CHICAGO: Russell Athletic, the sporting apparel group, enjoyed marketing success by subverting category norms and focusing on unlucky losers rather than triumphant winners.

Matt Murphy, VP/Marketing at Russell Athletic, discussed this topic at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2017 Brand Activation Conference.

And he pointed to a campaign based around high-school football teams which had come excruciatingly close to winning their divisional state championship, only to fall at the final hurdle.

"We wanted to flip the script and tell the story of what happens to the team that came that close, and fell short," Murphy said. (For more, read WARC's exclusive report: Russell Athletic champions communities, high-school sports.)

"The campaign would not be about glorifying the loss, but about taking that moment of adversity and turning it into fuel, or momentum, moving forward."

Zeroing in on how these teams responded to disappointment, he reported, set Russell Athletic apart from the rest of the category – and meant the brand was communicating a story with universal relevance.

"We all do that every day; it's a very relatable type of concept: how does a team deal with loss and come back the following year?" Murphy said.

"We felt like [the tone helped] rid ourselves of more of the glitz and the glamour that we see in some of the other brands and some of their tactics – all of which they use very effectively. But we needed to speak with a different, credible, and authentic voice."

The campaign – premised on the labels #TeamOn and #SettleYourScore – looked at six high-school teams across America, and delivered a wide range of content demonstrating their renewed resilience and commitment.

"Everything we did, we did with an eye on authenticity and credibility," Murphy said. "The whole campaign was done at the community level, in the weight rooms, as they went out on the practice field.

"What we were prioritizing was relevant engagement," he added. "We wanted to see interaction with the content, interaction with the videos that we were playing … with people following the stories of these teams."

Data sourced from WARC