NEW YORK: Newton Running, a challenger brand in the athletic footwear space, believes winning the social media "race" could help it progress in an extremely crowded and competitive sector.

Mike Nesladek, vp/marketing at Newton Running – which was founded in 2007 – discussed this subject during a webinar held by Direct Marketing News.

"We look at social media as a race. And that's a metaphor: obviously, we're in the running business and racing is in our blood," he said. (For more, including how the brand is moving at speed on this channel, read Warc's exclusive report: Newton Running sprints ahead on social media.)

"But social media really is one of the most competitive forms of media in a very competitive running-shoe environment."

As an illustration of how insurgent players with small budgets can thrive on this channel, Newton has sought to identify – and leverage – new habits and trends before they near the social mainstream.

"We're always seeking to be proactive, not reactive," Nesladek said in summarising Newton's strategy on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"What can we bring to the forefront? What are we noticing out there in the industry that maybe consumers aren't aware of yet that we can be first to bring to them."

The brand, for example, spotted that a British runner had proposed to his girlfriend using a GPS tracker, which monitored him completing four routes that spelled out "Will you marry me?" when viewed from above.

"We said, 'This is a great idea. It aligns perfectly with our brand voice. How can we bring this to a broader group of people?'" said Nesladek.

By way of answering this question, Newton fed into runners' passion for this pastime by asking them to use GPS to spell out how they felt following their daily workout, and then shared the entries on its social feeds.

And the "Run it, FEEL it, Spell it" campaign, developed in conjunction with public-relations agency Weber Shandwick, ultimately yielded 80m impressions in six weeks.

"We try and take calculated risks to increase our reach. We really understand that social has the ability to create grassroots campaigns, engage with influencers and just stay active within the running industry," Nesladek said.

Data sourced from Warc