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Sajid Shamim

Brand Director | 26 Mar 2012

“A statement made by a consumer – ‘A treadmill is a dreadmill’ – has always stayed with me. This line sparked off the entire thought process for the CrossFit campaign. We don’t have any treadmills in Reebok CrossFit gyms.”

Sajid Shamim, Brand Director, Reebok from the Adidas Group, has been with the company for 10 years. He believes Reebok needs to take the initiative and go that extra mile to delight consumers with what is contemporary and unique. Under his direction, Reebok has been credited with many firsts and has successfully maintained the brand leadership in an increasingly competitive market space.

As a believer in an autonomous corporate set-up and empowerment of his team, Shamim provides direction to his juniors while at the same time leaves ample scope for creativity, innovation and experimentation. He constantly motivates his team to see the bigger picture and the resulting vision has helped Reebok stay ahead of competition even in tough times.

He has always been determined to associate with the sportsman and not just the sports star. He has also led Reebok in associating with three IPL teams. He built preference and excitement for Reebok through tie-ups with Walt Disney and its in-house franchise, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

Shamim aims to cash in on a health awareness wave in the country with products and marketing initiatives designed to change the concept of fitness from a boring treadmill to a fun sport.

Here are excerpts from Priyanka Mehra’s conversations with him:

Q. Let’s talk about your latest launch, Reebok CrossFit. How does it take your brand forward?

Reebok CrossFit is a global tie-up between CrossFit and Reebok. Since both the brands stand for the same things, we have joined hands. It basically extends our earlier positioning of fitness, and also reinforces it. Now we are taking to it to the next level. If you see Reebok as a brand globally, the whole aerobics movement was started by us.

From 2005 to 2008, we had built a huge instructor alliance base - individual instructors were being certified by Reebok who in turn were opening gyms and aerobic centres. It’s a movement we have been nurturing for a long time. We are not saying that we changed the game, but we impacted the fitness industry in a big way. Today, the picture of fitness is a person on a treadmill running in one corner of the gym; we are saying we will change it into a sport. When people see it as a sport with fans cheering, the whole camaraderie and the fun element is infused into the brand.

Q. What was the thought process that resulted in this campaign?

CrossFit communicates what our brand is and what it is doing. It is our brand speak. It’s not that by selling 10 CrossFit boxes we are going to make X amount of money. Our first CrossFit gym is already open at Megamall, Gurgaon. Going forward, we plan to open 10 more CrossFit boxes across the metros. This is our core strategy and the rest is being built around this in the second half of the year. We are coming up with a CrossFit line of apparel and hi-tech footwear.

We have done numerous surveys globally through the years, but one statement made by a consumer has always stayed with me – ‘A treadmill is a dreadmill’. This line sparked off the entire thought process. We don’t have any treadmills in Reebok CrossFit gyms.

Q. What is your media mix for this initiative?

We are using typical ATL mediums, 60 to 70 per cent of the mix would be television, and the rest would be print and outdoor. Social media is being used at two levels; the first level is the social community, banners, advertisements, games, and engagement modules. At the second level, every CrossFit gym we open will have a community of gym members. This will culminate into the Reebok National Games which we are planning to have in the later part of the year. It is our vision to take the games to the scale of Asian and Olympic Games.

Q. What is the marketing mix used for brand Reebok?

In terms of intensity, digital has come up in a big way, but in terms of value spend, television would be the easiest way to reach out. The marketing mix is television with 50-60 per cent, OOH with 10-20 per cent, print with 10-20 per cent and digital with 10-20 per cent.

Q. What is the targeted takeaway for consumers from CrossFit?

We are making the person fit for life, and inculcating the attitude that fitness is not a chore, but a sport that is fun.

Q. Has there been significant growth in the fitness products segment in India? How does Reebok spread awareness within this segment?

There has been a major upsurge in awareness of fitness in India. Because of societal changes and health awareness, fitness is becoming more and more mainstream. Earlier, the guy who was into fitness was called a fitness freak. Today, the scene has changed and gyms are mushrooming. What we have to do as a brand is to keep the freshness, we cannot let this momentum die. We cannot let fitness become another boring activity.

At the moment, the trend is extremely positive. One indication is rise in apparel and footwear sales. Also, sales of gym balls, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc. have seen a significant impact. The fitness quotient of India is definitely going up and we are aiding it. I would peg it at approximately 20- 25 per cent year-on-year growth. To spread awareness, we talk about fitness through our campaigns. We are going to build this up through CrossFit, CrossFit Games, and through events such as a launch which involves showing people the sports side of fitness. We will also be doing mall activations on these lines.

Q. What is the market share of Reebok in this?

That would be tough for me to peg. We are enablers of fitness. It is tough for me to gauge in terms of how many gyms we have in the country as it is pretty much an unorganised sector. There are a lot of key players such as Fitness First, Gold Gym, etc. but I wouldn’t have the data for that.

Q. What is your biggest challenge today?

Our biggest challenge is ensuring people experience CrossFit at least once. If we can get people to experience it, our job is done. It is something that we believe will catch on fast. I have a feeling that the six-seven celebrities who tried CrossFit at our launch will come back and ask where they can enroll for classes. Our only challenge is to reach out.

Q. How successful was your campaign, ‘Butt Revolution’?

I still remember a member of my team coming up to me and saying that we will ask people to make a video of their butt movements and put it on Facebook. I thought he was out of his mind to suggest something like that in a country like India. I told him that he would not get more than 10 people putting up a video. It was amazing to see 5,000 people uploading videos.

Basically, we gave them a dance step of what you call the ‘Butt Dance’, and how you do it; it was amazing how many people actually did it. That for me is an index of the success of the campaign, and this was entirely in the digital space. We followed it up with ‘tone your avatar’, where we combined the real world with the virtual space. In it we asked people to come to their particular Facebook page and do a series of exercises. As they exercised, their avatar also became more fit and if they shirked exercise their avatar put on weight. So this was again a great form of consumer engagement.

Q. IPL has been a huge part of your marketing mix and promotions, can you talk about the budget and plans for IPL this year?

The CrossFit campaign is bigger for us than the IPL. We started off with a TVC on March 15 with Reebok CrossFit and now we will go on to Flex, which is a particular shoe that helps in CrossFit. This activity is much bigger and we have taken a conscious stand that we will do IPL, but it is not our core. This campaign is critical to us and we will spend money on it.

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