Treading the Web
Speedos new athletic program creates a virtual swim club
Speedo is known for innovations ranging from the creation of the first-ever non-wool Racerback swimsuit in the 1920s yes, there was a time when wool was the fabric of choice for swimwear to the high-tech Speedo lzr Racer swimsuit in 2008, worn by nearly all of the medalists who swam in the Beijing Summer Olympics that year, including American phenom Michael Phelps.
Now, the iconic brand is making a splash in the digital realm with Speedo Pace Club, which consists of the Web site paceclub.speedousa.com and a free partner mobile application available for the iPhone and iPad an Android version will be released later this year designed to motivate, inspire and engage swimmers.
Its a swim training product with a social component, and it marks Speedos largest digital initiative to date. Were always looking for ways to expand our presence from beyond the pool deck to the broader audience, says Speedo usa director of marketing Katie Tyrrell. With more people going online and going to the mobile phone for content these days, what better way to do that than to establish ourselves in the digital space with something like this?
Speedo Pace Club was born after Speedo hired creative agency Syrup to ramp up its digital efforts last year. The process began with a strategic deep dive. Speedos strength is obviously being a market leader in the swim industry, so for us it was about analyzing what water meant for the brand and what water meant for the consumer, Syrup ceo/managing director Omino Gardezi says. Once we connected those dots, we could really identify the ecosystem and start bringing people together.
Syrups research revealed that competitive swimmers were extremely goal-oriented and wanted to socialize their achievements and their progress. Fitness swimmers were also found to be goal-oriented, and they wanted to maximize their workouts, but they didnt have team accountability or access to coaches.
Factoring in everyones desires, Syrup ultimately devised the Speedo Pace Club to serve swimmers of all levels. Launched in July, the product was promoted through an integrated consumer and new-media campaign that relied on Twitter and Facebook, Google search engine marketing and print ads in trade publications specific to the competitive and fitness swimming communities, as well as targeted outreach to swim teams and swim clubs across the country.
Speedo Pace Club has been compared to Nike+, but Gardezi insists the products are different. Its not Nike+, Gardezi says. Nike+, to me, is great. Its fantastic. I use it, but its very superficial. Nike+ is just a fancy way of capturing functionality and analyzing data and sharing it with your friends. This actually goes much deeper. The Speedo Pace Club is comprised of five main components (the same tools are available through the Web site and the mobile application). First, theres Swim Team, a specialized social network accessed via Facebook login, through which swimmers can form swim teams, talk to each other, share their personal bests and encourage one another with messages and digital high fives. Swimmers can also earn badges for completing swims that correspond in distance to the heights of landmarks ranging from Mount Everest to the Statue of Liberty.
Once swimmers join Swim Team, they gain access to the Speedo Pace Club Training Modules, which are broken down into beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The four modules provide twelve weeks of workouts, commentary and tips, and as swimmers complete the drills, they can share their progress with their Swim Teams as well as their Facebook and Twitter connections. Swimmers who dont keep up with the program will get calls from Olympic coaches Teri McKeever and Dave Salo, encouraging them to get back in the pool. McKeever and Salo also share their expertise through commentary that accompanies a series of demonstration videos featured in a Technique Module.
In addition to hearing from coaches, Speedo Pace Club puts swimmers in touch with the superstars of swimming. Through a number of pro Athlete Blogs, members have access to the likes of Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin and the aforementioned Phelps, who share training tips, personal experiences, and videos highlighting their lives and accomplishments in and out of the water.
A swimming locator dubbed Splash Tags is also part of Speedo Pace Club, and it helps members find pools, swim teams and swim programs in their area. To access Splash Tags on the Web site, swimmers enter their city or zip code; those using iPhones dont need to enter any information because the device simply geolocates where they are.
Swimmers can check in to let their swim-team friends know what pool theyre at, as well as share comments on pools.
When it comes to hyperconnectivity, Speedo Pace Club is an example of whats possible when you meld the human desire for social connection with the capabilities of todays digital and mobile technology to bring people and content together 24/7.
That said, hyperconnectivity wasnt part of the conversation when Syrup created Speedo Pace Club. Im going to be completely frank with you. Im Scandinavian, so all these American buzzwords dont really do anything for me, Gardezi says, stressing, It was really about giving swimmers a full experience.
And of course its about selling Speedo swimwear, too. We certainly didnt want to pound people over the head with Purchase, purchase, purchase! Tyrrell says. We wanted this to be an experience, so product is a component of the site, but its contextual.
For example, if a swimmer is on Phelps blog watching a video of him competing in the lzr Racer, it will appear in the product widget. So it feels very organic and natural versus being so over-the-head, Tyrrell maintains.
Another tool on the selling front: the Speedo 2012 Racing Catalog. Syrup wrote and shot the print publication, infusing it with qr codes that iPhone users can scan to watch video interviews in which Olympic swimmers talk about the benefits of specific Speedo merchandise.
Looking ahead, Tyrrell says the Speedo Pace Club will grow and evolve. As we go into the  London Olympics, well use it as a way to connect the revolutionary products that our Team Speedo stars will be wearing with real-time updates from next summers events, says Tyrrell.