The article from the Wall Street Journal has caused a lot of conversation about Spartan’s future and what they can do to turn the tide.
It also became about if the tide should be turned or not.
We wont even start this debate.
For me, I am a marketing nerd. I do it for a living, I do it for volunteer work, I talk marketing with others, I participate in marketing chats on Twitter. I have also been involved with marketing in this sport for the last five plus years both as a marketer for a major outlet in the sport and now helping Russ build a presence for OCR Buddy. So I feel like I walk into this with a strong understanding of what is needed to be done.
A: Reforge relationships with the obstacle course media outlets:
This is going to come as a shock if you know anything about my history, but one of the worst decisions Spartan has made is to cut off their relationship with most of the media outlets focused on OCR. They have made it hard to impossible for media outlets to get press passes or get any information.
The OCR media are the ones with the hands-on the pulse of the OCR community. They understand what the community hopes to see about a race and know how to capture that vibe. They also know what the community is talking about, what they need, and most importantly what is important to racers. They have the information that as a company Spartan needs to know.
In a podcast a few weeks ago, Matt B. Davis with Obstacle Racing Media discussed the changes with the relationship with Spartan and the media. He felt like he was being treated like the enemy.
Spartan is screwing this up.
After the pandemic; ORM became the place for obstacle course news. He has a finger on the pulse of the community and understands what the community wants to know. He is also the best location for live coverage that OCR has to offer. Building a relationship with him and other outlets is a key to building trust and engagement in the community.
B: Rethink the ambassador program:
The ambassador program went through an overhaul this year and set new expectations of the ambassadors. As someone who has been part of her share of ambassador programs, I had to do a double-take. I don’t know of any ambassador program in endurance sports that set their bottom tier at 25 sign-ups. You want ambassadors that will not only help you get sign-ups you want ambassadors that will help you get brand exposure. Take a look at the requirements of other successful programs and take pieces that work. For example, The San Fransico Marathon has had a successful ambassador program for over 10 years. They focus on getting the brand out there, and only require 5 sign ups per ambassador. The goal is to have their ambassadors be part of the community and represent the brand in everything they do, their ambassadors hold events, do takeovers on social media, write content for the website. It is more than just about sales.
C: Rethink Social Media:
Social media is all about community.
I am not going to bore you with the social media science. But one of the biggest things to realize is social media is all about ENGAGMENT and COMMUNITY.
I would not only rethink the paid ads that Spartan is doing but I would give serious consideration as to the posts. You can look at Spartan’s Facebook to see the concrete proof that the posts that do the best are posts where they are encouraging conversation and community. They are asking questions, using visuals that make people stop and go “What is that?”
Make sure each post either has a call to action or a question.
Spartan has gotten stronger on being engaging in the community, but I think they can continue to do more to focus on that and they will see results. Also you need to address the constructive criticism that is out there about races. Responding to the trolls is one thing, but responding to the communities concerns needs to happen for the brand to rebuild.
I started to bring this up in social media, but it almost needs its own subject. Spartan needs to take a break and listen.
Listen to the community that makes OCR so special. They are smart, they understand, they know what they want in a race and they know what they want in a brand.
How has the pandemic changed things for them? How are recession fears making them re-think their spending? What is important to them when it comes to racing? What are they looking for in a race? What do they want to see from Spartan?
Its more than social media, have ambassadors or staff out on the ground at races asking questions. Check out what people are saying when they write race reviews. Check out what people are saying about other races and see what you can learn from them. Listen to what people are talking about on the course, what do they feel about certain obstacles, what do they feel about the flow of a course, what has them excited?.
Talk to your pro’s, figure out what is challenging them and what they are happy about, what they see that needs improvement and what their fans are talking about.
This also extends to content for social media content.
I tell this to people all the time.
Social media is not a one-way street. Ask the followers what they want to see. What kind of content would add more value to their world. Once you start adding value and showing you can solve a problem you have, you will be building more brand advocates who can re-spark that love of Spartan.
There are more aspects of their marketing that they can think about including their on-the-ground presence, building more relationships with not only big box gyms, but local gyms, Crossfit gyms,etc. I touched on it a bit earlier about their relationship with the obstacle course based media, but also their media outreach in the communities they race in can be expanded. Also as had been brought up by many rethinking the schedule and the pricing is a key.
In Russ’s original e-mail he talked about how this isn’t about us, its about the community and my hope is by shining a light on some of the marketing, we can remind Spartan why the community is so important to their continued success.