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The objective of traditional advertising is always the same—to interrupt consumers in order to create interest in a sales message. Unfortunately for the companies trying to advertise, consumers have become more and more adept at ignoring these messages. But even in today’s oversaturated advertising climate, the one sales message that can break through the clutter is the recommendation of a friend—an integral part of word-of-mouth advertising. And one very powerful medium for stimulating word-of-mouth advertising is the wearing of branded apparel.
Be the Billboard
By choosing to wear a company’s name, logo or message, you are proudly standing with that brand and what it represents. You act as a walking billboard. In fact, the choice to wear that shirt, cap, jacket or even a button can have a far greater impact than any actual words.
Branded apparel definitely drives engagements and creates inquires. For the independent distributor, wearing clothing displaying their company’s information can activate a dialog that might not otherwise occur. Robin Stevens, Ambit Energy’s Vice President of Marketing Services, says, “For our consultants, we’re always looking for a way to start a conversation. When others see their shirt or cap, they often ask, What is Ambit Energy? or, Where did you get that cool shirt?”
Building a Strong Brand
Just how important is a strong brand to a company? Jonathan R. Copulsky, Principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in his book Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World, provides this quote from Benoit Garbe, Vice President at Millward, Brown and Optimor:
What can a strong brand do for your company? While volumes have been written on the topic, here are a few points to consider:
Putting It All Together
Thoughtfully designed branded apparel can play a significant role in a company’s total branding efforts and reinforce the strength of its brand. As Mark Pentecost, CEO and President of It Works! Global, can attest, branded apparel can provide a definite boost, both psychologically to distributors and to the company’s bottom line as well. His company’s newly redesigned apparel line has not only proven to be popular with distributors, but it also helps unify and strengthen the company’s centralized branding theme. “We put a lot of strategy behind it,” says Pentecost, “because we realize how important the apparel is.”
For It Works!, the company’s focused efforts have paid off in a big way, coming together to create what Pentecost calls a “perfect storm.” And he continues, “Since January of this year until now [May 31], we’re up over 400 percent.” As this company can attest, a strong brand is indeed a valuable and powerful asset.
There’s no doubt that a carefully designed message worn on your person can serve to attract others and help start conversations. Consider, for example, the success Herbalife experienced early on with its button, Lose Weight Now—Ask Me How. This single message conveyed the Herbalife brand, offered hope to those struggling with their weight and actually provided them with the question to ask the wearer. This button literally propelled Herbalife to the forefront of the weight-loss world and into the collective consciousness of Americans everywhere.
The attraction of wearing something that “advertises” a brand also speaks to one of the big problems direct sellers face—rejection. Starting a conversation out of the blue can be a difficult skill for a newcomer to master. But when someone is asking about your T-shirt or button, they are making the first move, and are much more likely to be receptive to your message. They may even tell you of someone else they think might be interested, thus generating another powerful form of word-of-mouth advertising—a personal referral.
Many companies have come to understand the importance of their branded apparel and take the design of these items quite seriously. Several whose representatives spoke with DSN recently note that they are in the process of redesigning their clothing. Not only do they want their clothing to be up to date, but they also wish for it to reflect very positively on the company and be in line with their company’s growth.
Blake Mallen, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer for ViSalus, says, “We’re growing so fast right now that we’re a different company today than we were six months ago, just as we’ll be a different company six months from now. As we work toward becoming a billion-dollar company, we want our clothing to reflect that.”
“We’re growing so fast right now … we want our clothing to reflect that.”
—Blake Mallen, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, ViSalus
Advertising by way of consumer wearables is common across all industries for the simple reason that it works. Consider how many items carry the Coca-Cola brand image. Coke even recently premiered its Coca-Cola Clothing 2013 Spring/Summer Collection at Fashion Rio in Brazil. Clearly, consumers are willing to spend their money on items that share the brand in the most personal way—by wearing it.
Companies have also come to realize they need to have clothing designed to flatter females and appeal to feminine tastes, as women make up the majority of independent representatives. Stevens notes, “We’ve had a big demand from our top women consultants for more of the ‘blingy’ Ambit wear. They don’t want to wear a guy’s polo with the logo on it particularly; they want something that’s more feminine.”
It Works! has also made a concerted effort to update its apparel and frequently incorporates bling in the design. With approximately 70 percent of its distributors being women, Mark Pentecost, CEO and President of It Works! Global, received another bit of feedback: Not only has the company’s clothing proven to be popular, but the women, in particular, have told him they like not having to worry about their wardrobe. The clothing is well designed and flattering, so they don’t have to think about what to wear. They can just put on their “black, green and bling” and go.
Serves as a Powerful Marketing Tool
Branded apparel has indeed proven to be a versatile and powerful marketing tool. DSN called on several companies recently and asked them to share the advantages they have realized from their use of branded apparel.
Leverages Other Marketing Efforts
Beachbody started using infomercials over 12 years ago and with them has built tremendous brand awareness. As a result, Beachbody coaches often gain instant recognition when they wear their company’s branded apparel.
Getting the proverbial “foot in the door” is typically the hardest part of making a sale. Beginning a conversation with a stranger can be awkward for all parties involved. Wearing a brand slogan creates business-building opportunities for independent representatives. “The clothing has been a huge benefit for our coaches,” says Denise Needham, Beachbody’s Senior Director of Training and Field Development. “When they ‘Wear and Share’ their P90X cap or shirt, people respond. It usually sparks a conversation with a stranger.” Because their apparel is often able to play off the company’s other marketing efforts, Needham notes, “Sometimes all our coaches have to do is just be ready!”
Creates Company Awareness and Corporate Identity
Ambit Energy provides residential and commercial customers with energy. Because the company sells a service, there are no physical products with which its consultants can identify. And because the company only services deregulated markets, the states in which it operates are scattered: Texas, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. So, for the company’s 150,000 plus consultants who are likewise scattered around the country, Ambit’s branded apparel helps establish for them that sense of corporate identity that might otherwise be lacking.
Ambit’s branded apparel also helps create awareness for their company. Stevens says, “To expand our reach and give credibility to our brand name, and also to make our consultants feel a part of the team, we use a lot of branded apparel.”
Ambit uses so much branded apparel and other branded items that the company recently hired a full-time merchandise manager. As Stevens explained, they want their branding to remain consistent, and they want to make sure that their inventory is both fashionable and readily available in the company’s store. And with the company’s rapid growth, the demand by its consultants is expected to increase even more.
It Works! Global
Promotes the Company Culture
With more than 150,000 people joining the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge each month, ViSalus expects to pass its one millionth customer mark soon. In introducing these newcomers to the company, ViSalus uses its branded clothing to reflect the culture of the company.
“Our company offers a lot of apparel,” says Mallen. “We try to offer more of a high-end fitness apparel line called Vi-Gear.” He also notes that the company plans to introduce a more fashion-oriented line of higher-end casual fitness clothing. Creating fashionable branded clothing actually fulfills a dual purpose—the distributor is rounding out his or her wardrobe as well as promoting their business. They are much more likely to keep wearing an item that makes them feel good as well.
ViSalus has attracted a number of celebrities to its company, so projecting the culture of its company through its clothing is doubly important. Always with an emphasis on quality, Mallen notes that the company seeks to offer fashionable, cool-looking clothes that people would want to wear anyway.
Fills a Marketing Void
Although there are some notable exceptions, the vast majority of direct sales companies sponsor very little, if any, traditional advertising done from the corporate level. As Douglas Braun, USANA’s Vice President of Marketing and Recognition, points out, branded apparel can help fill that void.
“It’s not necessarily a void for connecting with potential new customers,” he explains. “Our associates are doing that, and the branded apparel does play a role there.” But Braun goes on to explain, “Branded apparel helps fill the void that traditional advertising fills for current customers and current associates in connecting them with the brand. Advertising is really directed at both audiences. That’s the part I think we miss the most in not doing traditional advertising—the furthering and strengthening of that relationship and connection with the customer and the associate to the brand.”
As these and many other companies can affirm, thoughtfully designed branded apparel can serve many purposes. It has proven to be a valuable asset as well as a powerful marketing tool. As a form of word-of-mouth advertising, the messages it can convey bypass the traditional media forms of advertising and help the company break away from the pack.
What Are the Most Popular Promotionals?
Calendars were, for many years, the top item that companies used for promotional purposes. They are still popular, and for good reason—calendars keep the company’s name in front of people for the whole year. But according to data provided at the website of the Promotional Products Association International, wearables accounted for the greatest percentage of the industry’s sales in 2011, as they have for a number of years now. These items include shirts, aprons, uniforms, blazers, caps, headbands, jackets, neckwear, footwear, and more.
Why Do Companies Purchase?
Companies purchase promotional items for a number of reasons. It may come as no surprise that Brand Awareness garnered the top slot in program initiatives for 2011.
Taking Their Brand to the Big Leagues
by Marilynn Hood
USANA sponsored the 2011 Snowboardcross Cup held at Telluride, Colo. Photo credit: Oliver Kraus
Have you ever taken a tour of a stadium or arena? With all the fans gone, you can actually hear someone yell at you from the top row. But when the game begins and everyone starts to cheer, individual noises simply blend into the roar of the crowd. It becomes harder and harder for any one person’s voice to be heard above so many competing noises.
For companies marketing their goods and services today, it’s much the same. They find themselves entering an already packed arena, competing for air time or billboard space and struggling to create a method of presentation that somehow allows their message to be heard above the ever-increasing advertising noise and clutter.
But what if a company sponsored one of the teams down there on the field? What if the company’s name was associated with athletes who capture every eye in the arena, on whom every camera is focused, whose images are being beamed into living rooms around the world? Or what if the company had its name on the arena itself? Several direct sales companies have employed this big thinking with their marketing, and with good reason.
“One of the advantages of sponsoring athletes or an event or putting your name on a stadium or arena is that you address one of the biggest issues in marketing, which is advertising noise or clutter,” explains Dr. Paul S. Busch, Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. Granted, there may be other advertisers present, but the company’s name stands above the crowd.
Another reason companies consider sponsorships is that sports provide an almost universal appeal, around the country and around the world. That’s because sporting events offer entertainment, and an association with sports is generally viewed positively. And, as Busch points out, it’s one of the very few forms of intergenerational entertainment that we have. Consider that you often see a variety of age groups attending such events together, sitting side by side enjoying each other’s company and creating wonderful memories. Few other activities hold such broad appeal for all generations.
One reason companies consider sponsorships is that sports provide an almost universal appeal, around the country and around the world.
Herbalife sponsors over 150 teams and athletes, including the
Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team pictured here, home of superstar David Beckham.
Rising NASCAR star Austin Dillon stands with the legendary No. 3 race car, displaying AdvoCare’s sponsorship front and center.
Providing Powerful Marketing Opportunities
Whether it’s with individual athletes, an entire team or a sports stadium or arena, there’s no doubt that an association with athletes can create very powerful marketing opportunities. Particularly for companies that provide nutritional products, an endorsement by athletes helps validate the effectiveness of those products. And, with certain organizations suggesting that athletes not take any nutritional supplements due to the possibility of contaminants or banned substances, it speaks to the trust the athletes have placed in these companies and their products.
USANA sponsors a number of both individual athletes as well as entire teams. Knowing that these athletes are placing their careers and reputations on the line when they take the company’s supplements, USANA executives say they take the trust of these athletes very seriously. In return for the trust that their sponsored athletes place in USANA, the company essentially provides a guarantee of up to $1 million if an athlete tests positive for a banned substance. USANA knows if they can gain the trust of athletes, even Olympians who may have only one shot in their lifetime to go for the gold, they will gain the trust and confidence of thousands of others as well.
With sporting events being enjoyed by millions worldwide, the interest in sports is almost universal. Sports sponsorships tap into that popularity and provide companies with a way to greatly extend the reach of their marketing efforts. Team 4Life is an elite group of world-famous athletes who endorse 4Life Transfer Factor® products. Members include Super Bowl Champion Sam Madison, World Series Most Valuable Player Edgar Renteria, World Golf Hall of Famer Johnny Miller, powerlifter Brady Stewart and others. Calvin Jolley, Vice President of Communications, says, “Branded apparel gives our All-Stars an opportunity to express their commitment to 4Life products, which empowers our independent distributors to begin conversations about our company. And when customers have questions about efficacy, our field can point to individuals who excel in their disciplines and are willing to endorse the value of our science by wearing our logo.”
AdvoCare also sponsors athletes for similar reasons. AdvoCare President and CEO Richard Wright says, “When people see a top sports figure wearing an AdvoCare logo, it brings awareness to the brand while elevating the company. Knowing that top professionals rely on AdvoCare products on and off the field affirms AdvoCare products are safe, effective and they work. It is also powerful reinforcement of our brand statement—Use It. The Pros Do.”
Herbalife implemented a total sports strategy about 10 years ago as part of their effort to more fully brand the company. As Rob Levy, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Herbalife, says, “We wanted to create an identity out there in the sporting community.”
One of Herbalife’s biggest deals early on was to sponsor the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer team. As luck, or in this case, fortune, would have it, shortly after their sponsorship began, David Beckham came to play for the Galaxy. Because he is arguably the most famous soccer player in the world, Beckham’s Galaxy jersey—with Herbalife’s name prominently displayed across the front—has become one of the biggest-selling jerseys in any sport of all time. Says Levy, “We’ve seen that jersey in countries all over the globe.”
Herbalife now sponsors over 150 teams and individual athletes, with several athletes set to compete in the upcoming Olympics in London. The company’s sponsorships extend to a wide variety of sports, including tennis, badminton, cricket and boxing. Other top teams Herbalife sponsors include FC Barcelona, with its world-class player Leo Messi having a personal sponsorship agreement. Most recently, the company announced it will again sponsor the 2012 World Football Challenge in the summer. This soccer exhibition tournament last year drew over half a million attendees.
Realizing the importance of continuing its relationship with the Galaxy, Herbalife made this statement in a March 16, 2012 press release:
“The 2011 MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy and Herbalife announced today a record 10-year extension to their existing agreement that will see the global nutrition company continue as the official presenting sponsor and jersey sponsor of the Galaxy. The landmark extension to the partnership will run through the 2022 MLS season and is valued at over $44 million, making it the single largest and longest sponsorship agreement for an MLS club in League history.”
With Herbalife’s name to continue to appear prominently on the front of the club’s jersey and with Herbalife remaining the Galaxy’s official and exclusive nutrition partner, the impact of this sponsorship alone will be enormous. Herbalife has indeed created a distinctive and enviable identity in the sporting community.
The 2011 MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy and Herbalife announced a record 10-year extension to their existing sponsorship agreement, which is valued at over $44 million.
Liezel Huber is the No. 1 doubles tennis player in the world and USANA Brand Ambassador.
The Amway Center, a multiuse facility for entertainment, sports and other city events, opened in 2010 in Orlando, Fla. Photo credit: Ben Tanner
Edgar Rentería, five-time MLB All Star and the 2010 World Series MVP, uses and endorses 4Life products.
Capitalizing on a Prime Destination Spot
Amway is another company that has gone big with its marketing efforts. By locating its new arena in Orlando, Fla., the company is well-positioned to capitalize on an already popular destination area. This versatile facility has been designed to host a variety of events, such as concerts and ice shows, in addition to sports of almost every kind and is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. To learn more about the Amway Center, DSN called upon Amway Chief Marketing Officer Candace Matthews, who had this to say:
“When we cut the ribbon at the Amway Center in 2010, it became the first high-profile venue to showcase our new brand identity. Amway is the official vision partner of the Center, but this is much more than placing our name on the building; it’s a true partnership with the community and city to create a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. Part of that experience is the technology used in the LEED-certified building, from 1,200 LED screens that can be tailored to each event at the Center to the LED ‘ribbon’ that allows 360-degree messaging around the inside of the center. The technology, experience and service recently earned the Amway Center honors as the 2012 Sports Facility of the Year.
“Of course, you can see the Amway name from the air, on the ground from blocks away, and throughout the complex, including center court and the scoreboard. That bigger-than-life exposure brings our identity to hundreds of thousands of Amway Center visitors each year.
“The Amway Center is also a big way of spreading our brand across the globe. Many of our distributors are huge NBA fans, and some of our distributor leaders even traveled internationally to Orlando to attend the 2012 All-Star Game. Orlando is a global destination and Amway Center is a major family entertainment venue, just like Disney World and Universal Studios. And when events at the Amway Center are broadcast to a global audience, they bring our name to potential customers and inspire pride in our distributors all over the world.
“For those who attend events at the Amway Center, the Nutrilite Magic Fan Experience, which features interactive Nutrilite displays and a history of the Orlando Magic, provides an opportunity to get to know the world’s best-selling nutrition and wellness brand, Nutrilite.
“The partnership has been a win-win for Amway. It’s a smart investment, innovative, and we’re proud to have our name on this state-of-the-art, award-winning facility.”
As these and other companies have found, big branding, particularly when associated with sports, can produce almost exponential rewards. They are able to powerfully amplify their marketing efforts and extend their reach to almost every corner of the world, far beyond what they would otherwise be able to do. Rather than being just another voice in the crowd, they actually transcend the crowd.