Up against the likes of Nike and Reebok, sneaker and apparel manufacturer Saucony knew it needed something extra to stand out.
The company decided to focus on forging emotional bonds with customers by showing it recognizes their passion for running and that people run for different reasons.
"Saucony realized that many of its loyal consumers are the ones that don't finish a marathon in 2:10," says Erin Vadala, account manager at Warner Communications.
Wanting to spotlight the everyday runner, Saucony launched the Saucony 26, which highlights the stories of 26 runners from communities around each of four marathons: LA, Boston, Chicago, and New York. "Saucony knows there are people who run marathons to break the tape and some who run to overcome a challenge," says Vadala. "It wants these customers to know it recognizes what they're doing."
After selecting the Saucony 26, Saucony and Warner create biographies for each runner and introduce them to national and local media at a shoe-fitting event, where Saucony also outfits them with the brand's footwear and apparel. In-person interviews are arranged leading up to the marathon, with a group event held at each pre-race expo. On-the-spot race-day interviews also are set up. And for every mile of the race the runners complete, Saucony gives them a cash bonus they can keep or give to charity.
The Saucony 26 have appeared on The Tonight Show and ESPN's Cold Pizza, and have conducted interviews on national sports radio networks. Feature stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, and LA Daily News. And each year, Saucony donates more than $20,000 to the runners' charities of choice.
Warner is continuing the campaign for Saucony at the marathons again this year.
PR Team: Saucony (Lexington, MA) and Warner Communications (Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA)
Campaign: The Saucony 26
Duration: 2004 - ongoing
Budget: $40,000 per season