The racquet sports industry did not suffer as much as other industries during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the stationary retailers were closed for a long time and thus could not sell any products. In order to steer customers back into the shops after the lockdown, HEAD invested in digital marketing measures. For Antoine Hillereau, it was the perfect time to show his retail partners how they can become active online with a small advertising budget thanks to a fully automated campaign playout!
Antoine, tell us a little bit about yourself and your job at HEAD Sports!
I started working at HEAD in 2013 as an intern for the French unit. Then I moved into a role as Communications Manager supporting the sales team in their activities with Key Accounts. I now work for the Global Headquarters in Kennelbach (Austria).
As Integrated Marketing Communications Manager, my role is to plan and coordinate the communications campaigns on both products and brand, together with the product managers (brief), the creative agency (concept) and the country units (execution). We aim to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right place and time.
You use the socialPALS platform to supply your retailers with high-quality campaign content – in addition to the regular PoS material. Why did you decide to integrate this form of automated retail marketing into your communication concept?
We were mainly looking for a new way to bring traffic to the retailers. Our Pro Specialty stores are not only among our most important partners, they are the experts in the market and are vital to the tennis industry for their knowledge and know-how. Digitalizing our retail campaigns also allows us to measure the local impact of our marketing effort.
What challenges do you currently see in the sporting goods industry – both for HEAD as a brand and for your trading partners? Were you able to solve this with the help of the socialPALS platform?
Nowadays, our brick-and-mortar distribution channels are mainly being challenged by the click-and-mortar. Our retailers often tell us they cannot compete against the big online players. So, we have started looking for ways to help them compete locally by leveraging modern digital tools. In most cases, they lack expertise and staffing. We were looking for a partner to assist us in the DACH region and measure if we could boost our sales by activating a digital campaign for selected retailers. socialPALS was the perfect platform for us.
What was the goal of the "GRAVITY" campaign and how high was the internal effort in marketing for you to get it started?
It was the first we did in collaboration with socialPALS. Therefore, our goal was to establish KPIs for future campaigns. We wanted to allocate a small incremental budget and see if this would ever influence our sell-out. At the end of the campaign, we wanted to measure how many racquets we sold over the campaign period.
The effort was high initially as we had to get used to the platform. We needed to understand how to build both the campaign and the assets against our objectives. It took us 2 to 3 months between campaign ideation and execution (during the lockdown period of 2021). Now that the campaign is over, we are confident we learned how to manage all future ones and will do it in one month at most.
How difficult was it to motivate your retailers to participate? Is the “online marketing” component accepted as an integration into the sales concept?
It wasn’t difficult at all because the platform gives you the flexibility every retailer wants. With socialPALS, retailers can decide how much they want to invest in the campaign. Our budget support was clear from the beginning. We hope to leverage this for future sell-in campaigns as we want to see different results in the following years.
Each trading partner confirms participation in a socialPALS campaign and thus the display of the turnkey content calendar after one-time registration with one click. Were there also dealers who have been more closely involved with the platform and have, for example, planned (additional) postings or advertising budgets themselves?
As this was the first year, we weren’t yet at a stage to discuss further financial investment from our retailers. Even though we told them about the possibility, they all stuck to our budget support. However, 13 of the 54 participating retailers manually scheduled posts on the content calendar, which shows that content flexibility is just as important.
Was the campaign successful? Have you been able to draw helpful lessons from this – for example which channels or formats are best suited for the advertised product?
The campaign was highly successful for us. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, there were some issues with shipping delays. Still, in the end, we were able to reach our ambitious sell-out goals per retailer.
Our add-on/incentive was a free towel for each racquet sold during this period, and we had to refill stocks after one month. We could generate re-orders with the retailers, and all stakeholders were very satisfied.
We could also see that the right mix of social media and search ads helped us reach what we wanted. The summary available on socialPALS will allow us to make the proper adjustments for the future.
Has the "Corona crisis" influenced the industry (sustainably), e. B. because tennis and other sports were temporarily only possible to a limited extent due to lockdown & Co.? Have the requirements for local marketing changed?
Fortunately for us, the racquet sports industry didn’t suffer as much as others during the pandemic. Tennis, for instance, was one of the rare sports that you could still do safely. However, our retailers were closed for a long time and missed opportunities. The digitalization of our campaign was helpful for our physical retailers to gain a share of voice, and therefore bring the traffic back to their store.
We were already prepared and adopted at Headquarters. Our only issue was to get content produced in the past year and a half; we just decided this situation was perfect for explaining how our retailers could become active online with simple campaign execution modest budget investments.
How do you see the future of stationary retail in the context of the market power of the big online players? Does the “sports retailer around the corner” still have a chance if he invested in digital measures?
Of course, they still have a chance. In racquet sports and particularly in tennis, the proximity of the retailer is a great advantage. Their connection to the clubs allows them to have loyal customers in their respective areas. They also have a significant role as a workshop for all services, especially restringing the racquets.
A racquet isn’t a compulsive purchase. Many tennis players still must discuss their needs with a specialist, test the racquet, and get feedback on their experience before making purchasing decisions. Investing in digital marketing will allow retailers to gain a share of voice online and reach more customers.
The big online players offer different advantages which are also valuable to the customers (product range, availability, logistics, …), but there is a place and a role for all actors in the racquet sports industry.
Are you already planning further campaigns to support your retailers?
We are already thinking of a new campaign in 2022. We will even try to extend it to new regions such as FRITES, UK, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. We are convinced that these are the best investments for us!
That's what our retailers say:
We were again able to reach many people with the campaign and have been satisfied with it. The simple yet detailed platform allows us to quickly plan and realise the individual campaigns and posts. If we have any questions, the socialPALS staff are always available.