Hanesbrands Inc. set out to elevate the performance credibility of its Champion active wear brand through the creation of high tech apparel for Expedition Hanesbrands, a professional expedition to the summit of Mount Everest in spring 2010. Hanesbrands enlisted O’Malley Hansen Communications (OHC) to help show consumers how the expedition team’s specially-designed Champion apparel performed in extreme conditions. OHC believed that we could best tell the story through the eyes of well-respected individuals within the outdoor adventure community. Using the power of influencers communicating through traditional and social media, OHC helped the company gain the trust of outdoor enthusiasts and demonstrate the brand’s high performance attributes. This new perception helped successfully leverage the expedition’s product innovations for a consumer line of cold weather apparel.
OHC sought to answer the ultimate question for Hanesbrands: Why is an underwear company going to Mt. Everest? Our initial challenge was to legitimize the company and Champion brand with a selective outdoor adventure community who wouldn’t typically consider either in the high-tech apparel category. Our opportunity was to help our target audience understand why we deserved to be part of this community and on Mt. Everest and turn them into believers.
Consumer surveys determined that men and women liked Champion’s value proposition of attractive and affordable active wear, but didn’t view it as having high performance attributes. Meanwhile, the company’s Duofold brand had a strong perception of high performance. The research helped determine that the high-tech expedition apparel designed by the company’s R&D team would be branded Champion Enhanced with Duofold Technology.
Secondarily, research was conducted to identify the top outdoor adventure gear apparel testers that mattered most to the target audience: well-respected freelance writers/journalists Stephen Regenold, also known as the Gear Junkie through his syndicated column and gearjunkie.com; and Stephanie Pearson, Outside Magazine’s “Gear Girl” and an associate editor. Both were hired to be part of the expedition’s communications team that would report on every aspect of the program.
OHC participated in an extensive planning process that began two years prior to the expedition. The objectives included:
• Highlight Hanesbrands’ R&D capabilities through the development and testing of high-tech apparel
• Generate awareness of the Champion brand with outdoor enthusiasts to drive future sales of its coming line of cold weather training apparel.
• Position the expedition as professional and credible through the talent of the team: expedition leader and international mountaineer Jamie Clarke, and our partner influencers Stephanie Pearson and Stephen Regenold
OHC created a constant stream of exciting updates and content against a 12-month plan to build awareness and drive interest. This included news and milestones, special announcements, inspirational stories about participants and updates on a-day-in-the-life on Mt. Everest. The stream of news centered on these core strategies:
• Position Champion as a high-tech apparel player by showing prototypes, revisions and the final pieces for the expedition.
• Engage target audiences using social media to create meaningful connections between consumers and Hanesbrands.
• Leverage influencers’ abilities to tell compelling stories that resonate with the public through online channels.
• Position Hanesbrands as an apparel category leader among its competitors through coverage in national business, apparel and trade media.
OHC executed the 12-month plan using press release announcements, media outreach, video, an expedition Twitter account (@climbwithus), and daily updates on www.Climbwithus.com to share expedition news and updates.
Additionally, our selected influencers Stephen Regenold and Stephanie Pearson worked along parallel fronts to report extensively on every aspect of the program via blog, videos and audio content on their own websites, social media channels and on the expedition website. They also travelled to Mt. Everest base camp and reported directly from the mountain.
Here are the primary milestones that provided opportunities to develop content and conduct external outreach:
• Expedition leader Jamie Clarke’s College Tour – 15 colleges in the Pacific Northwest
• Expedition launch announcement including introduction of the prototype gear for the climbing team including base layers, hard shell, soft shell and socks
• Test climb of Mt. Pumori, a smaller mountain adjacent to Mt. Everest, with daily videos, photos and blogs
• Unveiling of the Champion Super Suit, the thinnest extreme weather coat ever created
• Partnership with local Winston-Salem, N.C. Carver High School that resulted in one high school student winning a trip to Mt. Everest base camp
• News and reports from the three-month expedition to Mt. Everest all the way to the summit
• Post-climb apparel performance report
• New Champion cold weather training gear announcement
The results of Expedition Hanesbrands include the following two achievements:
• Expedition Hanesbrands received more than 130 million print, broadcast television and social media impressions. Coverage was secured by Associated Press, Fast Company Magazine, Forbes, The Oprah “O” Magazine, Outside Magazine, BrandWeek, trade publications such as Sports One Source, Sporting Goods Intelligence, Sportswear International, and on television stations around the country including “Wake Up with Al (Roker)” on The Weather Channel.
• Innovations developed for the expedition gear have been incorporated into Champion and Duofold apparel now available to consumers. Champion’s new line of Cold Weather Training Gear and Duofold’s seamless base layer debuted on retailers’ shelves in winter 2010 including The Sports Authority and Modell’s and at www.ChampionUSA.com.