Running Room makes room for all runners

The family-owned fitness retailer's new spot may serve as a springboard for a future platform.
Running Room

As Edmonton-based fitness retailer Running Room celebrates 35 years in business this year, it wanted to capture the spirit of the community that is at the heart of its brand.

Working with Ottawa’s Soshal, the new 30-second spot delves into the story of Chris, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2017. The disease infected his voice box and trachea, resulting in surgery that ultimately led to his losing his voice. The commercial mentions how he returned to running as a way of fighting against the title of “cancer survivor” and ends with the line, “There’s room in Chris’ run for recovery.”

The approach in the spot is different for the 35-year-old brand, which has always been a very grassroots company, says Jarina Yeung, director of marketing at Running Room, although it has previously run campaigns featuring people overcoming obstacles through running.

Soshal developed the campaign creative and tagline, and Running Room is managing media planning in-house.

Yeung says Running Room hasn’t yet decided the full media strategy for the ad, although it will be looking at running it on its social channels and in a few upcoming campaigns, and may possibly be a springboard for a larger platform. In terms of its marketing strategy, she says, the brand remains focused on growing the sport of running and getting more people involved.

“Often our challenge is speaking to an audience who thinks that they’re not a runner or they can’t run,” Yeung says. “We wanted the campaign to portray that everyone can be a runner. Chris is a great example of someone who was able to embody the spirit of the sport of running and the community that runners can be a part of.”

Running Room has around 110 stores across North America. Its founder, John Stanton, and his company have sometimes been attributed with having slowed down the average time for marathon runs – the result of having encouraged more recreational participants to get involved.

The creative concept started out with wanted to exploring why that might be, says Dave Hale, Soshal’s managing partner. While Running Room is a retailer, the company’s goal is largely to make the sport more accessible. The people who show up at Running Room locations tend to be looking for the community aspect that it provides, and have a desire to learn and improve through the company’s group-based training programs, he says.

During the pitch process, Hale and his wife joined its fitness program and soon discovered that have different reasons for running: the majority are there for reasons that extend beyond health and fitness reasons, he says. “There’s something else that they’re running for.” There are parents who want to get out of the house, older people looking to do an activity at their own pace, business executives who talk about stress relief, and people like Chris where it’s about challenge and proving something to himself, Hale says.

The assignment falls a little outside of Soshal’s wheelhouse. The digital agency has tended to focus on user experience, design and digital strategy assignments (such as this one for SurveyMonkey), but it felt it had a strong story to tell about the brand and asked to be included in the pitch process, Hale says.“We enjoy putting ourselves out there and investing in pitches.”