How Runner’s World Elevates Its Brand Authority With The International Shoe Summit
Events open up a slew of new opportunities for publishers. Through events, publishers can develop new relationships with advertisers by offering them powerful ways to engage with their audiences. Publishers can also use events as audience development tools to grow their following in certain verticals. Events also offer another, sometimes overlooked benefit to publishers — brand authority. When a publisher launches an event focused on a particular topic, gathering the leading luminaries associated with that topic, it elevates the publisher’s brand to a trusted authority in that field or industry. And that authority is like a tide that lifts all ship, strengthening editorial, attracting readers, and deepening relationships with advertisers.
The Runner’s World International Shoe Summit is the perfect example of an event that strengthens a publisher’s brand authority. Launched in 2006, the summit gathers leading shoe manufacturers, top editors from Runner’s World’s international and U.S. editions, and the Runner’s World sales team. Over the course of the 3-day summit, U.S. and international editors have the chance to learn about the latest shoe technology and products top shoe manufacturers will launch in the coming year. These presentations help inform Runner’s World editorial coverage around running shoes, and in particular its well-respected shoe reviews. In addition, editors present their own success stories to their colleagues, highlighting new content products or events that are driving success in their markets.
Although there is no direct revenue tied to the International Shoe Summit, Rodale’s head of global business development Rob Novick explains that the event has spurred the launch of many profitable products for Runner’s World. Those include a travel-focused bookazine for marathoners that travel to top marathon cities around the world and the extremely successful running training camps Runner’s World hosts in the Alps and on the coast of Portugal.
There’s also a benefit for salespeople, adds publisher Molly O’Keefe. The sales team learns the marketing strategies of shoe manufacturers for the upcoming year and can craft their pitches and campaign ideas around those strategies. “This made our sales team even stronger consultants for our endemic business,” says O’Keefe. “The more we understood the product, the better we could prepare marketing programs that complimented and drove our partners’ key initiatives.”
In the following interview, Novick and O’Keefe explain how the Shoe Summit, which just celebrated its 11th anniversary, was founded. They explore why the summit is an invaluable event for sales and editorial, and how it will evolve in the future.
Why did Runner’s World launch the Runner’s World International Shoe Summit?
Rob Novick: Now hosted by Runner’s World (U.S.) and Rodale International, The Shoe Summit started as a way for our editors (domestic and global) to stay up-to-date on scientific advances in the running shoe industry by inviting R&D reps from the major shoe manufacturers to present their latest findings and lines to the editors-in-chief and shoe editors from every Runner’s World edition. Runner’s world takes it shoe reviews very seriously–we test (via The Runner’s World Shoe Lab and wear testing), rate, and review the major running shoe releases around the world. This summit has been a critical component of the brand’s ability to stay at the forefront of this space, allowing Runner’s World to give its readers the most in-depth, authoritative, and trustworthy shoe reviews
What is the format of this event?
Novick: The three-day event is split into two parts. The first half is Runner’s World-focused brand-building sessions, where we hear from media industry experts and discuss what’s working for the brand around the world. The second half includes presentations from 10-15 shoe brands who are invited to present the science behind their new lines, along with their marketing plans for the upcoming year. This year, Rodale Inc.’s New York offices hosted over 30 Runner’s World editors from 16 countries to share best practices and learn a lot about what’s coming up in the shoe industry.
We hold the event each year the week that leads into the New York Marathon, so many editors stick around to take part in the festivities. And this year’s shoe summit coincided with Runner’s World 50th anniversary celebrations!
What are the goals of the Shoe Summit?
Novick: To maintain a close relationship with the shoe manufacturers to ensure we have the latest information to deliver to our readers. We want to continue to be an authority in this space, and the shoe summit helps cement our position. At the same time the brand building sessions help Runner’s World International remain a leader worldwide across all types of media.
What has made this event a success over the past 11 years?
Molly O’Keefe: There aren’t other events like the Shoe Summit; we present a very unique opportunity for experts from different fields to come together and really get immersed in what tech shoes companies are developing, what consumers are looking for through a fantastically global lens. Everyone benefits including (and especially) the folks who read Runner’s World and use our shoe guide to help inform their next purchase. Our partners, our internal teams, and the attending shoe companies get a LOT out of the summit each year and that keeps them coming back to learn more, to build on their relationships, and to get excited about what is happening next in the shoe market. We frequently have shoes companies requesting an opportunity to join us again year after year.
What are the benefits of making this an international event?
The summit affords us an excellent opportunity to share innovative ideas that tap into our larger global network. Whether a content or product concept or ad deal, developing an idea across markets frequently makes a larger impact. For example, New Balance has been a consistent participant in our summit over the years, so when they were looking to roll out a wear testing panel to help promote their “Fresh Foam Project,” they knew we could execute a program on an international level for them.
New Balance was looking to publicize new shoes styles and technology and wanted to get the shoes into the hands of influential, passionate runners with a goal of capturing what the running culture looks like around the world. Participating readers were asked to test their new New Balance shoes on their favorite local running route, create a video using Hyperlapse technology on their phone, and then post photos on Instagram. Select reader photos were then chosen to appear in New Balance print and digital advertising creative the following season.
Our Runner’s World international editions supplied shoes to 250 readers who were active on social media in 14 global markets: Italy, UK, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, USA, Germany, France.
What advice do you have for other publishers looking to launch a new event or build a profitable events business?
O’Keefe: You have to be invested in the category, stick to what’s core to your business. You need to be the expert and build value around what you’re offering to your audience.
So while the Shoe Summit is not a consumer event, Runner’s World has seen great success with experiential events that tap into our readers’ passion for running. Now in its fifth year, the Runner’s World Half & Festival Presented by Altra is a weekend-long celebration that allows readers to run with the editors through Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s historic neighborhoods, including some of the town’s original 1741 settlement, Moravian College, and the former Bethlehem Steel complex.
How will Runner’s World International Shoe Summit evolve in the future?
O’Keefe: Apparel is key in the running community and the head-to-toe gear story is becoming more of a conversation from the footwear brands. We’ll certainly continue to have footwear be the focus at the Shoe Summit, but we’ll also be looking to invite apparel-only brands in the near future.
Novick: We are also considering hosting multiple shoe summits in other locations, such as Beijing and adding a consumer aspect has definitely been discussed. We could look at ways to structure the event as an opportunity for consumers to get a sneak peek at the latest technology.