HOLLYWOOD, FL: Mizuno, the sporting apparel and equipment group, has thrived in the crowded and competitive US market by finding innovative ways to build authentic bonds with passionate amateur athletes.

This year, the company is introducing the second phase of a campaign seeking to engage "average golfers", focusing on how the challenges of the game can help them off the course.

Ahmet Abaci, Mizuno USA's vp/brand marketing, told delegates at the 2014 Brand Masters Conference, run by the Association of National Advertisers, that being genuinely "authentic" was a major objective.

"We believe there are enough people who share the same values and the same purpose as we do," he informed the ANA audience.

"If we can get those values and purposes out to them, they will continue to deliver the message for us." (For more, including the key insights behind Mizuno's positioning for its golf equipment, read Warc's exclusive report: Mizuno USA sprints from running shoes into golf.)

The firm's efforts in this category built on the success it enjoyed with the Mezamashii Run Project, a small-budget initiative created with McKinney, the agency based in Durham, North Carolina, which initially targeted 600 exercise "junkies" who ran over 20 miles a week.

Each of these influencers was offered a free pair of Mizuno running shoes and asked to join an online community – and given the chance to invite others to become a member, too.

From seemingly modest beginnings, the company's web-based community has expanded to include more than 40,000 members, many of whom have found running to be a "transformative" experience.

Such was the success of this platform that it accumulated five Silvers at the North American Effies, as well as recently making the shortlist for the first Warc Prize for Social Strategy.

McKinney – the agency based in Durham, North Carolina – worked with Mizuno on both of these campaigns.

Data sourced from Warc