Champion has long been associated with sports, a popularity it built over many years manufacturing uniforms for NFL and NBA teams. But lately, the HanesBrands athleticwear label has worked to expand its identity beyond the sphere, including through a 2020 capsule collection inspired by General Mills cereals.
Today (Sept. 13), the brand goes even further with the launch of a new global campaign, “Champion What Moves You,” that focuses on individuals who champion causes — not only those that turn out to be champions in sports. The purpose-driven effort features creators from around the globe — from rappers to street artists and shoe cobblers to athletes — who turn personal passions into impactful contributions to their communities.
The push includes 15-, 30- and 60-second spots across social media platforms and the brand’s digital channels, and includes a Champion Creators Program that gives product and funding to up-and-coming creators. The effort also goes hand-in-hand with the primary launches by Champion’s new Global Vice President of Design Jay Escobara.
“This is de facto a highlight on our existing consumer base and really wanting to have a good time them,” said Champion’s President of Global Activewear Vanessa LeFebvre. “We’re bringing some product that’s based on their feedback and a few of our archives to market. We’re excited to find a way to bring the most effective of Champion and make it new again.”
In an interview with Marketing Dive, LeFebvre — who joined HanesBrands last 12 months after stints at firms including Adidas, Stitch Fix and Macy’s — explained the considering behind the campaign and why the brand has committed to purpose.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
MARKETING DIVE: What was the method behind rethinking the meaning and the definition of Champion as a brand?
VANESSA LEFEBVRE: I joined the organization about a 12 months ago, and the team and I even have been working on what matters to Champion. Its purpose was incomplete. Through that strategy of defining our purpose got here the sentiment of: Is Champion a noun or is it a verb? Classically, Champion has at all times been about wanting to define what it means to be a champion. We did a lot of research; we were listening to consumers and to youth culture about where they’re at and where their minds are. Numerous them are facing problems with mental health and questions of, what’s our purpose and what’s our reason?
Through that, we actually began to return to the roots of Champion and this idea that self-expression is self-care. Our purpose has at all times been to be a canvas for self-expression, which led us to this pathway that Champion is a verb. We have at all times been championing others. Playing with that concept led to this more powerful purpose statement that we wish to champion a higher tomorrow and that actually unlocked a lot of the work that we’re doing. That easy thought strategy of shifting from a noun to a verb really modified our way of considering and it was that “a-ha” moment that you simply at all times want.
How did Champion approach finding creators for the “Champion What Moves You” campaign?
LEFEBVRE: After we had a purpose, the concept “creators with purpose” became our muse. They encourage motion, they’re going to push boundaries, they’re going to move culture forward, they’re going to construct communities. They’re athletes, artists and musicians who fit these criteria. We were able to partner with Flare Marketplace and really tap into their network of creators and fit those who we predict uniquely represented the creators with purpose definition.
We’re really excited concerning the portfolio of our freshman class of influencers, because we predict this has legs that transcend this class, and we’re really excited to find a way to have a global representation. We have people from the U.K., China, Japan, Latin America, Australia and here within the U.S., and that was very intentional. We’re a global brand but we also know that individuals see themselves as global residents connected by a few of these shared values: We all want to champion a higher tomorrow.
Somebody like SignKid, who’s a Deaf rapper and is de facto communicating with a community in a different way, is de facto relatable. When you see his story, it actually doesn’t matter where on this planet you’re. The story hits home and also you understand his message. Or the Little Devils softball team, in Mexico, this group of girls who’re, through sport, coming together as a community and championing the power to play, have an outlet and construct a community together. Being able to highlight these different communities and individuals is de facto bringing our purpose to life and using our medium as a platform for self-expression.
What inspired the worldwide approach to the creator roster?
LEFEBVRE: Think about going through your personal feed… I’m often watching content from different places across the globe, and sometimes I’m not even aware of it. That is something that we wish to harness.
Sixty percent of the Champion Instagram handle is definitely outside of the U.S. That surprised me after I first got into this role. It’s a U.S. brand, but we’ve a far more international consumer, yet the content historically was far more U.S.-based. When you begin to really have a look at who’s playing with our brand, who’s interacting with it, there are all of those really interesting people across the globe that the brand means something to, they usually’re using our brand as their mechanism for self-expression.
How will the Champion Creator Program work?
LEFEBVRE: We’re allowing people from different backgrounds to apply and we’re rewarding them with products — actual blanks — for them to utilize. We’re also allowing them to apply for some funding to support their endeavors, in addition to providing exposure.
We’ve had these creator meetings where our Head of Design Jay Escobara has shown up, and thru that, he’s fostered relationships with among the creators. We want to proceed to create those interactive moments because we all know that giving exposure to up-and-coming creators is a vital component of this. This is access to product, access to funding and access to talent that we predict is essential. Right now, it’s starting within the U.S. However, we consider that we are able to do that at a global scale inside our different markets.
“Champion What Moves You” comes as purpose-driven marketing is increasingly under a microscope. How is Champion navigating these dangerous waters?
LEFEBVRE: Our commitment is to ensure people understand how essential it’s to have a purpose and to be true to that, we wish to highlight the incontrovertible fact that self-expression is a type of self-care. It’s more about inviting a community to share and to express that’s the essential ingredient here. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that you have to be a part of a community. For me, I believe it’s just reminding those who we’re all connected, that all of us have among the same values, that all of us need to find a way to express ourselves and that having a purpose and having values is vital, regardless of what those values are.
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