MarketingSherpa Video Archive

Social Media Marketing: How a sporting goods company increased Facebook reach 366%

Courtney Eckerle, MECLABS, Evin Catlett, Amer Sports

With a new product launch featuring two high-tech GPS-enabled watches and the goal of increasing its U.S. audience on Facebook, Amer Sports, a global sporting goods company, employed a cross-platform social media contest to make that ambition a reality.

In this MarketingSherpa webinar replay, learn how Evin Catlett, Digital Marketing Manager, Amer Sports, increased her company's Facebook reach 366% through an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter campaign featuring Suunto watch products.

Launching a photo contest to garner engagement on Instagram and linking to other social media platforms under the universal #SuuntoAmbitions hashtag, Catlett and her team provided a space for the audience as well as professional athletes to share inspiring content centered on two Suunto watches.

The campaign also tied in a contest for the chance to win an Ambit2 S watch, which winners of the contest also spread the word about through the universal hashtag.

Watch this webinar replay to learn the details behind how Catlett accomplished the objective of garnering inspirational user-generated content to elevate the brand and attract a wider audience through social media.

Here is some feedback from the live audience of this webinar:
Very informative and very clear communication about tactics and various strategies. -Ebba

Fast! Didn't have to dedicate a lot of time out of my day. -Betsy

Great results. I find it hard to relate to my B2B company, however. -Khang

Download the slides to this presentation

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

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Video Transcription

Eckerle: Hello, and welcome to another MarketingSherpa webinar. Today, we are going to be talking about social media marketing and how sporting goods companies like Amer Sports utilize Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect relevant and engaging content to their fans and followers while also driving engagement. So today we have with us Evin Catlett, the digital marketing manager for Amer Sports. Evin, thank you for joining us.

Catlett: Hi.

Eckerle: And I am Courtney Eckerle, I am the manager of editorial content here at MECLABS and I am also the reporter on inbound marketing, which is social media content and SEO. Now Evin, in your role, you lead manages and execute holistic digital marketing strategies for the Amer sports brand portfolio and the Americas. So that includes Salomon, Atomic and Suunto, correct?

Catlett: That's correct.

Eckerle: So if you want to ask questions — interact with Evin and me, interact with your fellow attendees you can do that by twitter at #SherpaWebinar, and I will be monitoring for all those questions or observations and any that we have time for, I will ask Evin over the next half hour.

We also have relevant content tweeting out over the hashtag and so there will be a lot of social media case studies and topics that we have reported on over the past year. Those will be coming out to you over the #SherpaWebinar. So Evin, why don't you start off by telling us a little bit about Amer Sports?

Catlett: Sure, as you mentioned, Amer Sports is a sporting goods company. Amer is the parent company for quite a variety of brands, including Wilson, Precor and Mavic Cycling Company. On the outdoor side, we have Salomon, which, for those that are not familiar, manufactures Alpine equipment — skis boots, bindings and then there is also quite a large outdoor category of apparel and [trail]-running shoes and hiking shoes and packs. We have Atomic, which is another ski brand. We have Suunto, which is a high-end GPS watch brand; Arc’teryx and there are several smaller companies and brands in the action sports categories — Bonfire, Nikita and, of course, we have Salomon snowboards.

Eckerle: Great, so let's move on to this particular campaign. Now we tried to include questions that you submitted when you registered for this webinar. We have one from Steve who is in marketing communications. He asks, "What have you tried in the past that maybe didn't work?" So, Evin, if you can tell us a little bit about the social media strategies you've tried in the past and how they led you to this campaign.

Catlett: Yes, so this particular campaign focused on Suunto and surrounded a product launch that we had last spring. One of the main challenges with Suunto is that it's a Finnish-based watch company and there is very low awareness in the US. And not only that, but GPS watches tend to have a high price point, and you have competitors like Garmin that have tons of awareness, not only because their watches are very widely distributed but also because they have the whole navigation side of things. There's already a lot of brand affinity.

We have, with our core consumers, a lot of loyalty and really once people start using the product–whether they are athletes, avid outdoors people or just somebody who in their everyday wants to wear a sportier watch–becomes connected with the brand. But getting them to that point was really challenging, and we saw that reflected across our social media channels as well, where we didn't have a ton of reach. And while we did have a really strong engagement it was with a small community on Facebook, and Twitter was and continues to be our primary customer services channel for us.

Eckerle: OK, so those are some of your main objectives for this campaign. Did you have any others going into it?

Catlett: We really wanted to use this as a test campaign of ways that we could not only engage our end consumers but also some of the B2B side where we could engage some of our shop employees as well as our athletes. Across with Amer Sports, we have the ability to touch much broader audiences when you look at leveraging of brand portfolios as a whole. So how we can tap into the following and communities of our athletes across Salomon and Atomic and Arc’teryx and really capitalize on that to benefit Suunto. And also, to test what social channels really resonated the most with our customer base. Where we could essentially get the most return on our investment, in terms of engagement and building that community.

Eckerle: So as we go through, we are going to talk about all the ways that you attempted to and met those objectives. We had one other question from Carthic, who wanted to know the platforms used for this campaign. And there were three, correct?

Catlett: There were, yes. The hub was Facebook. We used a third party app tool called Offer Pop to build out the actual gallery — which I know you will see some screenshots later on in the presentation — and the entry platforms so that we can begin to capture consumer data. And then we also used this as an opportunity to launch Instagram first time in the U.S. and get as much video and photo content as possible. And then we used Twitter as well. So, it was in one sense our objective was to really test what platform resonated the most with our consumers, but also, on the other hand, to really increase engagement across all three.

Eckerle: Great, so let's do a general overview about the Suunto Ambitions campaign.

Catlett: Sure, so as I mentioned before, this launched to help promote a product that we launched last spring, which was the Ambit2 S. And the crux of the campaign was that we wanted to inspire people to share their ambitions with us. So through photos and stories, we wanted them to talk about what inspires them, what they’re striving for and really build a community around that.

In addition, we wanted to share the stories of our athletes and the incredible things that they are doing, and use that to help motivate and engage people as well. Obviously, a secondary objective of this was to increase awareness of the new product and then drive sales, not only through our e-com platform,, but also within the dealers that we have all around the country.

Eckerle: And when people were submitting and entering into this contest, they were entering with their pictures that were then hosted on Facebook in the gallery.

Catlett: Yes, exactly, and anytime they tagged a photo with the #suuntoambitions across Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it was automatically funneled into this gallery that lived on Facebook. And so you would also then enter to win the grand prize on Facebook, which was $2500 in gear of your choice across the brand portfolio that we felt best resonated with this consumer. So that was gear from Arc'teryx, Atomics and Salomon.

And the, within the campaign you could then, on the Facebook hub, look through a gallery of other people's submissions. And we separated out our athlete submissions as well. So participants could very easily see not only what their peers were doing, but also these people they aspire to are doing as well and what their ambitions are.

Eckerle: OK. Great. Next, you had a tight timeline for this. You launched your Instagram on May 7th and then it was over by July 12th.

Catlett: Yes, and the strategy behind that to reduce audience fatigue. I think sometimes, you see brands launch campaigns that go on for a very, very, very extended period of time and you start to lose focus from your audience. So we wanted to make sure that this was in a consumable amount of time. We had weekly winners that won Suunto watches, so we saw that as a way to keep people engaged across the short term and knowing that it is more than just this grand prize that they and who knows how other many thousand people had the opportunity to win. But, the more entries they had, the more chances they had to win the weekly giveaway as well. So that was something to really engage them throughout the duration of the campaign. And then we didn't want the campaign to last too long so that people really lost sight of the outcome.

Eckerle: And we actually had a question on Twitter, "Was there a method to decide the $2,500 prize amount?"

Catlett: It was sort of a budgetary thing, and it was also looking across the gear that we felt would best resonate with somebody if they were to select a head to toe kit — with jacket, pants, skis and boats that roughly comes out to retail value of $2,500. So that's where we came up with that number.

Eckerle: Part of this having such a short timeline is you had to be really organized when you began, correct? So a really important element was to inspire your brand athletes to inspire your followers. So you had to be on the same page with everyone involved in making this campaign inspirational.

Catlett: We did, and I don't know if anyone out there is working with athletes in their roles, but a lot of our athletes, some have more sophisticated social presence and a strategy behind what they're doing than others, and others are just amazing at what they do. But they're not a business themselves. And so we really needed to make sure it was very clear to them what we were hoping to get out of their engagement with this campaign, and that it was also really simple for them. Because this isn't their job, even though some of them are paid and some are just paid in product. They do other things and they still need to accomplish things in their everyday activities. So we wanted to make it easy but also very clear what the expectations were with the athletes.

Eckerle: And to do that, you set up this packet where you really walked them through every objective and step of the campaign, correct?

Catlett: That's correct. It was a simple PDF that was sent out to all of the athletes who we tapped to be a part of this campaign. In addition to that, they also received the products, so we made sure they were using the new watch. And as I mentioned earlier, we tried to keep it as simple as possible. Five steps, exactly what we needed them to do. They saw from the get-go what the app would look like and some examples of what we wanted to get from them. And then throughout the couple of months that the campaign was running, we would send out weekly reminders just asking them or those who maybe weren't as active, just reminding them of what the expectations were and asking them to contribute a little bit more. For the most part, we found that sending this out in the beginning was really, really helpful for them to be able to just digest exactly what they were being asked to do and put them on task, which made it much easier.

Eckerle: And I assume putting this together was not as much work as dealing with the athletes individually, and it probably answered a lot of questions at the beginning, and the payoff was worth the time put into it.

Catlett: Absolutely.

Eckerle: Another element of this campaign that we talked about a little before was that you launched the Amer Sports and the Suunto U.S. Instagram account for this campaign.

Catlett: That's correct. Yeah.

Eckerle: So what went into deciding to use Instagram and setting it up? What were your expectations for that platform?

Catlett: Part of what we love about Instagram and what we have seen with other brands, is that it really turns everyone into a photographer. Whether that is just by adding lots of filters or just by encouraging people to share video content. And one of the things you see, whether you are on Facebook or Twitter, is photos and videos that make people want to engage more. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but there are plenty of studies you can pull up that show how much higher engagement rates are on Facebook when brands host photo or video content as opposed to just text. And in addition to that, it of course affects your EdgeRank score through Facebook, meaning your content is going to be served up to more of your fans.

So, part of our strategy behind launching Instagram and really wanting the main content focus of this campaign focus to be on Instagram was to get that photo and video content that we could then turn around and share across our other channels, knowing that the engagement rate was going to be a lot higher, knowing that the quality of the photography that we would get would be much better and sort of a tertiary element would be the ability to use that photo content and repurpose it down the road. I know there are some slides later on, but we had the opportunity to use some of the user-submitted content for trade events, it’s going to be worked into some of our catalogs and other promotional materials.

And I think even more so than that, us having the ability to repurpose this user-generated content across our own social channels just gets people excited. Everybody has this desire to be famous, to some respect. So if you are a consumer and the brand that you are following and engaging with then shares a photo that you submitted, that makes you feel so good. And that connects you to the brand in such a stronger way than simply commenting or tweeting or however else you would engage with that brand. So it allows us, we feel, to create much stronger brand loyalists, who are going to be more likely to purchase and recommend our product down the road.

Eckerle: On top of that, you are having your consumers show other consumers all of the ways that they can use your products without you having to sit down and figure out a way to convey that.

Catlett: Absolutely. When you see that #SuuntoAmbitions hashtag, you may have no idea what Suunto is, but when you click it and see all the other content that is tagged with that hashtag, and it's all this really inspirational and aspirational and beautiful photography, as a consumer, you are immediately intrigued. And we hope — and we saw — that it then drove people not only our website, but to also follow us across our three primary social channels.

Eckerle: And before we move on, we had a question from Jean and she asks, "Would you be willing to share your terms and conditions?" Are there maybe some highlights and some things that were put in there that you would be willing to share?

Catlett: Yeah. One of the things that we did build into the terms and conditions was exactly what I was talking about before, that the brand reserves the ability to repurpose and use the content that the user submitted, which we think is very important and something we make sure is always in the terms and conditions of any contests or giveaways that we run. Just because you never know what type of content you are going to get.

One of the things we saw is that not only was the amateur photography that was submitted stunning and beautiful, but we also had a lot of really well known photographers who started participating in the campaign, who have 25,000 Instagram followers. And the reach we get with that and the ability we have to repurpose that content becomes really important to us as a brand. So I would say that's the one thing that we always make sure is in our terms and conditions, is the ability to then use the submitted content.

Eckerle: And all those are being collected by the hashtag onto your hub, which was Facebook. So we have a question here from Sammy, who is a digital marketing coordinator. "How do you keep Facebook engagement steady but also keep it relevant?" So in your experience, what is the difference between content on Facebook versus the other two platforms?

Catlett: So as I mentioned at the beginning, we found that users and our followers tend to view the brand presence on Twitter as a great place to ask questions. So more than any of our other channels, not that it's strictly a customer services platform, but that's really where people go to ask technical questions, discuss warranty issues, anything like that.

At the same time, it is also a good place for us to engage with our athletes who are often very active on Twitter, and with consumers who are talking about the brand or relevant categories or events we are a part of. We do see that really as more of a conversation place, and it's a place where we hope people know that they can ask questions to our brands.

Instagram is really all about inspiration for us, so we want to use that platform to share incredible photos, to help reinforce the brand origins, whether it's Suunto or one of our other brands; but to make sure people know and feel the emotion behind the brands.

And Facebook is almost a combination of all of those. We definitely have found that the best content that we can put out there on Facebook, that gets the most engagement, are photos and videos that get people excited and that make them want to have some type of call to action. It makes them want to comment or like or share the content that we are putting out there. So what we typically do on Facebook is develop communication calendars that have very specific content buckets, whether that's athlete news, sharing something about a contest, user-submitted content, whatever it is, we try to fill those buckets and it's very easy to measure what's resonating the most and adjust your strategy as a result. So if we see that people are engaging more with user submitted content versus product photos or with our athlete videos versus something else, we can start to tweak our strategy very quickly and make sure that what we are saying and how we are saying it is the most successful.

And one of the things we have found with this campaign is that people really did love seeing what other people were submitting. So even though we have slated into our content calendar the promoted posts that talk specifically to the contest, it was also very important for us to share those user-submitted photos and incorporate those into the way we were promoting the contest and increasing our reach. And through partners, like you will see on this slide, Women's Adventure, who are helping to promote on our behalf. Again, for us, it's really all about monitoring and staying on your toes and being able to adjust your strategy quickly depending on what is driving the most engagement and reach.

Eckerle: So we did have a question from Monica, who is a project coordinator, and she wanted to know what type of messages Facebook users want, which I think you definitely addressed. But I think an important thing to point out is what you just said: it's listening, and social media is a conversation. So you can build a strategy at the beginning but it's really about nimble marketing and being able to respond pretty quickly.

Catlett: Correct.

Eckerle: So with that being said, let's move on to Twitter and talk a little bit about your strategy on Twitter, which I am assuming is very visual.

Catlett: It was, yeah. Part of what we were looking to do on Twitter, and to be honest, we saw the least amount of activity on Twitter of all three platforms with this particular campaign. But it is a very active platform for athletes because it's so easy to use and they can really quickly type a message into their phone. It's a simple way for them to engage with their followers without them having to manage a page or keep up with Instagram comments.

It's also a lot more one-to-one at times when you are having conversations with people. So we really looked at that as Twitter being a way to motivate a more select group of users who were engaging with the campaign on Twitter, and you can see some examples here of how we were continuing to make sure that we were retweeting content and motivating people.

Eckerle: And we have a question from Richard, "Were there any risks when you were starting this campaign? Did you look at each of these platforms and come up with a strategy for anything that went wrong ahead of time? Anything that was maybe a risk, going in, that you were aware of?"

Catlett: Yeah. I think with any hashtag campaign you run, there's always the risk. You hear the horror stories of McDonald's running the hashtag campaign that really went into a negative direction and people take it away. Or that the hashtag is being used in a different way. So with anything that we do, we make sure that it is a unique hashtag, so that there isn't a risk of it being used in another country or in the U.S. meaning something different.

I think we always go into it with a plan in mind of how we are going to address any negativity. And we have our PR team and our team in-house that were prepared to deal with that. But for this particular campaign, just because the message was such a positive message, we didn't anticipate that there would be significant risks going in on any of the other platforms.

Eckerle: I think with McDonald's, Forbes reported on it in their article titled, "When a Hashtag Becomes a Bashtag" which keeps marketers up at night. So you showcased your weekly winners. What was your main objective in doing that?

Catlett: So part of that, again, was making sure that all of the users felt like it wasn't this huge, long, drawn out time frame between the start of the campaign, when they first started hearing about it from us and then the end. We wanted these weekly opportunities to keep motivating and encouraging people, which is part of why we opted to promote and share the stories of the weekly winners. It gave us more conversations to be had, rather than us just spitting out the, “Share your ambitions and win. Share your ambition and win.”

It gave us the chance to tell more stories and, in addition to that, it gave these weekly winners the ability and they wanted to tell their fan base and their communities how excited they were to have won. So it really just increased the overall reach of the campaign and increased the positive feedback we were getting and gave a much broader opportunity to push and engage the campaign in a more organic way than just constantly telling people to enter.

Eckerle: Exactly. And alongside of all of this, you were supporting the campaign with social advertising. So how are you testing, or what were you doing with this? What was your overall takeaway from your social advertising efforts?

Catlett: We have a fairly health advertising budget for this advertising campaign. We primarily spent that on Facebook, between sponsored stories and promoted posts. But we did do a very small test on Twitter since we hadn't done any advertising for Suunto there, just to see the reach we would have and knowing that we have the ability to target users with predefined interests was something that was important to us because the product we were launching is a multi-sport product. So we wanted to hit the runners, the bikers and the swimmers and make sure that they knew this product was out there and start to engage in the brand through this campaign.

So as you can see here, some of the stats with our really small Twitter test were successful in the sense that it did have a higher click through rate at a much lower cost. We had 875 clicks with the budget that we spent. However, what we did find was that Facebook did prove to be much more impactful in terms of driving actual engagement. And so, for the majority of the campaign, our efforts were really focused around promoted posts.

And I'm sure most people on this webinar are familiar with Facebook's new algorithm and how, really, the amount of people who your content is being served to is going down fairly significantly unless you are paying. We certainly saw that our reach with this campaign would not have been nearly to the extent that it was, had we not invested in Facebook advertising.

Eckerle: One of the best results of this campaign was that you got a lot of amazing user-generated content. We saw a lot of the pictures you were getting. So, quickly, have you been able to use it, or do you have any plans for it in the future?

Catlett: Yes, and this image shows how we were able to repurpose the user-submitted content in our trade show booth at Outdoor Retailer, which is a big industry trade show that happens twice a year. We really felt that not only did it make the booth more interesting, but for the buyers that were coming around, it really helped us showcase as a brand how we are continuing to touch the end consumer and how we are getting them excited and engaged with the brand, with the idea being that they will then go into a specialty outdoor store or an REI or whatever it is and ask for this product because they are familiar with it, they are excited about what the brand offers. In addition to this, we are incorporating some of the user-submitted images into catalogs and emails and things like that.

Eckerle: And, some of the results you were able to get, what had the most impact or the most surprising results that you were able to get from this campaign?

Catlett: For us, it was definitely, certainly the reach, the huge increase in the daily reach we had with our Facebook posts, but another one, that was very impactful to us, was the people talking about this. We had a 60% increase in the number of people talking about and engaging with Suunto on Facebook. And that, for us, was huge. It had a ripple effect, in terms of the engagement rate and reach that all of our posts had, even since we stopped advertising. And I think that is probably one of the biggest successes with that campaign.

Eckerle: We have your top takeaways here: playing multiple spaces, which we saw with the three platforms you are on; leverage content from multiple sources so you were drawing from every company's strength. You had your athletes and your consumers. You have the support via social advertising is critical which we talked about with your social buys. And that is our 30 minutes. Evin, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story. I hope that other marketers listening today can garner some of the same results that you got.

Catlett: Thank you. It was great to be here.

Eckerle: And thank you all for joining us. Be sure to take the survey below and share your thoughts and feedback so we can stay on point with your needs. And you can go to to view all of the slides from today’s webinar. Thank you again so much for joining us.