January 16, 2014
Case Study

Social Media Marketing: Sporting goods company increases Facebook reach 366% with content contest

SUMMARY: Sometimes the most impactful marketing isn’t created by marketers, it's just facilitated by them. With a goal of increasing the U.S. audience on Facebook, global sporting goods company Amer Sports created a social media contest for customers to submit photos and ambitions for the year.

Along with expanding its U.S. audience, the results of this contest were 2,000 entries consisting of photos, stories and interactions within the Amer Sports social media sphere of Facebook, Twitter and a newly launched Instagram profile.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


Amer Sports, a global sporting goods company that is the parent of a number of athletic brands, was simultaneously launching two athletic GPS-enabled watches in the Suunto Ambitions campaign — the Ambit2 and the Ambit2 S.

In order to sell the Ambition series watches, Amer Sports marketers had to develop a strategy to engage Suunto brand social media fans and followers with a campaign that would stand out to the explorer and athlete customer base.

The campaign needed to play up the multisport functionality of the outdoor watches, which Evin Catlett, Digital Marketing Manager, Amer Sports Americas, said are "especially for those athletes who are either an indoor triathlete or an outdoor triathlete. They're able to use the watch's functionalities to help them with their training — swim, bike and run."

According to Catlett, the main objective was to increase overall social media engagement and attract more U.S.-based fans to the Suunto Facebook page, and begin creating a better dialogue on the page.

"As opposed to just us talking, we wanted to really get the community rallying behind the different inspiring submissions that were coming in from our athletes, and some of the great stories that were coming in from the general community submissions," she said.

Along with their traditional platforms, Suunto was launching its first U.S. Instagram handle for this campaign. The platform needed to be aligned seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter for this campaign to grow the audience on that social media platform and give people another area to interact with Amer Sports brands.


Catlett was working with the different Amer Sports brands to talk about how to promote and communicate the campaign concept, which was to have customers share their ambitions across a variety of social channels.

She and her team launched the Suunto Ambitions campaign in June 2012.

Social media followers would upload inspirational photos along with their own ambitions on Facebook, Twitter or on Amer Sports' newly created Instagram account using the hashtag #SuuntoAmbitions.

Each week, a new Suunto Ambit2 S was given away to one winner, along with $2,500 in gear, and a Suunto Ambit2 went to one winner of "10 of the most ambitious entrants" chosen by a community vote.

Along with extensive Facebook and Twitter advertising, Amer Sports worked with Suunto-sponsored athletes, as well as its other resources of brands and those brand's athletes from Salomon, Arc'teryx, and Atomic to help grow the campaign through their own networks.

Amer Sports wanted to put together a campaign that would touch people across a variety of platforms and allow for inspiring user-generated content to be the crux of it.

Step #1. Leverage athletes for social media exposure

One of the great aspects about Amer Sports, according to Catlett, is the portfolio of brands the team is able to utilize and be brought into different campaigns.

"We're able to leverage athletes and audiences for all the other brands to come together and, when it makes sense for a particular campaign such as this one, be involved in it," she said.

By having established professional athletes from different Amer Sports brands involved, the team was able to promote the campaign by inspiring their social communities into sharing their own ambitions.

Part of her role in this campaign was to make sure that athletes from all different brands were participating, sharing content, tagging their content and photos across Instagram and Twitter, and also uploading them to Facebook.

Set social media guidelines

Amer Sports strives for its brand athletes to be "very well-educated on how they can promote themselves and build their own brand," Catlett said.

Established guidelines were shared with brand athletes to ensure they were up-to-date on the objectives and details of the campaign, such as the correct hashtag to use.

"We provided them with a one-sheeter on how they could participate in the campaign if they were interested. If they were interested in participating, all of our athletes were sent the Suunto Ambit2 or [Ambit2 S]," Catlett said.

The sheet sent out to athletes mentioned the different ways to share the content, and which platforms are being used for this particular campaign. If the athletes wanted to post on Facebook, for instance, it gave them the exact instructions for how to reach the campaign from the Suunto Facebook page.

The athletes were sent the Ambit2, she added, to be able to understand the product, and showcase how they were using the product either in training or in their sport.

Making sure the athletes posted about the product and the contest was important, according to Catlett, because that content would resonate more coming from someone the audience admired or already knew.

Adjust content to convey objectives across each platform

Because of the different look and feel to each of the three platforms being used in this contest, some of the content Amer Sports was using had to be slightly adjusted to fit.

Especially since the marketers were involving different athletes from across brands, "one thing we wanted to do was to make sure it was really, really relevant to the different brand audiences," Catlett said.

An example was with content leading to the contest that was put out or posted onto the Atomic, Arc'teryx or the Salomon brand Facebook pages.

Catlett and her team made sure it incorporated imagery that was submitted by that individual brand's athletes.

Rather than seeing Suunto in the context of not really understanding what it is, Catlett said, people are being exposed to the brand in the context of athletes that they're already following and aspire to be like.

"To the overall look and feel, it was to really encourage people to share their ambitions. So we wanted it to be as inspirational; we wanted it to look very aspirational, to be imagery we used with a very outdoor focus, because that is our brand heritage," she said.

Step #2. Integrate contest with different social media channels

The main hub of the campaign was an app on the Facebook page, and then as photos were hashtagged in Twitter or in Instagram, they would then automatically be collected and appear in the Facebook app gallery.

"From a community standpoint, people could look at other submissions either by clicking that hashtag within Instagram or on Twitter, or by visiting the gallery on Facebook to see what everyone's uploaded," she said.

The way the gallery was curated on Facebook allowed visitors to view the entire gallery, or separate out the submissions to show either just Amer Sports brand athletes versus submissions from the general community.

Paid promotional posts

Paid promotional posts were displayed on both Facebook and Twitter to promote this contest, a combination of sponsored stories and promoted posts.

"Because Suunto is a multisport company, we were able to have a pretty broad reach. We targeted primarily people who have some sort of interest in running, swimming or cycling," Catlett said.

She added the marketing team found that people who had listed running as an interest accounted for the highest number of clicks on the ad. Runners were followed by people who had listed swimming and then cycling as interests.

In addition to that, the team was also targeting people who were Facebook fans of other Amer Sports brand pages, athletes and similar companies.

"Part of what's great about social ads is that you can target people by their interests so you know that the content that you're serving up is going to be much more relevant to them. It's not just blasting your message out there. So I think it is an effective way to spend your money," she said.


Facebook and Twitter have established ways to draw attention to contests like this one with promoted posts or promoted tweets. However, Instagram does not.

On a weekly basis, Catlett and her team would generate images that were athlete and brand-specific, and then pushed those out through different brand Instagram handles.

"If Salomon Running was sharing something on their Instagram channel, it was going to be featuring a Salomon Running athlete," Catlett said, adding images were also shared with athletes of themselves to share across their own Instagram accounts.

No matter what account was posting the photos, there was an overlay with the hashtag #SuuntoAmbitions so people could follow the hashtag. A small bit of copy would accompany the post to inform people about the campaign.

To drive traffic from Facebook and Twitter over to Instagram, links to Instagram posts were also shared on those platforms.

Step #3. Place importance on user-generated content

"User-generated content-based campaigns really draw that person in who is a very active and engaged participant," Catlett said, adding that rather than just collecting comments, "they're actively having to contribute a piece of content."

It is a very valuable asset, and it is up to the marketer to decide how best to use that content. However, it is a "great opportunity to turn that person into a real advocate for your brand."

The marketing team garnered this content with ongoing weekly prizes in addition to the grand prize in this contest. Those who were randomly chosen as a weekly winner received an Ambit2 S watch.

"All of a sudden, [the winners] were very actively tweeting about the brand, continually using the hashtag on Twitter or on Instagram, even actively going to the Facebook page to let us know that they received the watch we sent them, or that they started training with it and they're so excited," she said.

Catlett said she likes the idea of covering athletes and offering aspirational content, but “then also focusing on your average, everyday kind of weekend warrior users.”

With the element of user-generated content, she added, "not only does it keep the campaign really authentic, because it's not just this beautifully photographed promotional imagery you're using, but it's real stuff coming from the community."

It makes your social media community engage more authentically and frequently with the brand, she said.

Also, the popularity of Instagram and other photo editing apps allow anyone to produce beautiful and professional photographs.

"We were absolutely astounded when we saw a lot of the submissions we were getting and our design team took a look at them … so much of it is beautiful in the way people have used filters or cropped it or manipulated it a little bit," Catlett said.

The marketing team was so impressed with the user-generated content that Suunto grabbed 310 of their favorite pictures and 50 of their favorite quotes and put them on display in a booth at an industry trade show, Summer Outdoor Retailer.

The pictures and quotes were surrounded by a TV screen, which scrolled through users' stories. The booth display tied a digital concept into a physical display that demonstrated the heart and soul of the brand — the consumer conquering new territories.

"It was so impressive collectively as a whole when you saw them all together. And it's so much more genuine than the average marketing promotional campaign," she said.


"I think that, to be honest, we did it the right way," Catlett said.

She added giving people the opportunity to interact with the campaign on the platform of their choosing, as opposed to forcing them to go in one particular direction added to the success of the campaign.

"If we have this available to you on whatever social network you choose to be active in, you can really participate with it to the level at which you want," she said.

She said a follower could simply hashtag a photo on Instagram or go on Facebook and leave a much more detailed photo and story to share their full ambition.

"Some of the stories we had were really, really long and other individuals were much more interested in simply sharing photos," Catlett said.

The results the marketing team was able to achieve for the Suunto Ambit2 campaign were:
  • 2,000 entries

  • Increased U.S. presence on Facebook, increasing from 19% to 30%

  • An increase of 60% in PTAT (People Talking About This)

  • A 47% increase in Facebook page views

  • A 366% daily reach increase

  • Daily impressions increased by 253%

"More importantly we created brand advocates, our winners are sharing pictures of their Ambit 2 with friends and across the internet, we call these 'third-party referrals' and we love them," she said.

The Suunto Ambitions campaign captured 2,000 stories and photos from across the U.S. during its six-week run followed by a voting period that gathered more than 10,000 votes.

The campaign also resulted in "unsolicited conversations about different submissions, words of encouragement that were shared on the page when it came time for the voting phase — especially in relation to our grand prize winner, who has a really inspiring weight loss story. It definitely surpassed what we were hoping to see with the campaign," Catlett concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. Facebook app

  2. Facebook gallery

  3. Instagram image

  4. Hashtag on Instagram

  5. Weekly winners

  6. Trade show booth


Amer Sports

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