Don’t forget your (grass) roots

Our Commercial Director, Vicky Stickland, has been saying for years that she would complete an Olympic distance triathlon. Now that she has finally gone and done it, she reflects on her experience as a newcomer to the sport, and how this is a critical time for brands to engage with their consumers in order to create loyal brand bonds that last a lifetime.

Everyone knows that competing in triathlons is not cheap; to complete or even train for a triathlon you need a hell of a lot of kit, and this adds up to the 1000s of £s, $s, €s etc. But when one starts competing in any sport, they ‘need’ (or at least want) to get all the kit. So this should be the perfect time to create a connection with your consumer, that you can then develop for the rest of their sporting ‘career’. The point is that those new to your sport could be your most loyal customers for years to come, but many brands forget this fact, and this can be alienating to amateurs. So how best should brands engage with amateurs, without diluting their brand or losing their authentic approach to the core market?

Taking my recent experience as a newcomer to the world of triathlons into account, here are my five top tips on how to get your grass-roots audience hooked, and importantly, how to nurture these relationships over time.

1. Grass-roots can be glamorous too

Often location photography/videography briefs sent our way are all about the pros and the elite teams. Or a grass-roots shoot will be booked, but given way less time or priority to storyboard and shoot, so the quality of the work will not be at the same level. There’s a real opportunity for brands to own this space, and creating beautiful content which your grass-roots consumers can actually relate to would be the first step in the right direction.

2. It’s not all about being the cheapest

Amateurs want the product that is best for their needs, they don’t just want to buy the cheapest product in the range, as a lot of brands wrongly assume. However, to ‘sell up’ to these consumers, you need to clearly communicate which products are best for them, and why. Explaining end user benefits and how these can improve performance in relation to ability level is key. An amateur requires more guidance in their choices, and they will need more hand-holding throughout the process, but they are prepared to make an investment if they feel that the product is right for them. A decent product finder online/mobile app such as this one we built for Severne Sails can be a big help in achieving this.

3. Segment your audiences and speak to them differently

Consider your tone of voice and how this should change between amateurs and pros. Their level of knowledge and understanding is different, so the way that you speak to them and what you say should be too. A well-structured and written tone of voice document can really help brands to identify their different audiences, and how to go about speaking to them to create real brand bond.

This insight can then be used to create tailored content for your specific audiences. The grass-roots market will be more interested in video tutorials, blogs with top tips or friendly advice, such as nutritional information, vlogs on training tips, or competitions for most improved performance. This is all useful content that should remain relevant for several years, improve your SEO ranking and help to gain the loyalty of your grass-roots customer.

4. One size does not fit all

Generally when you’ve been into your sport for a while, you know what size you are, what fits you, the fact that you should buy one size up in running shoes etc. When you’re new to sports, you don’t know any of this. So consider a more involved approach to explaining your sizing to your grass-roots consumer, especially when e-commercing. If your customers feel like they’re more likely to buy the right size the first time, without the faff of having to return their purchase, they’re far more likely to buy from you in the first place.

It sounds simple but it’s unbelievable the amount of brands that aren’t clear about their sizing, or certainly don’t communicate that they are. Offer additional tips and specific sizing information to encourage and reassure your customers such as; ‘We recommend purchasing one size up above your normal size to ensure product is easy and quick to get off during transition phase, and crucially that you don’t lose precious minutes off your time.’ Give multiple instances such as UK dress sizes, metric and imperial measurements plus offer additional contact details, or online chat for customers to ask specific sizing questions. You could also include links to faceted FAQs with questions specifically about your typical sizing, to reassure your customers about their purchase. For non-ecommerce, accurate and up-to-date retailer training is also key in this area too.

5. Girls can be grass-roots too

Girls take up new sports too. What with the amazingly successful Sport England ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, girls/womens grass-root sports are capturing way more media attention and there is a huge opportunity for brands to ‘piggy-back’ on the success of this campaign and encourage more women to get into their sport. Be sure to segment your audiences even further and communicate a clear message for the men and women, boys and girls who are taking up your sport. What with women’s football one of the biggest growing markets in the UK (and the world), relevant brands should be creating campaigns aimed at grass-roots level, to capture those new to the sport. This is something I am yet to see much of, but am eagerly awaiting! This is also something we would love to work on at Brandwave, so if you have a rough brief or campaign in mind, be sure to let us know so that we can discuss further.

The above five points are really only a starting point, but I hope these leave you thinking about your own grass-roots audience – how you currently market to them, and if you could do more? The idea is to prove that you are prepared to invest in the grass-roots market, so that when they are adding to their collection of kit, upgrading to shave off seconds or simply replacing old for new – they should come to you first.

If you would like to speak to Vicky about what Brandwave can do for your brand to help you stand out to your grass-roots consumer (or you just want to sponsor her next triathlon effort) – you can call her on +44(0)1243 550008, or email her on: Vicky@brandwavemarketing.com.

Vicky Stickland

Author Vicky Stickland

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