Marketing Studio Founder: How an Art-Infused Night Run Uncovered A New City
How lululemon, a running community, and LA created a virtuous circle of social engagement
Peter Abraham, the founder of Abraham Content Marketing Studio, tells PSFK how bringing together two passionate groups of people created a community with lululemon.
Working in the fitness and running space, I’ve noticed a shift in how millennials work out over the past few years. It goes along with everything else you’ve heard about this demographic: ‘it’s all about the experience’ for them, they want to share what they’re doing with everyone, and they’re drawn to improving the cities in which they live through the frames of community and community betterment.
Having connected brands authentically with various tribes during my career, lululemon approached me to build an initiative around the Los Angeles Marathon and the Olympic Trials Marathon. So I looked toward running clubs from this demographic. I started by inviting 10 of these clubs to dinner and asking them what they needed and what they were seeing in the run community. These groups are interesting for the following reasons: the members are in their late 20s, they’re all on Instagram, and running has become a social, rather than a fitness, experience for them. They also mostly run at night, and drinking after the workout is a common occurrence.
One of the clubs, BlacklistLA, is quite big, with 15,000 followers on Instagram, and group runs five days per week. But there’s a twist to their runs: they run for the purpose of seeing art. That’s their mission. Over dinner, their founder, Erik Valiente, told us about his dream to actually create some art. BlacklistLA often runs by public art installations, but those are a product of somebody else’s vision. What if they could create art that celebrated the running community in Los Angeles?
Along with Colleen Angeles, the LA Community Manager for lululemon, I decided to build a partnership between BlacklistLA, the Do Art Foundation, and lululemon. We set out to create significant, large-scale public art installations that would be executed to speak to the runners of LA directly. This type of art—celebrating sports and running—hadn’t been completed in LA since the mid-‘80s, just after the 1984 Olympic Games. Under the guidance of Carmen Zella, Do Art’s founder, we placed the installations in proximity to one another in downtown Los Angeles. This allowed us to create a unique 4-mile running route that connected the artwork.
We decided to unveil the art on BlacklistLA’s Monday night run, which regularly attracts over 100 runners, despite the late 10:00 pm start time. With careful planning and messaging, a crowd of over 600 runners came out that night. The artists included:
Bunnie Reiss—her wall, in the Little Tokyo district, took a representative approach to running, with magpies representing strength, and a large sun image that speaks to LA’s beautiful climate.
Drew Merritt is a self-taught artist who paints in classical technique. His huge, beautifully-rendered runners in mid-stride (in the lead image above) speak to the running community in its native language. The mural manages to be classic and contemporary all at once.
WRDSMTH created word-based wheat paste installations at multiple locations across the city. As a lifelong writer, his work creates meaning through the inclusion of inspirational word combinations.
Calder Greenwood has a unique style that involves constructing 12-foot-high figures out of cardboard and paper mache. The two giant figures in his work represented the past (Athena) and future (an astronaut) of running. These were mobile installations that we used along our night run, following us along the Olympic Trials course, and at the LA Marathon.
This project succeeded because it tapped into the energy exchange that takes place between artist and community: The artists created inspiration for the runners, who in turn gave energy back to the artists with appreciation and a heightened awareness of their surroundings. lululemon, in turn, was able to galvanize and motivate the LA run community around a unique idea. They also used the initiative to tell a story around art at their retail stores and to deepen relationships with local run clubs. BlacklistLA, for the first time, was able to take part in the creation of art aimed directly at their runners. The city of LA meanwhile got artwork that makes the downtown area a better place to live and work.
This project created a virtuous circle that connected the running community, the city, and lululemon in a harmonious night of community-building, making it a great model for other cities and brands to follow.
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