Storytelling relays softer side of Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder and its global agency, Edelman, launched a campaign to introduce newly designed obstacles and highlight the brand's values.

Client: Tough Mudder (Brooklyn)
: Edelman (New York)
: Tough Mudder Redefined launch
: December 2014 – January 2015
: about $25,000

Tough Mudder is a team-oriented and untimed 10 to 12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test physical strength and mental grit.

Early this year, the brand and Edelman, its global AOR, launched a campaign to introduce newly designed obstacles and highlight the brand’s values.

"[Tough Mudder] launched in 2010, so we’re a young company in the event space, but we’ve grown significantly with events now in eight countries and nearly 2 million participants to date," explains global communications director Ben Johnson. "Many people have a good general idea of what Tough Mudder is, but we wanted to drive deeper understanding of brand values – teamwork, camaraderie, and fun – and what differentiates us. We did that by redesigning all of our obstacles and telling the story behind each one." 

The team developed videos and photos for traditional media and social media audiences that helped communicate the news of the new obstacles and the brand’s story.

"Key to success in reaching consumers who were unsure if Tough Mudder was for them was to communicate stories about people they could relate to through media they could relate to," explains Lindsay Anthony, SVP, consumer marketing at Edelman. "Tough Mudder has had extensive past coverage in trades and business media. With this campaign we used visually rich storytelling about what the brand stands for and where it’s going to break through to sports, fitness, and design outlets that could influence our target."

The new obstacle announcement was teased on, on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, and to email subscribers beginning in December.

"Teasing was a big shift for us because we have such a strong ongoing conversation with participants, given that events go on all year," Johnson explains. "We really dialed it down on all channels to just focus on sneak-peek messaging." 

Less than $500 was spent on boosting select Facebook posts. 

Photos and videos shot in November 2014 during consumer testing of the obstacles were developed to promote the annoucement. Videos included 13 obstacle previews and a five-part series detailing the obstacle development and testing process.

Eight outlets, including AP, Daily Telegraph, and Fast Company’s Co.Design, got embargoed exclusives with slightly different angles and assets. 

Darren Rovell, sports business reporter for ESPN and ABC News correspondent, was given an exclusive to break a two-minute "Tough Mudder Redefined" sizzle reel on Twitter.

Official announcement of the new obstacles was released wide on January 13 to business, sports, fitness, and design traditional media outlets in the US and in the UK. Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean was the primary spokesperson for a broadcast media tour that day in New York City.

Lead obstacle engineer Nolan Kombol, VP of brand Alex Patterson, and Johnson gave interviews to US and UK outlets.

The photos and videos were posted to Tough Mudder’s social channels (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) on January 13 after the embargoed exclusives broke.

Information about a new mini course for kids, an expanded spectator village, and the 2015 event schedule was also released January 13.

Dean conducted a weeklong media tour in Australia beginning February 24.

Johnson reports sales on January 13 were higher than on any other previous January day in the company’s history, and overall sales for the month were up 25% over 2014. organic traffic hit an all-time high on January 13. Johnson says traffic remained up 25% to 50% over average through the end of the month.

Facebook reach on January 13 topped five million.

The campaign garnered 202 earned placements worldwide (more than 1 billion impressions) in outlets including CBS, Washington Post, Men’s Journal, Mashable, Fast Company, The Guardian, ESPN, and Live with Kelly & Michael.

The team continues to drive brand value awareness through traditional and social media outreach. Messaging includes training tips and stories about Tough Mudder’s work with nonprofits such as Wounded Warrior Project and Soldier On.   The team is also working with event participants and bloggers with large online followings to promote stories of their personal Tough Mudder experiences.

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