Simple lessons that we can all learn from the SeaWheeze

This weekend was one of my favourites of the summer: lululemon’s massive half marathon known as the SeaWheeze, and if this is the first time that you’re seeing it on the internet, then you and I have very different newsfeeds.

For two full days, 10,000 people descend on Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza for a branded experience that includes outdoor yoga classes, meditation, live music and lots of partner activations. It was the most tweeted about topic in Vancouver over those two days, and not counting all of the posts that didn’t include its hashtag, there were at least 20,000 Instagram posts created about it. That’s two posts for every single runner.

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The reason that I’ve chosen to write about the SeaWheeze this week is not just because I’m still coming down off of my runner’s high (or the Obligatory Victory Beers), but because I find it inspiring to experience a brand event like this one in action, from a user’s perspective. I end up walking away with nearly as many takeaways as I do from a great conference.

But they’re a billion dollar brand, right? How does a massive event that shuts down half of the city have anything relevant in it for little old me?

Some of the most fascinating takeaways for me came from the local brands who partnered with lululemon to create micro-experiences at the event using little more than what they already have on hand. Example: Ride Cycle Club rolled out their bikes and blasted their loudest speakers to give the highest energy cheer station on the course, All City Athletics brought their boxing gloves to the plaza and created an interactive warmup experience and Blanche MacDonald Fashion School set up a station with some of its students to give free manicures ahead of the race. Each of those brands scored major affinity points with the people in attendance, but got even better results on their social channels when they told their stories.

From all of the mental notes I took, here are the three biggest, most relevant, and easiest to take on right now:

1. Something Worth Talking About

Maybe the biggest mistake that I see brands making is that they try to create social media content for social media’s sake. Then they wonder why no one is sharing it. Every touchpoint at SeaWheeze created a memorable guest experience, which naturally creates storytelling opportunities. Similarly, the partner brands who won the weekend created an experience, the ones who did the logical thing and just handed out free product certainly got some benefit out of the days, but no one was shouting the story to all of their friends and family back home on their social channels.

2. Shareable Moments

There were lifeguards shouting encouragement, hashtag art on the ground and inspirational selfie mirrors. We all love to create content, and sometimes we just need a bit of nudge to remind us to pull our phones out. The magic of an effective shareable moment is that they prime us to continue to share long after that moment has passed.

3. Show Up

It always blows me away when brands take the first two steps, dedicating budget and resources to creating something worth talking about, and then don’t bother to follow through when people are reaching out through their phones to make a connection – that’s why we do this stuff and they still go unanswered far too often. lululemon is well known for having an extremely engaged team, and they didn’t disappoint, replying to thousands of people, surprising others and helping people out with recommendations or tips when they needed it. The little brands may not have had the scale, but the best ones were on it, searching the hashtags, misspellings on their own handles and geotags for opportunities to thank or follow up with the very people they just interacted with in person.

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So what?

Every one of us has an opportunity to take on all three of these things, to varying degrees. For example, Junction doesn’t have a retail space and we’re not throwing a run anytime soon, but I am hosting a training session for Real Estate professionals in September called Real Social. Right now I’m going over the details of the day, looking for opportunities to add shareable moments, to follow up via social and to create an experience worth telling people about.

More than anything, I encourage every one of us to take a hard look at our social media strategies and consider:

  1. Are we creating something worth sharing?
  2. Are we making it easy in the moment to share?
  3. Are we showing up for our communities when people want, or need us to?

I hope that something in there sparks some ideas for you the same way they did for me. I have a ton more to share, but will cut it short for the sake of this post.

If you’d like to know any more specifics, disagree with anything, or want to nerd out about running stuff (I couldn’t go a whole post about a half marathon without using the word Fartlek, could I?), hit reply or shoot me a tweet.

Every week I pull together what’s been happening in social & digital including local stories, global news and specific updates and offer my un-edited opinion in an email called the Social Brief. To get it in your inbox every Monday, enter your address below.