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INTNTW: Let Them Run – Social Run Clubs are the New Brand Events

Run clubs are surging in popularity around Australia. As always, brands and their scheming marketing team are never lacking on the upcoming trends, and are pacing the run clubs with their products and services to gain exposure in this evolving community.

Marathon popularity is growing across the nation, with the Sydney Marathon soon to become one of the world’s major running events, therefore it is no surprise that brands want to become part of this movement. Brands like Arc’teryx, Lululemon, CSB and Glassons have leveraged this opportunity to create an immersive experience of their products in collaboration with established run clubs, or even starting their own club for creative control.

Influencers are also beginning to integrate running into their content to be a part of the narrative and the industry that is built around it. As well as their influence on public health for encouraging people to workout, influencers can also add to the exposure and the buzz around the running trend.

The question is to what extent is it not over-commercialising a social activity and exhausting the organic communities that initially gathered for another purpose? Understanding the boundaries of a social community would help brands benefit from the authentic engagement that sparks in these clubs and subsequently, run clubs would also benefit from the support of a sponsor brand for the prosperity of their activities.

The running community has shown on separate occasions that they are protective of the culture and the purpose of their activity. Recently, there have been debates about the functions of the emerging run clubs in the past months as the new outlying narrative appeared in the community.

News headlines and viral tik toks recently labelled run clubs as the new wave of dating apps for young Australians to find love. This idea sparked both positive and negative reactions in the community. Unofficial Run Club in Sydney embraced the idea by organising a Valentine-themed run with colour dress codes that indicated if you identified as single, taken, or ‘it’s complicated’.

On the other hand, Alex Fan from the Chinatown Run Club proclaimed that “Chinatown Run Club is a safe place for everyone to get out, move and use running as a tool to better yourself and connect as a community. If your purpose of joining us on a run is to use it as a dating app then we might not be the run club for you”.

Working out an impactful community relationship on a brand’s side can be difficult considering the varying communication standards amongst potential-consumers and wider audiences. To avoid future backlash or the prospect of over-commercialising the community, it is important for brand practitioners to fully understand the communities involved, their boundaries, and internal norms. Potential consumers want to feel a level of trust and connection with the brands they intend to engage with, so what better way to develop that than creating a shared platform for immersive experiences, such as run clubs?

Written by Hamed Ebrahimi – PR & Influencer Assistant

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