How Sportsgirl is striving to retain relevance with modern female consumers

National marketing leader explains the motivations behind the latest 'Be that girl' campaign, and the media, content and social investments required to retain the trust of 16-24 year old girls

Examples of creative from the 'Be that girl' campaign
Examples of creative from the 'Be that girl' campaign

It’s 70 years this year since Sportsgirl opened its doors in Australia. And in all that time, its core demographic – the 16-24 year-old transitioning from girlhood to womanhood – has remained constant, national marketing manager, Kate Rees, says.

Of course, what has changed is the ways and means by which the fashion retailer communicates with its target customer base, understands her, and meets her evolving needs.

“As a business, we want to look at our customers, her behaviours, her way of life, her end use of our product. That’s constantly changing and we need to constantly evolve with her,” Rees says.  

The latest manifestation of such efforts is ‘Be that girl’, a campaign launched in August and aimed at celebrating modern girls from all walks of life as a way of inspiring confidence, capability and strength in individual identity.

“‘Be that girl’ was about us wanting to understand the issues and what is meaningful to them today,” Rees says. “It’s a theme that’s important and relatable as these girls transition into womanhood. We know this can be a conflicting and trying time, and there’s a lot of talk about being perfect in this modern world.

“We’re about embracing feeling empowered, capable and strong, not conforming to anyone else’s ideology and being true to yourself. With our brand heritage, we can do that with authority.”

The campaign revolves around film interviews with 12 girls from very different backgrounds telling their story in an unscripted, raw form. There’s a 2-minute film featuring all girls, supported by 2-minute film interviews with each individual and supported by their own social postings.

The 12 stretch from transgender models and scientists to Paralympians and influencers and include: Digital presenter Carissa Walford; TV presenter Flex Mami; indigenous activist, Aretha Brown; Paralympic snowboarder, Joany Badenhorst; artist, Sophie Athas; scientist, Rae Rodriguez; gymnast, Abbie Louise; blogger, Caitlin Ryan; DJ Miranda Macpherson; model, Kawani Prenter; influencer, Cartia Mallan; transgender model, Manahou Mackay.

“It leverages our 70-year history but also where we want to head in the future. It’s been very successful so far, and about being relatable and understood by the customer,” Rees says.  

“It might be stories of girls talking about their social media presence and how they compare themselves to others on social media, which comes up a lot in our target market. Some are about how to cope with being a social influencer and having that medium to compare with all the time. The transgender model talks about acceptance. We hope this will live on and evolve in coming years.”

Inspiring the work was a study by the ABC that found 50 per cent of girls worry about being different, 65 per cent worry about their body and 70 per cent worry about their future.

“We felt we had a duty of care to start the conversation and to use our voice to educate customers that it’s OK to be you,” Rees says. “There is a movement towards being raw, un-retouched and unformatted reflected through the girls we’re working with.”

The media mix combines traditional media and in-store signage with social and digital. A key channel for Sportsgirl is not surprisingly social media, with more and more dollars going into key platforms, Instagram and Facebook, because that’s where the customer consumes information and spends most of her time, Rees says. The brand has nearly 750,000 engaged consumers via social.It's also big on influencer marketing.

“The way people consume media is important, particularly given our target market are such early adopters,” she continues. “We use research and analytics to stay connected. We have to be flexible and consistently offer a clear reason to shop and engage with us, and encourage her to trust our brand.”

Sportsgirl does see bricks-and-mortar stores as a vital component of this engagement mix. That’s why each store has its own Instagram account.

“It’s rare for a brand to give over creative to individual stores but it allows them more personal engagement,” Rees says. “They engage with their own audiences in a bespoke way, and that also provides us with content for main channels. We often use user-generated content from girls on our wider channels.”  

To coincide with the ‘Be that girl’ campaign launch, Sportsgirl last week debuted a new ‘Studio Sportsgirl’ in its Bourke Street store in Melbourne. This interactive artistic space is dedicated to supporting young artistic talent and initially features digital collage artist, Kelly Maker. Rees says the intention is to change artists every season and depending on success, extend to other city stores.

The emphasis on helping girls come to terms with their own individuality and physical bodies is also reflected in Sportsgirl’s 12-year partnership with the Butterfly Foundation and support of this month’s ‘Love your body week’. The initiative encourages girls to take a pledge on how they’re going to work to love who they are no matter what size or shape they are.

“That self-appreciation is not being put at the forefront of every conversation in young girl’s lives so we’re looking to continue to do that and we’ll at other campaigns ongoing,” Rees says.

In addition, Sportsgirl launched a permanent section about ‘Be that girl’ on its homepage, where girls are encouraged to tell their stories. User-generated content is another thread, and increased use of customer-led content has been vital in cementing authenticity.

“We are lucky is the user-generated content which we’re getting a lot of every day and we’re repurposing as much as we can. These are real girls and people relate so much more,” Rees says.

But without store staff buy-in, the work wouldn’t resonate. With the ‘Be that girl’ campaign, Rees and the team ran a special conference to launch the campaign and purpose.

“Staff are at the forefront of the success, so if they don’t understand the why, there’s a problem,” she says. “We put a lot of money into store and staff engagement to strengthen how our brand connects on a day-to-day basis.

“We have 140 stores and we’re looking to grow those as they’re an engaging, strategic part of growth to the business. ‘Be that girl’ is in every window and we’re connecting to the personality of consumers through the personality of our stores.”  

Digital delivery

That doesn’t mean Sportsgirl isn’t making wider investments into digital capability. As well as an emphasis on creative bespoke content for each channel, the company is looking to replatform its site by the end of the year to improve targeting and engagement.

“With that comes more in-depth strategies around engaging with customers. We’re not currently doing bespoke content but we’re definitely looking to,” Rees says. “As of this season, we’ve also changed our digital photo shoots to be all now on body; that was all flat lay before. That cost and process is enormous, but the engagement and sales increase have meant it’s been well worth doing.

“Online budgets have increased enormously in the last three years, as has accountability on marketing to drive people to our site.”  

This has led to rapid digital marketing skills recruitment at Sportsgirl, and the business has gone from two days of shooting per week to five. Innovations such as social selling and Instagram TV are also being explored.

“That idea of waiting for something is not in this demographic’s through process anymore. There is a sense of urgency becoming more apparent within our target market,” Rees adds.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

 

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