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Marmot Super (Bowl) Sizes Marketing Message

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What happens when one of the largest consumer goods conglomerates in the world purchases one of the largest outdoor product groups in the world? Apparently, they go to the Super Bowl together.

And Marmot, part of the Jarden Corporation — which owns 120 brands including more than two dozen in its Outdoor Solutions segment such as K2, Coleman, ExOfficio, Marker, and Volkl — will star as MVP and the first niche outdoor brand to have its own Super Bowl commercial.

“This is not just a Super Bowl thing,” Marmot General Manager Joe Flannery said. “We have multi-year, multi-tiered strategy in place for this campaign.” It’s not just about revenue return. “Softer attributes, like love, desirability, and trust are insanely important attributes in our industry.”

The spot, produced by San Francisco-based agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, will air on CBS during Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 as the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara, Calif.

It has garnered serious media attention even outside the outdoor industry; the Wall Street Journal and Ad Week, among other media outlets, reported this week on the upcoming ad campaign, and several trailers have been widely circulated featuring Marmot’s new namesake mascot.

Super Bowl spots are traditionally the realm of consumer advertising’s wealthiest and most influential brands, as well as a number of newcomers each year willing to fork over the up to $5 million for 30-second game-time commercials, according to Fortune.

Result of the Acquisition?

In a spate of major changes starting in December 2015, Jarden, reporting annual sales of $8.29 billion in 2014, agreed to merge with Newell Rubbermaid Inc. Rubbermaid’s portfolio includes brands Avex, Sharpie, Paper Mate, Elmer’s, Contigo, Calphalon, Graco and Baby Jogger.

Not surprisingly, the last month has seen several key changes to the executive and management teams.

Marmot created the general manager position taken on by Flannery, former The North Face and Adidas exec. Mark Martin, president of Marmot for the past 12 years, became president/CEO of Jarden’s Technical Apparel division, made up of Marmot and ExOfficio. Fritz will stay on as VP of marketing for Marmot.

Insiders may deduce that the spend is part of a larger move by Newell Rubbermaid President/CEO Mike Polk to build up the best brands quickly, as his reputation for selling lagging brands in successful mergers precedes him. But Flannery, who’s only been on the job for three weeks, said that Marmot has always been a “chosen brand” within Jarden, having demonstrated sustainable growth for the last 15 years.

While the Super Bowl ad campaign has some outdoor industry heads asking what this means for Marmot’s core audience, Flannery says that this ad buy was funded by parent company Jarden, and won’t affect the portion of Marmot’s budget dedicated to supporting the endemic market (Marmot spent $4.5 million on advertising across all media combined in 2014, according to Advertising Age).

“It’s easy to think that there may not be any money left to support the endemic, but that’s just not the case,” Flannery said.

Will “cute and cuddly” cut it?

In a press release issued last week, Mark Martin, president of Marmot, explained the ad’s rationale: “The marmot is a perfect guide to the outdoors because it loves the outside, it’s cute and cuddly, and through that we can have a lot of very humorous, playful and engaging creative.”

“Marmot is a cool, authentic brand,” says Kevin Adler, chief engagement officer at Engage Marketing, a Chicago based sports marketing agency. Adler also happens to be an outdoors guy, and a fan of Marmot gear. “But if I were a consumer that was not aware of the brand before seeing these teasers, all I know now is that they have a cute mascot with a strong and healthy prostrate.”

“Yes, they’re entertaining,” Adler said. “But I don’t know that they move the brand’s position forward. There’s no arguing that the Super Bowl is the premier awareness vehicle in all of media, and this will exponentially impact awareness of Marmot. But if the ads don’t make me feel emotional about the brand, and then consider it for my next purchase, it’s not enough.”

Marmot has a bigger view.

“We want to demonstrate that Marmot is a brand for anyone that believes that everything is better outside,” Fritz said. “Marmot wants to be the brand that invites you out your front door and helps you fall in love with the outside.”

This, despite the fact that there is actually no product message behind this particular spot, Flannery confirmed.

By way of comparison, Adler pointed to recent television campaigns by The North Face and Columbia, which give viewers a clear and emotional sense of the brands and products.

Marketing dollars fall into two big buckets: awareness and engagement, says Adler. The ad has already generated significant internet buzz in outdoor circles and the teasers have racked up the clicks. Thanks to social media, Super Bowl ads have legs beyond the big game-day airing. And when the game is over, Marmot will have quantitative data— impressions, a lift in web traffic—to prove this. Awareness: ✔

But how will Marmot engage customers from there? According to Adler, a one shot spend doesn’t do it. “Best practices say that before you spend a dollar, you clearly articulate the actual, measurable deliverables on an investment,” he says. “At the end of the day, what matters is whether the cash register rings.”

Marmot has future plans for extensive surveys and questionnaires that will help them quantify the actual engagement boost that comes from the ad.

“This is all part of a larger strategy supported by our parent company to grow the Marmot brand in a huge way,” Fritz told SNEWS. “The benefit of this growth will be shared by all of our customers, from specialty outdoor retailers, to chain retailers to dotcom-only retailers. Our goal is to build Marmot brand awareness … and drive consumer traffic into our customers’ shops.”

The question is: Does a furry little rodent have what it takes? Time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: We’ll be glued to the game on Super Bowl Sunday, waiting to Meet the Marmot. (Insider tip: The ad will air in the first half.)