In the centre of Stockholm, people crowd around to take a chance at winning a new pair of Reebok running shoes. “Are you fast enough for the ZPump 2.0?” taunts a billboard. A simple but efficient challenge that gets consumers stopping traffic to run in front of a sensor, unlocking a free pair of ZPumps if their speed scores higher than 17 km/h.
Although a (nearly) free goodie is an undeniable attraction, Reebok’s part competition, part PR stunt was effective because it also tapped into consumers’ drive for competition, and their desire to get, be, and stay fit. Filip Lagerbäck, the Marketing Manager at Reebok Nordic confirms that “We want to inspire people to run and push their limits, even when they’re not at the gym. That’s what our tagline ‘Be More Human’ is all about.” (Adweek)
Shared by 10.5 million people in the UK alone (Sports Marketing), running is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to get fit. Undeniably a much-loved sport; just how much? And how are brands innovating in a hobby that’s as simple as putting on a pair of shoes and leaving the house?
As you might guess, the UK is a nation of runners. 42% of hobbyists go for a run at least 3 to 4 times a week, and 27% do so at least 5 to 7 times a week. For the rest, moderation is key: jogging once or twice is enough. Others are fiercely committed, with 1% of these enthusiasts running for 2 to 3 hours, in one go!
Unfortunately, despite a non-existent cost barrier to entry, running can be a challenge for beginners, as a systematic review of research on the issue reveals that novice runners are most at risk of injury for every 1,000 hours they’ve run (Sports Med). We find that moderate sports practitioners are still the norm, with one in three only running between 15 or 30 minutes. Which is coherent with research showing that, as a beginner, shortening runs is a good idea.
Is the sports industry the first to commercialise health-tech?
The sporting goods industry is vast, and in 2014, the at-home and personal fitness market were worth £1.2 billion, a 28% increase in half a decade (Mintel). Nike, for example, has ramped up its female sporting goods section, and Nike Women’s is their fastest-growing sector. Our research finds that their efforts pay off, with 51% of both male and female consumers wearing Nike brand shoes.
The sporting goods industry has started to use technology to improve and innovate its products. We can already see sports shops providing personalised services and products to consumers, so as to help minimise or prevent injury. When buying running shoes, for example, Asics offers in-store gait analysis to fit you with the best pair of running shoes for your gait and foot shape.
We’re wondering if, in the near future, our sports gear will be perfectly adapted to our bodies. DNA personalisation, for example? At present, we can see the average consumer benefiting from the commercialisation of sports tech, which sporting brands are pushing out to the public in a bid to keep up with this growing market.
Why do we run?
It’s not just about health or weight loss, although that is a big reason why people run. More than anything, runner’s high does the trick. If you ask runners, 1 in 2 will tell you that it makes them happier in one way or another, and science backs that up. A study from Glasgow Caledonian University surveyed 8,000 runners and was able to conclude that their happiness levels are higher than average (GCU Newsroom). Researchers identify not just the sport itself as a source of happiness, but also the social network around it: events such as races, apps and challenges that runners partake in all make for a “competitive togetherness”.
These conclusions ring true when looking at our research. 67% of our dedicated amateur athletes are aiding their healthy exercise with a dose of mobile support, 28% use Nike+ Run Club, 27% use Strava and 19% are on Runkeeper. These apps are part trackers, to compete against yourself, and part social networks, to compete against your friends. In combining the two main goals of running, and gamifying it, they help users keep at the sport.
Although tech is defining the sporting goods industry, successful brands don’t lose sight of the essential: the desire to push our own boundaries. Reebok got it right, standing out from the crowd in this market is reserved for brands with an in-depth understanding of what sport means to those who practice it.