From its collaborations with provocative musician Cardi B to its fearless anti-racism campaigns, Reebok may have been a classic brand of the ’80s, but it’s continuing to remain relevant to consumers young and old today. Reebok Pacific brand director Arnna Johnstone discusses the brand’s focus on women, inclusivity and direct-to-consumer this year. Inside Retail: How are you feeling about 2021? AJ: After an intense year of change, I’m cautiously optimistic. We ar
We are planning for growth, however, unlike other years, we have contingency options in place to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. Globally, Reebok’s 2021 strategy is about digital-first, women and inclusivity. To activate these pillars locally, we will accelerate our focus on cultivating a presence on multiple platforms with the view to connect with even more consumers in meaningful and accessible ways. A key part of engaging will be through launching innovative product both in Reebok’s core foundation business such as Nano X1, and in our collaborations including Victoria Beckham and Cardi B. IR: How would you describe the past year for Reebok? AJ: It was a year of acceleration; bringing forward our digital attack plan, repurposing roles mainly into digital and expanding our multichannel experience by encouraging more balance across retail, wholesale and e-commerce, as a vehicle to navigate the business through the change. I estimate that 2020 catapulted us at least one year ahead of our plans, particularly in terms of the digital space. With the increase in online shopping, we had to develop a far more comprehensive menu around our performance marketing activity to connect with the consumer. This meant a higher focus on optimising site search, getting more out of our acquisition, and really driving our conversion even harder. Data analytics also became a big part of our platform because we really had to understand what this consumer was doing during a Covid-19 lockdown year. It was a new dynamic connecting with a consumer that was primarily shopping in bricks-and-mortar to mainly doing so online. In some respects, we were in fact speaking to a new style of consumer, and we had to find out what their habits were. How much were they buying? Were they online often? And were they shopping across sport and fashion? IR: How would you say the Reebok customer has changed in the past year? AJ: We have noticed a growing segment of younger consumers coming to the brand, which we believe is driven by the regular launch of our collabs, like Assassin’s Creed and Wonder Woman. We’ve also found that with our loyal consumers, the conversion rate and average order value have been consistently high all year. We believe it’s because we’re committed to entrenching ourselves deeply into select communities, be it in fashion and/or fitness. The market itself can appear a bit saturated, so our view is that the consumer is looking for something different that’s out-of-the-box and possibly at the pointy end. Collabs feed into this. When it comes to our social media feedback, the things that matter to consumers seem to matter even more, such as value-based propositions like recycled materials and plant-based footwear. There’s also been an overwhelming response to anything we post on diversity and inclusion. People have a strong opinion about it, they’re highly invested and Reebok has been able to naturally continue the brand’s narrative around important causes such as Black Lives Matter and the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. IR: Tell me about that campaign. AJ: We weren’t satisfied with some of the conversations that were going on Facebook and Instagram, so the company put a one-month block globally on any advertising on Facebook. Racist, discriminatory, and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society. As we focus on better practices within our company and communities to ensure lasting change in the fight against racism, Adidas and Reebok paused advertising on Facebook and Instagram globally throughout July. In the middle of the pandemic, where your only communication is online and digital, it was a brave move for the company, but one that we felt was necessary to send a message that we won’t tolerate speech around hatred, hence the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. IR: What was the feedback like from the Stop Hate for Profit campaign? AJ: For us, there’s two levels of feedback. Internally, it helped elevate the cultural connection of our team. Our respect for seeking a more diverse and inclusive culture was named loud and clear. Publicly, our response was overwhelmingly positive, which is indicative of the Reebok consumer. IR: Last year, Reebok launched the Not Your Princess campaign, which was all about empowering women. There’s been a big focus on the female customer in the sports category these days. AJ: It’s always been a priority at Reebok and for us; it’s not just a marketing slogan. We’ve been doing it since the 1980s. It’s come from a place of absolute authenticity and the starting place is about creating great products that are made for the female form. It’s something we’re extremely proud of. For me, I’m a great advocate of the PureMove or Lux tights, which are high-rise and fit beautifully on any size, ranging from an XS to an XXL. Our voice is to encourage all women to live an active life. One of my proudest moments was when we launched a worldwide campaign in 2019, encouraging women to speak about living their best lives. There were Indigenous people, famous dancers, women in same-sex marriages, talking about what living a diverse life is about. This will continue this year. We’ll have a local ambassador, Sophie Guidolin, who will promote the Nano X1 range. Sophie is the owner and director of The Bod app and she’s a fitness model, author, mother of four children and wellness advocate, and she has a combined social media audience of more than 1.64 million followers. Sophie competed in her first fitness competition in 2012 and since then has committed to helping other women meet their health and fitness goals. Her online community is all about empowerment, respect and vulnerability. Sophie’s natural tenacity and willingness to help others, made her the perfect partner for us as we continue our commitment to women learning to be the best version of themselves. IR: How would you describe the sports category right now? AJ: Dynamic. When you think about sport, it’s traditionally been built on three pillars — innovation, team sports and athletes. Now when you look at it, innovation is an expectation, it’s an entry pass for a sport’s brand. The focus on team sports has evolved into wellness and inclusivity and it’s expanding the conversation to living an active life. Athletes are no longer just living on the field; they’ve become active people who are living studio to street. There’s a much broader focus on women — it’s not just about male team sports anymore — there’s a high focus on body positivity and inclusivity and there’s been a high involvement of this new category that’s been around for a little while now called athleisure, where tech means fashion. That’s become a staple within sportswear stores. As a female who endorses these areas, I think the industry is full of potential. It’s evolving and I’ve never been prouder of it. IR: Reebok has been around since the 1980s and competition in the sports category is fierce. What are some of the ways that the brand has managed to remain relevant in this time? AJ: When you think about being relevant, it’s about making sure that you’re offering a great product and that you’re leading with innovation but as I said, that’s the entry pass. The cornerstone of our strategy is about our ability to connect in the gym as well as on the street. Reebok will comfortably play in two worlds that are generally mutually exclusive, but our heritage with product icons such as Club C and Nano, actually pulls this brand together quite seamlessly. We’re able to continue to resonate and grow with customers both new and old. We have old-timers who know the brand and aren’t necessarily buying the brand, but they know it. The new consumers are either getting first and foremost attracted to it through the street culture and they’re expanding their view of the brand. Or they’re attracted to Reebok via their community gym when they see the product looking and performing well under workout conditions. So, for us it’s about how we collaborate with these communities. From a performance perspective, it might be through Les Mills, CrossFit and the broader gym communities. In fashion, it’s the trend setters and influenced by the likes of Cardi B, Victoria Beckham and Maison Margiela. However, collectively, it’s that community component that has anchored the brand and given it a starting place in a very crowded market. People start to trust the brand and engage in it because we show up in interesting ways. We do it differently, we’re left of field, but always in a way that’s authentically Reebok. IR: Like a lot of brands in the retail industry right now, Reebok is also focusing on direct-to-consumer (DTC) now. AJ: When we talk about DTC, it’s about creating a more accessible model for the consumer journey. For us, the starting point is driving digital, it’s the majority part of our business and this year, we’ll be driving it even harder. That means not only driving our own e-commerce, but we’ll also focus on both pure players and e-market across our wholesale partners. Our brand partners have such a formidable online business that it’s a very exciting opportunity for us to get even more involved and use the learnings that have come out of the success of our own ecommerce channel to assist them. We want to talk to our consumer in a Reebok language and have it presented in a style that resonates with our brand partners, whether it’s Platypus, Rebel, The WodLife or The Iconic. Having such success in the online space, we are still keen to open halo brand spaces in bricks-and-mortar, noting that this proposition must work with the profitability of all parties. In the interim, we will expand on our commercial offering in factory outlets that we share with the adidas side of the business. As stated, we’re planning for a growth year. History has told us that we need to be on our game and prepared as best we can, for changes in the way our consumers are connecting and shopping. Reebok has navigated many changes throughout its history, and I have complete confidence that it is fully geared to navigate tomorrow.