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Adopting a 'blue ocean' strategy

28th Mar 2017
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We are constantly in pursuit of that valuable connection between a brand and consumer. We are all continually identifying key insights for our clients, and linking them to consumers.

As we also know, real life experiences are a powerful platform on which to connect brands and engage their audiences. We have learnt that powerful engagement will happen when we offer people something authentic in this experience, some thing that they need and desire. And, we know that the real magic happens when we are offering a solution that is not available to the world already, going deeper into resolving a valued human need.

To make this magic happen, we’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about Blue Ocean strategy and how that can be applied to our agency, and, to our client’s campaigns.

Simply put, Blue Ocean Strategy is the pursuit of differentiation to open up a new uncontested market space and create new demand.

To achieve this ‘value innovation’, four key questions are answered.

What factors common to an industry can be:

1. Eliminated?

2. Reduced?

3. Created? and,

4. Raised? above the norm.

Famous examples have come from Apple, Skype, Nintendo and Uber, but they aren’t all technology related. In worlds close to our 'active entertainment world', Cirque du Soleil, and Curves are cited as having advanced their industries through this approach.

Blue ocean

Like many worlds, our active / participation sport industry is evolving quickly, service providers need to find new offerings to meet our consumer’s expectations, or be lost in the bloodied red oceans of fierce competition.

And our industry has reacted, or in fact taken the lead down many new paths. Aspects of Blue Ocean strategies can be seen in many examples.

In the ‘active world’, parkrun has created a new running movement, being a facilitator of free, timed, weekly 5km running events (at 900+ locations and 110,000 events so far around the world!).

By eliminating entry fees front of house, and costly overheads such as staff, road closures etc. back of house, reducing commitment (‘only’ 5km to run, no entry or membership fees), raising the sense of community and achievement (global timing, milestone runs, ‘user generated’ social media content etc.), and creating a weekly, locally / globally linked community. A key element was creating technology that facilitates the fundamental elements of participant experience and operational management (registration and results, plus volunteer rostering), which has allowed for simple but seemless experiences for the providers and participant, and, a scalable concept.

Value maps can illustrate the differences between competing options. 

blue ocean

The poster child of the mass participation world in recent years has been Colour Run, which created a new running market, one that wasn’t for the runner! As the Colour Run participant persona tells us, the vast majority of participants were not runners at all. A market of ‘active entertainment’ has been created, with Glow Runs, Zombie Runs etc. all following in search of the crucial ‘first to market’ opportunities. These Color and other runs eliminated the competitive element, and even at 5km in length reduced the training and preparation commitment needed in peoples lives leading into the experience. The entertainment aspect was raised, creating a sense of play and fun that has inherent appeal to us all.

Also, traditional participation sport service providers can learn a lot from the broader active lifestyle market.

Member based BodyPass & Classpass are disrupting traditional gym membership models, by creating choice for consumers and a broad member community, raising the profile of many independent service providers, eliminating the commitment to just one gym or studio, and reducing the pains of a locked in, limited choice contract. Golf is one very traditional sport starting to partner with various brands in a similar way, to offer non traditional membership models across multiple clubs.

At Limelight we are finding strength in our position in our industry, our clients see us offering a different proposition, and in recent campaign concepts we have created, we’ve seen various Blue Ocean Strategies applied successfully.

By ‘rewriting the rules of your commute’, Home Run, eliminated many things we usually see in an event; no medals, no time, no placings, no competition, no running jargon – simply creating motivation and facilitation of running via a service that provides the means to enjoy your commute while being active.  Raising the active and social antidote to modern city living, at the same time reducing time pressure in peoples lives by combining their active and transport needs.

With our RBC V Series, an exhilarating corporate cycling experience, bringing the drama and excitement of the velodrome to the streets of London, we created a ‘marginal gains’ themed corporate learning experience, reinventing the corporate cycling event – by reducing the endurance element and, the lack of knowledge of how to ride (fast) as a team, eliminating the medals and non valued items, but raising the focus on strategy, and learnings from a experience, the team work, 'all or nothing', and 'one chance' competition. By raising the support, tools, and access to a high profile event positioned in the heart of Canary Wharf (a place where riders and brands want to be), we have created a desirable new active corporate experience.  

Blue Oceans can seem very obvious in hindsight, but as any entrepreneur will know, being the first to market with a truly differentiated offering is never an easy place to get to.

I’d love to hear your examples of Blue Oceans in the active sporting world. The end game is to ‘create uncontested market space & make the competition irrelevant’. A nice place to be when we get there!

More thoughts at

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