How the Wristband Became a Marketing Success Story

wristbandThe humble wristband as a fashion accessory is nothing new. People have been wearing bangles, ribbons and bracelets on their wrists in the name of style for thousands of years, and some bright spark even had the innovative idea of attaching a miniature clock to a wristband so that people could tell the time on the move.

But it is only relatively recently that the potential of the wristband as a marketing tool has received widespread recognition. Nowadays, the wristband is a prime piece of marketing merchandise, and not something that should be overlooked by any enterprising businesspeople who want to raise the profile of their brand. But how did this happen, and what makes the wristband so useful to marketers?

Where it all Began:  Nike and the Livestrong Foundation

livestrong wristbandBack in 2004, professional road cyclist Lance Armstrong wasn’t exactly unknown. The Texan-born athlete had already achieved five of his seven Tour de France victories, and had succeeded in a high-profile battle with cancer, but his cancer charity – the Livestrong Foundation – was not yet the household name it was to become.

Enter sports clothing and equipment giant Nike. Nike’s marketing teams recognised the potential power of the Livestrong name, and went into partnership with the foundation to produce the now world famous Livestrong wristband.

The beauty of the wristband was in its simplicity. Bright yellow, the wristband’s colour already represented the unique brand of Lance Armstrong, whose maillot jaune – or yellow jersey – was ever-present among the leaders of global cycle races, while its lightweight design and low production costs made it ideal for widespread marketing.

The Livestrong wristband tapped into an underlying human trait; the desire for inclusion. Soon, a flash of yellow from beneath the shirt-cuff was a ubiquitous sight in classrooms, lecture-halls, offices and workplaces across the world. As the wristband’s popularity grew, so did the gravity of its marketing pull, with no-one wanting to feel left out of the rush to support Armstrong and his foundation.

Armstrong has since been discredited and has had his Tour titles stripped from him, but the Livestrong wristband remains one of the marketing world’s most astounding success stories.

The Wristband:  More Than an Accessory, a Lifestyle

tyvek wristbandsThe Livestrong wristband set a precedent. Its success proved that wristbands could take their place alongside other, more traditional, methods on the frontline of global marketing. It also reinforced an old adage of marketing; if you can make something fashionable, it will sell.

The next generation of marketing-oriented wristbands took a rather different angle to that of Nike and the Livestrong Foundation. These new kids on the wristband block began life as functional items, and evolved to become a potent marketing tool; the festival wristband.

In the post-Woodstock world, music festivals became marginalised. They were seen as the preserve of left-of-centre types, music geeks and weird people who didn’t mind spending a weekend covered in mud. But in the late-2000s, all that changed. Festivals such as Glastonbury, Big Day Out and Benicassim became places to see and be seen, and epicenters of global style. Anyone who has witnessed the internet-shattering aftermath of the Coachella fashion parade can confirm that this is true.

Marketers realized that, instead of cutting off their festival passes, eager concert-goers were wearing the wristbands for several months afterwards as a way of advertising their membership to an exclusive social club. Concert promoters had sold a lifestyle to punters, a lifestyle of fashion, culture and hedonism that people could aspire to, and festival wristbands became an intrinsic part of that lifestyle.

Of course, advertising and sponsorship space on festival wristbands soon became highly sought after promotional property, with brands stumping up astronomical funds for the privilege of having their logo displayed on a thin piece of fabric.

The wristband may be small, humble and relatively cheap to produce, but its marketing potential cannot be overstated. As long as there are fashion styles and trends, there will be a place for the wristband in the marketing arsenal of any brand.

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