When you receive an invite to an event centred around a product launch, the concepts surrounding the campaign tend come with an element of scepticism. That’s not to say that there isn’t a level of excitement that comes with the event, but any marketing surrounding it tends to be a way to promote whatever the product is and not a really interesting standalone initiative.
Luckily, and I say this with complete earnestness, the latest promotion from ASICS manages to deliver an idea that is fully worth the excitement surrounding it. I mean, it’s such a good campaign that the premise is interesting enough to turn into an actual event itself, with no need to exist for the purpose of PR.
Trust me. It’s not often I throw this much praise out for a brand marketing campaign.
So, what exactly is #ASICSBlackout?
To coincide with Global Running Day, ASICS unveiled a campaign focused on training the mind as well as the body. What that basically means is they set up a running experience in a massive location near Canada Water that would give runners the opportunity to remove all distractions and focus on synchronising the mind and body. Not a lot of information was shared before the event itself so how they would do this was pretty unclear. Would I just be running in an empty warehouse? I had no idea.
The layout of the setup was pretty spectacular, not far off the Star Wars Secret Cinema event that took place in the same location a few years ago. Thin white spotlights dotted the enormous black event space, with various images of the rather attractive looking Gel-Kayano 25 trainers sporadically placed around product displays. Ambient sounds filled the echoing space as I was taken through an overview of the shoe itself.
After having any electronic “distractions” removed from my person (like watches or headphones), the next stage of the event would see me trying out a pair of Gel Kayano 25s through a series of warm up drills under the guidance of trainer and coach, Charles Oxley, before the track was prepared for my run.
This is where things started to get really interesting. After a few minutes I was walked into a separate room where I could see very little save for a one-person wide running track marked on the floor and a load of powerful lights shining right at me. I basically couldn’t see a thing. I was told that I could have one walk around the 150 metre track to get my bearings before a buzzer would sound and I’d just start running for 25 minutes. No guidance as to how or at what speed I should attempt to run. Just get out there and start running.
I’ve done training runs before where the aim was to avoid electronic distractions, but in the outside world there a hell of a lot more to distract you than just that. In this room there was nothing. They even drowned out any ambient sound by piping through a sort of dull humming sound.
I started running around the track with the idea that I’d try and count how many laps I was doing. That plan disappeared very quickly as my mind started to wander into various patterns. I thought about what I’d write about, how fast I was running and tried to estimate how long I’d been on there for. Very soon it just felt like a vague void. I had no idea what distance I’d ran or if I was going faster or slower than normal. At some points I tried to speed up to see how it felt, at other points I tried to change my running style to see how it made me feel. I felt aches in my legs that I’d normally ignore, I felt a niggling sense that my left shoe wasn’t on quite right and I even started to worry that something wasn’t quite right with my ankle. It was an experience I’d never felt before.
After a while it felt like I’d been in there for far longer than 25 minutes. My mood went from enjoying myself to desperately wanting it to be over very quickly. I kept wondering if it was a trick to see how far I’d run. Eventually the buzzer sounded and I slowed down my pace to a walk before heading back in the next stage of the process.
After a debrief with Charles and movement consultant, Chevy Rough, I was taken through a series of take-away mental and physically exercises to help deal with distractions, not just in running but for life in general. It was an interesting segment of information and something I’ve never really seen applied to running in such a clear way before. Things like how breathing through your nose makes the mind feel less stressed and focusing on your peripheral vision help to calm your mental state, especially during a recovery stage.
As well as a number of press and influencer sessions, the event also acted as the basis for a series of experiments to see how the lack of distractions might affect athletic performance. I’ve yet to hear back from that yet, or indeed how fast I was running. Don’t you worry though, I’ll update this as soon as I do.
So yeah, a ruddy interesting campaign that’s made me think about running in ways I’ve never had the opportunity or inclination to do before. Well done ASICS.
For more information on the new Gel Kayano-25, head over to the website here.
Picture Credits: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for ASICS