RBR Interviews Mark Bossardet, On Grass Roots Marketing, by Larry Eder

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Mark Bossardet has been involved in the sport of running at all levels. A 2:17 marathoner, Bossardet was one of the youngest qualifiers for the 1980 Olympic Trials. He worked for Gary Murkhe at Super Runners shop, then moved on to Reebok, where he moved from sales to the Global Director of Athletics, 1985-1994. He spent 1994-1999 at Nike as their Global Athletics Manager, and then assisted FILA in its entree into running. From 2001 until June 2008, Mark returned to Reebok, helping them resurrect a running line with one of the longest heritages in our sport.

Mark was the first person I met on the business side of the sport that remembered my name. I remember running sixteen miler with Mark Bossardet, Pat Devaney and Mike Fanelli in 1986 before the Twin Cities marathon. We have been friends ever since. I respect his judgement and his assessment of what is happening in the sport is uncanny.

Now a consultant, we caught up with Mark earlier this week to discuss some of the current issues in our business. Here is what he had to say:

RBR:1. In your tenures at Nike, FILA and Reebok, how did you look at grass roots marketing?

Mark B: A catalyst for action. Grassroots advocacy is the cornerstone for a strong economic foundation –its how performance brands are built and ultimately it becomes a pillar for sustainable growth.

RBR: 2. Where does advertising in print and web fit in for supporting local running stores?

Mark B: I believe both play a significant role in conveying your brand message at the local level. The more you can do to promote your brand on main-street the better chance for long-term success.

RBR:3.Why do store managers still ask sales reps about dealer listings?

Mark B: Because, they’re extremely important and play a vital role in vertical communication. Retailers want to make sure their business partnership is being maximized to the fullest and the consumer is aware their establishment carry’s their brand of choice. In some cases this is the only form of trade advertising the account receives.

RBR: 4. What would you tell brands whose sales reps seem to show up only to take orders?

Mark B: Get a new sales team… it’s about providing service and support to your retail partner. The RSA landscape has changed, it’s very competitive and retailers count on manufacturers to be focused and flexible when doing business together.

RBR: 5. Web, print, digital, how does one support a specialty marketing plan in 2009?

Mark B: An integrated marketing platform that provides a rich consumer experience and ties back to the RSA is important and print/web/digital play a fundamental role in bringing that experience to life. Note: If I told you how to do it, you would need to pay me!

RBR: 6. You have been speaking to retailers over the country the past few weeks, what are they telling you about their treatment by the industry?

Mark B: How brands are treating them. I think for the most part, manufacturers have improved their efforts against this channel and retailers are feeling good about their partnerships. However, in this macro economic climate they're counting on companies to help drive traffic into their stores through
their marketing and/or media efforts.

RBR: 7. Importance of good reps?

Mark B: As more and more brands converge into the performance running space, brand stewards are extremely important. If you have a strong field infrastructure you have a greater chance of success…retailers like consistency. Remember, these guys and gals are the face of the brand and carry the company message.

RBR: 8. Support of grass roots media?

Mark B: Not worth it (kidding), any time you can cement your brand into the culture vis-a-via grassroots (media included) the better chance of connecting with the influencer and your core consumer –the runner!

RBR: 9. In your experiences, what is key to developing a strong performance running brand.

Mark B:

Five Concepts for success:
1. Commitment –Develop a long -term strategic growth plan and stick to it.
2. Great Product – Good product doesn’t cut it anymore, only GREAT PRODUCT will see the shelf.
3. Service, Service, Service – Be flexible and implement a strong field infrastructure.
4. Focus – “The Future of Your Company depends on it”
5. Patience - It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

In the end, it’s about brand environmentalism –“accepting the responsibility to protect your brand and present it in the best possible light whenever and wherever it may be found”.

Special thanks to Mark Bossardet.

For more on the sport, please click:http://www.american-trackandfield.com

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