the shift, Reebok worked to align its separate marketing entities to create one team capable of promoting the new direction.
‘We had these groups living in different places within the building. We brought them together in the news room - those groups are PR, content (which is my team), and then social media. So, they were living in different parts of the campus, not really talking, not integrated.’
So Reebok brought the three groups together to create a ‘news room’, understanding that the industries of each have changed such that they are now interdependent with a great deal of overlap. This new, larger collective was tasked with bringing this image shift to the attention of the public and Reebok’s audience more specifically, complete with new logo and brand message.
‘We want you to know who we are but we don’t want to be annoying. So with that comes this real time strategy which is really important… This is the idea of avoiding at all possible when you’re going to swim upstream to talk about your products or your innovations, and deciding […] when can I ride a wave of interest or cultural relevancy - or, dare I say, trending - to make my point and make a really genuine insertion within the conversation that adds value, and in our case inspires out audience to be their best selves.’
Blair and her team work on the basis that there are many things that Reebok cares about as a brand, and many things that its audience cares about. They understand that there is a lot that doesn’t overlap in that dynamic. As content creators and marketers the team tries to live in the part that does overlap - i.e. where Reebok can be relevant in its audience’s lives.
‘Three times a week, our whole new news room gets together early in the morning, everybody has a seat at the table, and we’re talking about what our consumer is reading and experiencing online. So it might have nothing to do with Reebok but this is just like reading the room - we’re going to work the room, and we’re going to figure out who is most important to us as a contact. We’re looking at things like memes, trending topics, articles, people. […] And we decide when we speak up and when we don’t, and yes there’s a level of criteria to go through to make that decision.’
Blair then explains that at big organizations such as Reebok, the strategic element of speed is something that takes people time to get comfortable with. The team has taken lengths to ensure that ideas from the morning meetings never get lost in email back-and-forths, that ideas get spoken about face to face and that the content is then created quickly and without confusion.
One of the examples given at the conference related to Reebok’s partnership with model Gigi Hadid. The content team at Reebok knew that Hadid’s popularity spiked around Fashion Week, but also that this is the time at which they would have absolutely no access to her to create content. So, months prior, they created short videos of Hadid explaining how she prepares for the catwalk, particularly with exercise and fitness in mind. In sharing these around the time of Fashion Week, Reebok was able to make itself relevant despite having no stake in high end fashion itself. Blair also told the audience about certain political conversations that Reebok really had no business being involved in. That is, until they became memes, widening the aperture of the conversations and opening the door for companies to get involved.
For brands, knowing where and when your input is welcome is a tricky but essential marketing skill. Reebok creates content it knows its audience is interested in, rather than promoting an internal brand message that the customer base may not be in line with. Big partnerships, speed, communication - these are all important for a large brand, but ultimately, if the message isn’t timely or welcome, it won’t be well received.