Marketing Monday: Jeremy Langton, Partnership Marketing Manager, Reebok International
Monday, November 9 2015 09:39am
Reebok is leading the way in fitness apparel, and strategic partnerships are helping the company stand out in the crowded marketplace.
Q & A by Todd Moore ('16)
What is your day-to-day role as Partnership Marketing Manager for Reebok International?
As the Partnership Marketing Manager I’m responsible for Reebok’s US relationships with Les Mills, Spartan Race, CrossFit, Avon 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, Fairmont Hotels and The Jimmy Fund.
I often explain to people that my goal is to create a 1 + 1 = 3 scenario with all our partners, where the sum of our partnership is greater than if Reebok and our partners were to operate separately. Most of the partners I’ve listed use events as a public interface, so my main responsibility is to figure out how Reebok can show up at these events, connect with the community, and achieve our sales and brand initiatives.
Reebok has been at the forefront of the "Fitness as Sport" movement with its CrossFit, Les Mills, and Spartan Race partnerships. Can you explain how those relationships are helping Reebok redefine itself in the marketplace?
When Reebok made the decision to re-position ourselves as THE Fitness Brand, we knew that long-term success hinged on our ability to develop intimate relationships within various fitness communities. From a partnership perspective, the communities we chose to focus on were CrossFit, Les Mills, Spartan and most recently UFC. It takes a lot of time and effort to build trust within these communities, but that is something that Reebok believes very strongly in.
Having the support of these fitness communities is extremely important from a product validation standpoint and as a tool to elevate our brand. Every partner we have authenticates our co-branded product, but they also have a positive cascading effect on other product in that silo. For example, CrossFit helps to validate our entire Training line, Les Mills helps validate our Studio line and Spartan helps give us credibility in alternative forms of Running.
The Reebok jersey partnership with the NFL ended in 2012, and the jersey partnership with the NHL will be transitioning to adidas for the 2017-18 season. As a marketer, how do approach transition from those huge brand names to more specialized partners like those mentioned above?
From a marketing approach, our strategy has not changed at all. Whether Reebok is the official uniform provider of the NFL or the Official Apparel and Footwear Provider of the Reebok Spartan Race, the end goal is to immerse our brand in a community and exceed their unique product needs.
Take CrossFit for example, for the past five years we’ve worked with athletes and asked them exactly what benefits they need from our product. As a result, our co-branded line continues to improve, and remains the preferred footwear and apparel of CrossFitters. It’s an incredible competitive advantage, especially over other companies who are now trying to infiltrate CrossFit and relate to the community.
What would you say is the biggest marketing challenge you face today?
Reebok has a long and storied history in sports. It’s a major undertaking to take an established brand and then change its brand identity to reflect our new positioning as The Fitness Brand. Activating our fitness partnerships in a way that reflects this positioning is sometimes difficult when people still associate you with the NFL or NBA.
What have you and your team done, or plan to do, to overcome that challenge?
Remaining laser-focused is key. We continue to invest in partnership activation and remain committed to forming new partnerships with organizations such as the UFC that we use to cement our new brand identity. We make sure that wherever Reebok shows up as a brand, we are constantly advancing our fitness narrative. As far as our heritage goes, we let our Reebok Classics brand take care of that.
What is the coolest thing you've seen lately in marketing, and what steps have you taken (if any) to implement it in your work?
I would say the coolest thing I’ve seen lately is how immersive marketing is. Traditional marketing is often considered to be comprised of elaborate media campaigns. While this is still the case, a larger percentage of the marketing toolkit is now 1-on-1 relationships achieved at the point of sale, within influencer networks and at events. As a team, we’ve ensured that we use an omni-channel approach with our partnership activation's. This means that we have consistent messaging at events, online and at retail, and all three build off one another.
What was the importance of the Ohio Sports Administration program in your career and personal development?
The obvious answer is the network; from executive mentorship to informational interviews, the OU network is a great resource. It’s nearly impossible to find an athletic career that lacks OU alums with the experience and expertise to be a sounding board. There were plenty of times I leaned on the alumni network for career advice.
From a personal perspective, the small, incubated nature of the program introduced me to friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. I met my wife and some of my best friends at OU (friendship that was solidified on Court Street, of course!)
What is the best piece of advice that you could offer someone trying to find a career in marketing or sports apparel brands?
During my second year at OU, I had the opportunity to meet with Jim Beeman (of NIKE) in Chicago. After reviewing my resume and learning about my career ambition to work for an athletic footwear and apparel brand he suggested I ‘get some big brand experience.’ I would definitely echo this advice to anyone looking to work in this industry. When you take away the high-energy media campaigns and the athlete endorsements, you’re left with just another consumer-product company that has to deal with the same market pressures as everyone else. I had the opportunity to intern at Disney for a year following OU. I believe having the Disney brand on my resume helped to differentiate me from other candidates and prepare me for my current role.
My second piece of advice is to think outside the box when it comes to your resume. You’re applying for a marketing role in an innovative industry, not a finance role in an accounting firm. Take some risks, break some rules and experiment with nontraditional resumes. If you’re able to creatively portray your skill-set and experience in a way that’s ‘on-brand’ with whatever company you’re job for, it will surely set you apart from other MBA candidates and leave a lasting impression.
Do you have any recent or upcoming projects you could share with us?
Ha! Unfortunately we keep best practices and future projects pretty close to the chest in this industry. I can tell you that I am thrilled to come to work each day and extremely excited for what’s in store for 2016…
Read more from Jeremy on the value of partnerships on the adidas Group Blog