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Empowering Runners During a Pandemic

ASICS' Fiona Berwick Speaks to the #RunToFeel Initiative

— June 17, 2020 — Lifestyle
As COVID-19 altered the world at a global scale, physical restrictions were put in place for health and safety standards. This made it difficult for some to remain active, so ASICS is helping the world maintain and continue its new-found love of running with the #RunToFeel initiative. It is spotlighting the important role that running plays in the lives of people all over the world, reaching out to runners to share their own stories. This series of new initiatives is to create a sense of connectedness and empowerment.

To learn more about the project and how the company has navigated through the pandemic, we spoke to Fiona Berwick, ASICS' Head of Marketing Communications.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with ASICS?
I’ve worked with the ASICS brand for a number of years, first of all as part of an agency team and for the past two and a half years in my current role as Head of Global Marketing Communications. I oversee the strategic implementation of ASICS’s brand and product communications activity across the globe, and my job is really to communicate the company’s ethos of helping as many people as we can achieve a sound mind through a sound body.

What is the Run to Feel initiative? How did this come into fruition?
Through the We Run To Feel campaign, ASICS aims to help the world’s runners connect, stay active and keep on experiencing the uplifting power of running in a world of social isolation. To do this, we’re conducting an ongoing global research study to better understand and support the changing needs of runners.

The campaign comes amidst the isolation of lockdown, when despite most sports being at a standstill, people are running more than ever. We found that for the vast majority, this surge in activity is about more than just physical health. The initial findings from a survey of everyday runners shows that 67% of people globally say exercise helps them cope mentally with challenging situations like the one we are currently facing and 81% of runners say running helps them clear their mind.

No-one understands the uplifting power of running better than ASICS. After all, we were founded on the belief that movement can help anyone achieve a sound mind through a sound body. The We Run To Feel campaign brings together ASICS products, services, content and events to make it easy for everyone to experience the mental and physical benefits of movement. To keep running – both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

What do you hope to accomplish with the Run to Feel initiative?
ASICS was founded on the belief that movement can help anyone achieve a sound mind through a sound body – something that’s never been more important to people than it is now. We wanted to better understand and support the changing needs of runners in a world of social isolation. With the #RuntoFeel initiative, our aim is to help the running community stay connected, stay active, and keep on experiencing the uplifting power of running through a series of new initiatives.

The ultimate goal is to help the running community keep running – both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. To do this, we will continue to listen to runners, including through an ongoing survey that will provide real-time data and trends from the running community globally. Using these insights, we will support and inspire runners to keep experiencing the uplifting power of running by launching new, exciting innovations throughout the year.

What are some of the challenges ASICS faced navigating through the global pandemic?
At ASICS, the health and wellbeing of our customers, our staff and our athletes are our top priority. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to close our retail stores and offices in impacted markets around the world. Some are now beginning to reopen again.

The challenge of having empty stores for our ASICS is obvious, but it has enabled us to adapt ourselves and innovate in new ways. For example, earlier this year, the ASICS Innovation Summit moved to Virtual Reality for the announcement of our three most advanced performance shoes yet. We gave guests a chance to get up close with our latest technologies from the safety of their own homes.

We have also pivoted much in the same way with our recent campaign, embracing digital and social solutions to engage with consumers. Our latest campaign involves calling on runners of all levels to share their stories of how running has helped them via #RunToFeel, we have also launched a film, highlighting the world’s newfound love of running and a number of free programmes and tools to help support people keep their active habits going when this crisis is over. Some of the programmes include launching virtual races powered by Race Roster and Runkeeper™ to motivate runners and let them compete together safely, as well as free access to the ASICS Studio™ at-home workout app until August 2020.

What have you noticed about consumers’ patterns on staying active during this time? Will their habits continue post-COVID-19?
The initial results from our ongoing research study of 14,000 regular exercisers across 12 countries, found that more than a third (36%) of them are more active now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began – despite most sports being brought to a standstill because of social distancing measures. Meanwhile, two-thirds (66%) of runners cite running as the best form of exercise they can do at the moment. Our app Runkeeper™ verified this trend by showing a rise in the number of runners by nearly half (+47.3%).

Eight in ten (79%) runners insist that being active is making them feel saner and more in control. A similar number (81%) say running is playing a key role in helping them clear their mind. And what’s very encouraging for us to see is that 73% of runners want to keep running as much as they are now after this pandemic ends. In conjunction with the number of runners increasing, we’ve also noticed an increase in our e-commerce sales globally for the consumers who have committed themselves to remain active.

We’ve also discovered, that due to the pandemic, some regular exercisers have chosen to stop running. For example, 22% of those who ran before COVID-19 are running less now due to lockdown restrictions. Using these findings, alongside regulations relaxing in different countries, we’re looking to develop insight-led solutions to help exercisers get back into running whilst ensuring safety is paramount. We look forward to helping the running community maintain its growing fan base, as well as, support former runners get back into their routine.
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