Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Ben Blakesley of Reebok

By NativeAI / December 9, 2016

Reebok has been killing it on social media. 

The global athletic footwear and apparel maker has found
a content mix that perfectly showcases its products, motivates everyday
athletes to be active, and tells engaging stories. Moreover, many of the
company’s social posts are visually stunning, with a consistent, distinct look
that is simultaneously raw, relatable, and beautiful.

Recently we chatted with Ben Blakesley, Senior Manager of Global Social Media at Reebok, to
find out the secrets to his team’s success in the social space.

Check out the Q&A below:

Q: Starting
broadly, what’s the difference between good social media content and bad social
media content?

The simplest answer is that good social content is
content that helps you achieve your marketing goals. Bad social content is
content that doesn’t.

I’ve been in social media marketing for 12 years, and
that’s the main thing I’ve realized: there has to be purpose and direction
behind every social post.

The last thing you want is to just be “doing” social media
or creating content just because it sounds really cool or is the latest shiny
object. Social media content that doesn’t help achieve business objectives is
bad social content.

Q: What role
does social media play for Reebok? What are the goals?

I’m a believer that you should have an overall mission
for your social program, but then you can also have different objectives for
different brands within your company, or even for different platforms within
those brands. Content that I’m making for Facebook might be different from what
I’m making for Twitter; there won’t be the same content and goals for each.

But, on the whole, the goal for Reebok’s social media program
is that we want to develop what we call FitGen friendships. FitGen stands for
the Fitness Generation, which is our target audience. We want to build love for
the brand with this group by telling great stories, being empathic, and sharing
in their passions. All the things that we do on social media are driven by
that: that’s our North Star.


Q: We really like how Reebok
incorporates strong visuals, both with imagery and video, into its social
content. Is that a deliberate focus of yours?

A: Absolutely. In the three years that I’ve been running
this program, I’d like to think we have had a monumental shift in the way our
brand shows up in social media. We’ve worked hard to represent ourselves in a
certain and consistent way. 

Ultimately, I would love to be able to show you five
images from five different brands and for you to be able to pick out that one
that is clearly Reebok just based on the tonality and the composition of the

We’re trying to really own a certain look and feel. The
reason that’s so important to us is because if you look at Reebok five or six
years ago, it was almost a different brand. We’ve gone through changes to get
back to our roots as a fitness brand. And not just any fitness brand but really
focusing on what we call “tough fitness.” We’ve had to change what this brand
means in the consumer’s mind, and one of the ways of doing that is through our imagery.

The guidelines that we set out is that our images
should not be glossy or fluffy or overly produced. They should be very real and
gritty. We like them to be authentic, and we like people to be able to view
them and say: “Yeah, I see myself in this,” or, “I see what I
aspire to be.”


A few weeks ago I got a note from a friend and it
said: “I’ve been struggling with what I’ve been doing for fitness recently and
just haven’t been inspired lately. But after following your Reebok Women’s account on
, I decided to go and do CrossFit.
I’ve been doing it now for two weeks and I’m in love.“

That’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve. We want
to help people build the best versions of themselves.

Q: Are there
a few personal favorite Reebok social campaigns that you’re really proud of?

A: There are so many that I would love to highlight,
it’s hard to choose.

One was the WOD Wedding, which was the first wedding at the CrossFit Games. It
was a
lucky couple
who got married right there on
the Games floor, with the ceremony officiated by the head of the Games, Dave
Castro. That was just an amazing experience.


Another example is the Nano Hall of Fame.
The Nano is the official shoe of CrossFit. It’s the best training shoe there
is. We have been creating better and better versions of the shoe for seven
years, which means we’ve put in a lot of time to understand the needs of
CrossFit athletes, and these athletes have a history with the shoe. Because of
all that history, we created a campaign where we solicited stories of what
people had done in the shoe. What they had gone through or what they had
achieved. We simply put a call-to-action for people to submit their
stories.  We got tons and tons of
submissions. Then we built out both a physical and digital hall of fame
featuring some of the shoes in which people had accomplished great things.

Some of the ones that really stuck out to me were
somebody who just decided out of nowhere to run a marathon in their Nanos; which
is amazing because it’s not exactly a running shoe! Someone else rowed across
the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to South America in their Nanos. Another person
said: "These are Nanos that I wear every day. I customized them for my
friend who was at CrossFit with me. They got cancer and died, and so I honor
him every day by wearing these Nanos.


One more example is that this year we were looking to
highlight something that could unite people across all our different
communities and different types of fitness. We came up with the one thing that
unifies them all: burpees.

Everyone loves and hates the burpee, so we decided to
create World Burpee Day. We made up this day and decided it was going to be on
October 12. Leading up to it, we asked people to submit videos of themselves
doing burpees. We took all those video submissions and strung them together
into one LONG video. Then, on the actual day, we
streamed video for 24 hours
of people doing
their burpees. 

In that 24 hours we streamed more than 66,000 burpees.
It was one of those moments where we were able to bring these disparate communities
together all around this common challenge.


Q: Who do
you look to for inspiration? What brands do you think do a really good job with
their social content?

A: It might sound weird coming from someone so dedicated
to fitness, but Taco Bell. They know their audience and they create content
that engages them in a real way. It feels very authentic, not forced; it’s fun.
They also do a really great job of adopting new platforms. When Snapchat first started
to become popular we asked: "What do we do with this thing?” and Taco
Bell was one of the brands we looked at and said: “Wow, this is what
they’re doing, and it seems to be working." 

One other company that I think does a great job is
GoPro. What’s so cool with them is that they really don’t make much of their
own content because their whole business is based on other people being able to
create great content with their product. I love to see what they’re doing because
they’re so community focused.

Q: Final
question, which social media trends are you watching closely? What do you think
marketers should be thinking about in 2017?

A: One that I’ve been grappling with is the
privatization of social media. People are using platforms in a much more
private way; we’re talking about things like private Snapchat, Facebook Messenger,
and WeChat. These social media platforms are not mainly about broadcasting out
to everyone.

It’s not as much many-to-many conversations. It’s a
lot of one-to-one or one-to-many conversations within private groups.

So, what can brands do to be a part of that in a real
way? How do we add value in a way that doesn’t disrupt the conversation?  

Written by NativeAI / December 9, 2016