Nothing limp about Chip Wilson, at least respective of the 2010 Olympic Games.
Chip and the bendy stretchy gang recently launched a clothing line and "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition" strategy that all Canadian businesses, especially those in Vancouver and Whistler would do well to emulate.
As usual, lululemon marketing pros are causing quite a stir and doing it in a laid back, lotus position kind of way.
How the hell do they keep doing that?
These guys have passive aggressive marketing down to a science.
Personally, when I think of aggressive doping cheating Olympic sport, I don’t think of lululemon, and I’m sure most hardcore lululemon “downward dog” customers don’t either, but Chip Wilson, lululemon head honcho and smartenpreneur, recognizes the 2010 Olympics is just too lucrative a train to let pass by without getting onboard.
Chips is so smart he makes VANOC CEO John Furlong look like George W. Bush.
The progressive clothing manufacturer burst out of the dressing room in assless chaps with both guns blazing. His new “sport line” shoots straight into the libidos of the 2010 Olympic crowd and plays off of a sense of patriotism, wet coast yoga fashion, sexiness, and humour. If you think red mittens are hot, wait till you see your wife or girlfriend posing beside the Xmas tree in this cheerleading gear. And girls, there’s a line for the boys too that will make his biceps and pecs look as scrumptious as hot cinnamon sticky buns.
How smart is Chip? Well, his winter toque-styled hat looks like a soft fuzzy hockey helmet. But that’s not all. Each toque/ helmet comes with its own little canister of tooth blackout so you can not only look the part, but be the part. How cool will it be during the gold medal match between Canada and USA to cheer in the stands at GM Place (renamed Canada Hockey Place for the Olympics) and actually look like you belong on the ice? When the CTV cameras zoom in on you for a close-up flash’em a big, missing-tooth smile.
It gets even better! Chip designed an umbrella to look like a hockey stick. In my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum published in 2006, I strongly advised companies to sell rain gear and umbrellas to 2010 spectators because it rains here so much, and Chip did so in his unique style. The handle of his umbrella is the blade of a hockey stick wrapped in real looking black cloth hockey tape, and when you open it up a picture of a rough tough Bertuzzi-like hockey player pops up on the outside shell. You can also buy a t-shirt with the same toothless enforcer imprinted on the chest.
Chip and the bendy stretchy gang also designed mittens and scarves with the words “Cheer Me On” printed on each article. The palms of the mittens even have lululemon logos woven into them, kinda like the real thing, except the real thing has a maple leaf, and the fake things are better quality.
Their soft cotton podium posing hoodies have gold zippers on the red Canadian version, and silver zippers on the blue USA version. Subtle, but humorously devious.
One of the most controversial items is a ladies sexy red t with the word “sorry” across the chest. The “o” is replaced with the lulu logo. This item plumbs down through a number of philosophical layers. Upon seeing it, the first thing that came to mind was the infamous “sorry” campaign orchestrated by Australian Aboriginals preceding the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Aboriginals launched a “sorry” campaign to embarrass the Australian government for not publicly saying “sorry” to the Aboriginals they enslaved and mistreated for 200 years. (Sound familiar Canada?) The next thing I thought regarding the t-shirt was that it was a funny reference to us Canadians who always say “sorry” even when it’s not justified or we don’t really mean it. And finally, I thought, maybe Chip is just being cheeky and saying to VANOC, “sorry we created such a sexy product and stole your thunder.” Who knows?
Back in 2005 lululemon bid to be an official Olympic athletic supplier, but HBC outbid them. Too bad. If lululemon would have won the right to dress Olympic athletes just think of all those hot looking Olympic Canadian champs standing on the podium with lululemon camel toe and bulging packages. Tiger Woods would have bumped his face on the tv screen knocking out a tooth.
lululemon is about to make Olympic sport sexy. Real sexy.
Thank God. I don’t think I can take one more red mitten or scratchy striped wool blanket. The red mittens remind me of the red ink Vancouver is bleeding over the 2010 Olympics, and the wool blankets remind me that a once-proud Canadian institution is now owned by Americans. Nothing against Americans. I love you guys. It just sucks that we couldn’t even hang on to an enterprise that literally carved out the birth of Canada. FYI, Chip and his staff still retain 51% of lululemon. Yanks own the rest.
Thankfully, sport sexy is about to be the hottest fad since the four minute mile. Thank you Chip.
Aww don’t roll your eyes. The Olympics has tried desperately to go sexy for years. The IOC kicked it off with the skimpy volleyball bikinis they “forced” women to wear, and just recently, although I don’t think VANOC had a direct hand in it, an enterprising Vansterdam drug lord stamped his LoveDrug “E” pills with the five Olympic rings.
Collectively it all spells S E X kids. And let’s not forget the tasteful calendars of naked Olympic athletes. Heh! I just thought of something, if female ski jumpers agree to jump naked will Dr. Rogge add women’s ski jumping to the 2010 roster of events?
Peace Love Dove
In February it’ll be 4th Ave Hippie Dippy Days all over Vancouver. Free Love.
It’s also not a coincidence VANOC will distribute ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND CONDOMS to Olympic athletes and officials.
Someone is going to get fucked … and lululemon is priming the pump.
Practically, it’s a lot easier than you think. The hard part is being creative and following the letter of the law. I recommend in my blog and book, Leverage Olympic Momentum, that when you develop a strategy like this you should go to the edge of the legal line and pull back a bit to ensure the IOC can’t find a lame excuse to harass you. Better safe than sorry, and from what I can see regarding the lululemon campaign, Chip followed my advice to the letter.
Even though Chip is colouring well within the lines, CTV, the official Canadian 2010 broadcaster is spinning the story of lululemon’s new sport clothing line in a way that makes it seem that what they are doing is wrong. A source CTV uses in their story, Keith McIntyre, President of K Mac & Associates, an advertising company, said “the public should expect more of this type of ambush marketing,” but interestingly CTV fails to tell us this expert source is also an Olympic supplier, who is of course biased. There is no doubt these two companies think it’s a bad thing because strategies like this have a negative impact on their revenue.
The Vancouver Sun, another Olympic partner with a vested interest also wags their finger at lululemon implying campaigns like this take the food right out of the mouths of Olympic athletes. This allegation is completely unfounded. It's more accurate to say that athletes are starving because official Olympic organizations and sponsors are greedy and they don’t deliver to athletes what they lead the public to believe.
Many people including the legal profession regard the marketing strategy lululemon is using as completely legal and ethical, and they don’t refer to it as ambush marketing, but instead as leveraging Olympic momentum.
You Too Can Leverage Olympic Momentum!
If you want to leverage Olympic momentum you first have to identify and understand the unique motivations of the various segments of the Olympic market.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the consumer segments and how it rolls out in most Host regions;
Athletes and their Support Teams - coaches, trainers, physiotherapists, family, etc.
This group is in town for an extended period and they spend big bucks. VANOC leverages the power of athletes and you can too. If you connect with the athlete, spectators will be close behind. Offer athletes special consideration like opening your shop just for them so they can browse in peace. Offer them deep and special discounts on product. Don’t forget to snap a pic of you and them for the store wall.
Foreign News Media, plus their entourage
This is an influential group estimated to be about 10,000 strong. Schmooze them. They’ll be in town poking around all over the place looking for color, and guess what? If you position yourself properly you’re the color. But be wary because this is a group of investigative reporters out for a story, and sometimes with an “if it bleeds it leads” perspective. Don’t be a scapegoat and inadvertently make the hero of their story look good at your expense. Learn how to manage media, do your homework, hook up with this group and know what they want. Your job is to get them to spread the good word about your city and company. They have a direct line to prospective tourists around the world who will eventually make it to your region when Olympic frenzy dies down. You need each other. Leverage it. VANOC won’t like you talking to international media, but they aren’t paying your bills.
You might think Olympic foreign spectators will be a slam dunk and money in the bank, but I’m warning you, this is a very hard group to reach. Why? Well they are hardcore Olympic fans and are in town for one thing and one thing only . . . to eat McDonalds, trade pins, buy souvenirs, and of course have SEX!
This group is herded and jealously guarded by the IOC and VANOC. Remember, the Olympics is a monopoly and if spectators spend money at your place it means they won’t have as much to spend on expensive Olympic souvenirs.
The other challenge you face is that Olympic spectators stand in long lines for hours, or are stuck on a bus going between hotels and sports facilities for even longer hours. It’s not a stretch to think that the bus run between Vancouver and Whistler will take five or six hours when you factor in loading, unloading, security checks, bathroom stops and incredibly heavy traffic at peak times. At the Turin 2006 Olympics John Furlong CEO VANOC complained it took him seven hours to take what would normally be a two hour bus ride between cities similar to Vancouver and Whistler. After all these years the IOC still can’t get it right, and there is absolutely no indication they will get it right in Vancouver either. I hope they do, but the odds are great spectators will be stuck on buses for really long periods of time, and that makes anyone cranky and less prone to casually browse and shop.
Flash Mob Critical Mass riders could also put a real crimp in Olympic bus travel. What better way to tell the world Vancouver rolls on two wheels than to slow down the buses for the cameras and twitterers?
Olympic spectators are often weary and do not have the time or energy to stumble around and accidently find your store. If you want to reach this group you have to give them incentive to find you by promoting your shop as a destination location. HINT: Use your website, blog and twitter to reach out to spectators before they arrive. Offer people special discounts if they can prove they are in town for the big event, i.e., have them produce a coupon printed from your website, or a hotel key, air ticket, event ticket. Be careful though how you word the offer because if you do it incorrectly you might have the 2010 trademark police knocking on your door.
These guys are even harder to attract. Why? Well, they’re smart and have already suffered through the Olympic “once in a lifetime experience” for the last six years from an up-close and personal perspective. Talk about jaded. You might even be one of them. They’ve had to endure criticism from their family and friends the whole time. This group has had it with anti-Olympic whiners and armchair critics. They are true blue Olympic fans, and unless you have very unique Olympic swag they won’t even look your way. It is possible to get to them, but hardly worth the effort because they are now house and tax poor. Most can’t even really afford Olympic tickets unless they hock something.
The SECRET HIDDEN Market
The last group will surprise you. They’re the local people who actually hate the Olympics. This group grows larger as we get closer to the Games. In December 2009 Decima Research released a poll revealing that well more than half of British Columbians feel the Olympics is more of a drawback than a benefit. How VANOC screwed this up is a subject for another article, but the point I’m making here is, if you empathize with this crowd they can be the easiest to reach. In fact, lululemon is doing it in real time right before your eyes. Not only have they scooped money from diehard fans that was destined for IOC administrative salaries, they will also sell product to Olympic malcontents by poking fun at the Games! If you’re one of those borderline people like me who love Olympic sport but hate the politics, purchasing lululemon winter sport gear is a no brainer. You get to cheer for your favourite athlete while looking sexy at the same time, but you don’t encourage or support bad IOC behaviour.
Seriously, what more can you ask of an Olympic opportunity of a lifetime?
The big question now is whether VANOC will allow people wearing lululemon garb into the high security Olympic zones and sports facilities. Is VANOC really going to do strip searches to see what kind of t-shirt your wearing? They can and they will. Chip Wilson declared all out war, in a passive aggressive kind of way of course, and the IOC has little choice but to act accordingly if they want to protect their sponsors.
Not sure if Chip designed lacy BIG EVENT underwear, but if you have to strip down to your thong to get in to BC Place it will without doubt start the cameras cranking. How far are you willing to go to support your favourite athlete?
If you don’t have the budget to pull a lulu, and who does, use your website, blog, and twitter to reach around the world and connect with all those happy people coming to spend their money at the 2010 Olympics. Let them know where you are, what you have and that you accept more than just VISA.
One last note; If lululemon wants to take this over the top they had better quickly contribute to amateur athletes in some way shape or form, and it better be big. If not the IOC will have plenty of ammunition to spin it so it looks like nothing more than a cheap stunt and money grab. It will take a lot more than what they have already done so far in order to justify their actions to the global public once the IOC puts their spin on it.
My company raises tens of thousands of dollars for Olympic athletes simply by introducing companies with money to needy athletes. We have a long list of athletes in dire need and many who are 2010 Olympic contenders who would love to hook up with Chip. Athletes love it when the money comes straight to them and doesn’t pay COC or IOC salaries.
NIKE (now an Olympic sponsor) at one time was infamous for leveraging Olympic momentum in a manner similar to lululemon, but they always put the athlete first and brought to the forefront the struggles amateur Olympic athletes experience. Let’s hope the bendy stretchy gang does it too.
Maurice Cardinal has two decades of experience in the entertainment industry managing projects with companies like Capitol EMI, CBC, CBS, Grammy Award winning artists and also Fortune 500 companies, plus he has managed special events with a variety of Canadian politicians and two US Presidential Teams.
He has managed projects for the '88 Olympics in Calgary, and Expo '86 in Vancouver, plus Radio City Music Hall, the Houston Astrodome, and thousands of venues in between around the world. For the last ten years he produced and co-wrote a business newsletter (about managing news media in a crisis) read by thousands of executives and politicians, including a dozen U.S. senators and MBA students at Harvard Law School.
In addition he has designed and produced community-based internet communication campaigns and has managed projects in Canada, United States, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. He has twenty years experience in the traditional world of marketing, operations and promotion, plus a decade and a half exclusively as a new media communicator, developer, and advisor.