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The performance benefits of Merino wool were highlighted at this year’s Boston Marathon – the most prestigious marathon in the world – thanks to a new three-way partnership between global sportswear giant adidas, the Boston Athletic Association and AWI’s marketing arm The Woolmark Company.
“I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to the benefits of wool, especially seeing all the people who couldn’t finish the race, and were being pulled off the course and brought into the medical tents,” says relieved first-time marathon runner, Amanda Ordway, who wore an adidas long-sleeved wool T-shirt to run in this year’s event, which she completed.
This year’s Boston Marathon had the worst weather for many years – with consistently heavy rain, blustery winds and temperatures not too far above freezing.
The adverse conditions along the route caused many weary runners to drop out.
“It wasn’t until after the race that I heard that this was the coldest Boston Marathon in more than 30 years,” continues Amanda.
“I didn’t even realise how cold it was, because I was never cold. I was certainly wet, but never was cold. I honestly credit the wool for keeping me warm and comfortable, in what were the most uncomfortable running conditions. It is truly an amazing product for athletes!”
Amanda was one of four first-time marathon runners who were identified by The Woolmark Company to take part in a marketing campaign in the lead up to the event in mid-April to promote wool as the perfect fibre for sports and activewear.
The campaign was a partnership with leading sportswear company adidas that involved the launch of an adidas Merino T-shirt and the placing of wool front and centre of the internationally recognised marathon.
Begun in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the 26.2 mile (42.195km) race each year, and the event now attracts an average of 30,000 registered participants and 500,000 spectators.
The top 20 runners in each of the 13 age-group categories that completed the race this year received a special individually boxed Woolmark-adidas ‘Best in Boston’ T-shirt, made from 75% Merino wool.
This is anticipated to generate more awareness and interest in wool sportswear amongst the top runners who competed.
A ‘replica’ Woolmark-adidas version was simultaneously available for other runners and consumers at stores across Boston and online.
The Woolmark Company takes an active role in working with internal adidas teams, connecting the sports brand with the wider wool supply chain and supporting business units on product innovation. Importantly, this project marks the first time adidas has co-branded with the Woolmark brand on a garment.
“Collaborating with an industry leader such as adidas allows us to showcase the natural benefits of Merino wool including thermo-regulation, anti-odour and movement in the context of cutting edge design and innovation,” said AWI CEO Stuart McCullough.
“The relationship is testament to the versatility of Merino wool and the forward-thinking vision of the adidas product development team.”
Throughout March and April, the large-scale pre-race marketing campaign was created to build consumer interest in wool and the wool product, centred around the theme 'I Wool Win', followed by a post-race ‘Won with Wool’ theme.
The campaign, co-branded with adidas, ran across social media channels, in the Boston Globe newspaper and outdoor advertising including billboards.
The advertising promoted the Woolmark brand and championed the performance benefits of Merino wool, breaking misconceptions that the fibre is only for heavier knits in the colder months.
A key part of the campaign was the promotion of the four Boston-based first-time marathon runners – see box right – who trained in the adidas Merino gear in the lead-up to the marathon.
All four participants shared their training journey and were heavily promoted via The Woolmark Company’s social media channels and on www.boston.com.
They all went on to achieve their goal of completing this year’s particularly grueling race.There was another runner at Boston this year who has a very special connection to wool.
The Woolmark Company’s Product and Education Extension Manager for the UK, Louise Campbell, completed her first Boston marathon (her second marathon).
She too wore the Woolmark-adidas Boston Marathon T-shirt along with wool-rich shorts and 100% Merino wool socks.
Louise battled the atrocious weather conditions to cross the finish line in a personal victory.
“The weather was really brutal, but having Merino wool next to my skin as a base-layer kept me warm and mostly dry despite the awful conditions,” she said at the finish line.
The Woolmark Company’s three-way partnership at the Boston Marathon will continue in 2019 and 2020
For more stories from Beyond the Bale head to www.wool.com/btb