Why Athletic Brands Are Turning To Retail Theater In Emerging Markets
Under Armour houses a panoramic film experience inside a retail outlet to connect with savvy Chinese shoppers.
Sports clothing retailers are experimenting to capture the imagination of consumers in-store. Many of these initiatives are multi-sensory experiences and installations built around a product or brand to create an emotional bond with consumers. You may recall Sephora’s Sensorium or Nike’s Hyperfeel as examples. Under Armour underwent a similar feat for the launch and digitalization of their retail outlet in Shanghai.
Most recently, HUSH developed a unique experimental retail space for the sportswear brand Under Armour, to mark its arrival in Shanghai. It focuses on the spirit of sport and exercise, with shoppers first led to view a short film before being guided to the retail area.
The environment places storytelling at the forefront through a multi-dimensional short film that immerses visitors in the brand’s world of making athletes better through passion and innovation. In an email interview with David Schwarz, Creative Partner at HUSH, explains the compelling power of retail theater:
“Building an immersive experience within the retail context is incredibly powerful. It creates a space that upends a consumer’s assumptions, challenges them with the new, and takes an expected shopping experience and turns it upside-down. This surprise engenders an openness of emotions and a willingness to take in what the Under Armour brand has to say – precisely the feeling that traditional retail should deliver, but rarely does because consumers are so hyper-aware of the retail context.
This isn’t a screen on a wall playing video ad nauseam, or an iPad on a fixture – this is pure emotional resonance. The primary purpose of the experience was to inspire the Chinese audience with a world of athletics and hardcore training that resides at the center of the Under Armour brand. While the store was designed to focus on pure sensory immersion, we did dedicate a smaller area of the store to retail at the end as the audience emerges from the panoramic film experience.”
After entering the space, visitors walk down a 30-foot long tunnel of light, designed to alter their retina in preparation for the Experience room. Inside, a 270-degree panoramic film surrounds the viewer. (much of which was shot using a customized GoPro camera) It is designed to tell the story of the Under Armour brand using a series of vignettes.
When it ends, visitors are invited to discover a limited selection of Under Armour footwear and apparel by moving into the retail space, which hosts four individual product brand stories. You can check out the retail experience in the video below:
We had the chance to connect with Under Armour’s SVP, Creative Steve Battista whom explained the key consumer insight Under Armour is leveraging to create synergy with the Chinese consumer:
“We always like to lead with the Under Armour story first, to establish our mission and our brand promise, and let the consumer know that our job is to make them just a little bit better. It’s never been about showing big shots of our athletes and then selling a bunch of shoes and shirts to people. Instead we always look at it like a partnership, a friendship. They bring the effort, the will, the hard work, and we deliver an advantage they can’t find anywhere else. The first part of gaining that trust, before they ever slip on a pair of our shoes, or pull a shirt on, is learning about who we are, where we come from and how hard we’ll work for them if they give us the opportunity.”
According to Forbes, the brand has ambitious plans for the Chinese market. With an e-commerce destination already in place, Under Armour currently have five stores in China and plan to complete another three this year.