The user experience of a sports mindset


Previously we discussed how the agency has adopted a sports mindset both in and outside the studio which allows us to seek out physical challenges that bring new ways of looking at how to overcome a problem. The sports mindset makes you shift focus to the long-term goal, whether its a runner aiming for a faster time or a lifter trying for a new personal best, they have to break the journey down into small manageable milestones and build up to their target. It’s this motivation that can be harnessed by brands to create value and connection in the digital space, some are already doing it well but it’s still an area that holds so much more potential.

Let’s take a new runner as an example. To start out they may go for a short walk and gradually build up the distance. As they get more comfortable they increase the walking speed and then introduce sections of running. Week after week their speed and stamina improve and their confidence builds. Eventually they might commit to an event. Now they start to look for all the ways they can get marginal gains that lead towards them achieving their goal. Think of this as their on-boarding process to becoming a sports mindset customer.

This is where technology steps in to give us that deeper insight into our performance and allows us to see where we are doing well and what areas can be improved.

There are a myriad of apps available to optimise every aspect of your new health regime, from performance trackers such as Strava and Map My Run, calorie and intake trackers such as My Fitness Pal to give you metrics on your activity outside of your workout, through to apps such as Headspace and Oak that allow you to rethink how you think, all with the end goal of improving yourself piece by piece.

Between 2014 and 2017 alone health and fitness apps saw a 330% growth in usage, and with 26% percent of fitness or health app users spending over 10+ hours a week in the app it is a dedicated audience that is primed for brands to take advantage of.

So how do these apps actually benefit users?

Whether tracking metrics, focusing priorities on milestones or offering guidance on technique to breakdown confidence barriers they all require input from the user in the form of either attention or data, which increasingly isn’t given up lightly. In return a user gets to see tangible results. One study suggests ¾ of current exercise app users report a more active lifestyle and a lower BMI compared to past app users. The study highlights the benefits of an ongoing and long term relationship with the apps and the insights they provide, It also suggest there is a benefit to being held accountable to your fitness targets.

In their brand books and philosophies brands regularly talk about how they contribute and add value for their customers but this requires them to buy into the brand based on aspiration alone. With sports mindset customers who have an interest in tracking their improvement and building a greater understanding of themselves this is a relatively one way transaction. What’s important to note about how users interact with apps and technology compared to a brand is that the user is the centre of attention not the brand. For brands this means changing the conversation to a more open dialog rather than telling your customers what they should think.

Let’s look at Nike audio guided runs as an example.

With the goal of breaking down a runners inhibition to break through the barriers preventing them achieving their next steps, the audio guided runs was developed with Nikes global head coach Chris Bennett guiding a strategy on providing recorded audio tracks that guide the runner to achieve specific pacing times. Nike brought in featured athletes on the tracks to help further inspire their audience. The app strategy was also non intrusive, using audio and haptic feedback to allow runners to focus on running, not their smartphone and also incremental as users progress through the tracks as their performance increases.

As an experience Nike have created real value for the user. They are actively investing in their users by providing a level of engagement with athletes that wouldn’t be possible with more traditional advertising techniques.

Whatever your thoughts on Crossfit (form matters to some more than others) no one can deny the positive impact it has had on people who take it up. As an audience they are incredibly dedicated and engaged with the sport. In part this is due to the mindset of the Crossfit regime, focusing on being challenged in new ways through the Workout of the Day. Again users are looking for small wins as they complete each challenge working towards the end goal.

Reebok have captured the market perfectly offering support through a dedicated crossfit product range while also supporting the crossfit games. They do this through the Crossfit games app which provides workouts, leaderboards and the ability to apply to compete should you feel up to the challenge.

Reebok are actively holding their audience to the highest standards in a mutually beneficial way. They get exposure, but the return for the user is far greater as it helps them to continually improve. As an experience it is dedicated to the users progress and building an accessible community, rather than getting them into a sales funnel or pushing promotions.

By adding value for end users the way Nike and Reebok have, they are creating a new and more engaging conversation with their audience. Both brands have also taken a long term view of how they engage with their audience and are actively trying to help them improve themselves. They may not get a direct return on the development costs involved in producing an app but by supporting a particular niche or challenge they are building a loyalty in their customers that is invaluable.

How can brands access the sports mindset customer?

There is a wealth of data already available to users through their smartphones and as wearables become more sophisticated this will only increase. However users are also becoming more aware of how smartphones and digital services monitor and use our data and are likely to kick back against any obvious intrusion they are not comfortable with.

Brands need to find innovative ways to communicate and collaborate with their audience and provide added value in return for attention. For sports and lifestyle brands in particular if alongside your product offering you can provide something extra such as a measurable increase in physical performance, a new challenge or access to a new community you are already ahead of the competition.

The key here is to provide real value without hijacking the experience. This involves a shift in brand mentality from “owning” everything to investing in an analytical approach to the digital space and the opportunities it can provide.


Mike Hill

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