Campaign of the Week

30 January 2024

Saucony campaign challenges people to run as far as they scroll 

Sportswear brand creates an app that calculates how far people scroll on their phones and then challenges them to run the equivalent distance, to promote its new trainers.

According to market research company HarrisX, the average person scrolls 78 miles (125km) on their phones every year – the equivalent of three marathons. To tackle the inactivity that goes hand in hand with rising levels of screen time, US performance running lifestyle brand Saucony and its agency Doner, Detroit, launched a campaign that gives people a weekly running challenge to beat the distance they have scrolled.

To participate in The Marathumb Challenge, people must download the campaign app, which compares people’s screen time to how much they move.

Those outpacing their scrolling distance can redeem branded merchandise. People can also monitor their daily and weekly progress on the app and share completed challenges on their socials, tagging Saucony.

The app works differently for Android and iOS users: while it assesses screen time metrics against stepping distance for the former, it measures steps against the average national distance scrolled for people on iOS devices.

The campaign will run for six weeks, with the first weekly challenge commencing on 22 January 2024 – coinciding with the launch of Saucony’s new Ride 17 Sneakers. It was promoted through a global integrated campaign spanning digital, social, ecommence, retail and OOH channels.

‘Every facet of this campaign was created with great intention, including its timing,’ Kathryn Pratt, CMO at Saucony told Contagious. ‘We understand the energy around resolutions and the new year, and we’re tapping into that dynamic to get people moving their feet more than they scroll for a more balanced lifestyle.’

Results / According to the agency, in the first three days of the campaign, engagement with the social video was 37% higher than the benchmark, there was a 25% increase in new users on the website and a 140% increase in earned media. There was also 19% more traffic on the product landing page compared to the previous week, and a 14% increase in the sell-through rate on saucony.com.

Contagious Insight 

It’s in the frame / Encouraging a break from doom scrolling, the Marathumb Challenge reframes running as an invigorating escape, rather than a chore necessary for health.

Instead of resorting to rational discussions about the health benefits of physical activity to connect with those less inclined to exercise – which would be boring and ineffective: people already know moving is good for you, lack of exercise is not due to ignorance – Saucony offers an emotive incentive and presents a fun challenge that is shareable on social media. This approach caters to a wide audience that goes beyond regular runners as it gamifies exercise, enticing people who might not already run to incorporate physical activity into their routine. And who knows, amateur runners who decide to take up the challenge might just opt for a pair of Saucony’s new Ride 17 Sneakers to help them get started.

What’s more, the campaign encourages people to download an app, getting them to spend time with the brand and to share their details, which Saucony can then use to market its gear directly to running neophytes.

‘The brilliance of this campaign is in how simply and directly it taps into a powerful strategic insight, that people should spend more time moving and less time scrolling,’ Kathryn Pratt told us. ‘When our research revealed that people scroll over 78 miles a year, three full marathons, we had to create The Marathumb Challenge.’

Timing is everything / The campaign, aptly timed a few weeks after the wave of New Year’s resolutions, serves as a nod to the popular goals to be healthier in the new year (over half of resolutions are about working out more, according to a 2020 YouGov poll). This timing enhances the campaign’s resonance by tapping into the momentum of personal resolutions. At the same time, launching towards the end of January allows it to avoid getting lost in all the ‘new year, new me’ noise. 

We’ve covered other campaigns that aligned with this key moment and fuelled people’s newfound appetite for exercise to appear motivational and encourage interactions with the brand. In January 2023, French TV channel Canal Plus allowed people to unlock free streaming content by completing physical challenges on its app. Similarly, Saucony used timing to its advantage, making its campaign the reminder people needed of the resolutions they committed to just a few weeks prior.

Free pass / It’s no secret that we’re all spending too much time on our phones, with over 60% of Americans estimating that their daily phone use has risen compared to the previous year according to HarrisX. This trend contributes to reduced physical activity and subsequent health issues as screens replace exercise in homes worldwide, as reported by WHO in its report on screen time in adolescents.  

The Marathumb Challenge is eminently appealing as it eases people’s guilt around their use of social media. This is because it plays into our licensing bias, which is the idea that we excuse bad or indulgent behaviour if we’ve done something good that we feel counteracts our bad action. The initiative empowers individuals to engage in guilt-free scrolling by cleverly intertwining a sense of reward with the challenge, fostering positive associations with Saucony.  Plus, rewarding those who run more than they scroll with branded merchandise is a neat way of incentivising people to keep running with the brand.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit contagious.com to learn more.