As a young boy, I visited my grandfather in Cumming, Georgia, for the day on a regular basis. Unlike most trips, however, I recall an instance where I did not return home for dinner with the family. No, I stayed overnight in his house in a strange bed with a strange pillow surrounded by strange smells that permeated the room. In spite of the uneasiness, I survived the night. After a shower the next morning, I noticed a distinct white bottle of aftershave in his medicine cabinet. Old Spice. A strange deodorant was present too. Brut.
In that moment, I realized that I was entering the world of personal hygiene products tailored for senior citizens. Old Spice for old people. Now its twenty years later and I use the Old Spice shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant that I once frowned upon. Why did products favored by old men gain traction with the younger guys?
According to a 2011 Business Insider article, author Judith Aquino cites the presence of former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa. As she puts it, “A clever ad + smart use of social media can produce a fresh identity, even for a brand that many associate with their grandfather’s deodorant. ‘Old Spice didn’t change its logo, it changed the experience,’ said Marc Shillum, principal at Method, Inc. a consulting agency for brand designs.”
Old Spice changed the experience.
That and phrases like “Don’t smell yourself short.”
The state of running, like Old Spice, may also be in need of some rebranding over the next 5-10 years. A March 2017 Running USA article notes the decline of road race finishers for the third straight year. Why the drop? The exit of races with “unsustainable structures” is noted, though Caitlyn Pilkington says that experts blame millennials in a Women’s Running essay. “Millennials are flocking to indoor fitness classes and trendy studios that offer memberships and access to multiple workouts for the price of a race entry.”
Costs matter, but 16,957,100 people still opened their wallets or purses in 2016 to finish a road race somewhere around the USA. What’s more, since 2010, women have exceeded men from a participation standpoint (57% to 43% in 2016). In light of this, another question emerges: why are less men finishing foot races? Obstacle course races (OCR) might be seen as a boon for male participants as they combine strength training stations with plenty of mud and some running, but they too have dropped off in popularity. 2015 saw a 30% decline.
In the words of Tony Reavis, “We have a generation of people who think that racing is boring when it’s not boring – it’s staged boringly and it’s presented boringly.” The solution? Reavis says to “jazz it up.” What changes can be introduced that will dispel this perception of boredom? Production quality comes to mind, along with more stuff at the finish line for both the elites and the recreational finishers. A few months ago, I finished third in a trail race in the men’s open division. I was presented with a second medal (to accompany the finisher medal), a case of Bai drinks, and a pair of Tifosi sunglasses. Quite the haul for a half marathon in the woods. Jazz it up, as Reavis makes clear.
What may be the most intriguing aspect of running in the next 5-10 years – and longer – is what will endure and what will fade. “Unruns,” for instance, achieved significant popularity in the past decade (think foam, color, lights, and mud). And there’s that unusual beer mile race too. Four laps around the track coupled with four brews. The House of Mouse continues to draw sizable crowds as people flock to themed races at Disney World and Disneyland. All of these events will linger into the upcoming decades, but perhaps that is what makes running such a compelling activity: the abundance of choices.
Maybe, just maybe, the true motivation for running, whether it’s verbalized or not, is exercise. Cardiovascular health. Amy Thayer, the lead researcher for the 2015 Millennial Running Study, agrees. “Running is the most economical way [for millennials] to get the most bang for their buck. From there, the motivation was to continue on to do more so that it has become a lifestyle.” Well said. Ample running will also produce plenty of sweat, and lots of sweat means that the confidence inside is building.
Cue the Old Spice jingle.
Believe in your smellf.