Inside Tough Mudder’s content strategy

Turns out that scaling 10-foot walls and leaping over fire pits has mass appeal. Just ask Tough Mudder, the endurance race brand that has amassed a cult-like following and emerged as a global brand.

Tough Mudder’s appeal lies in the fact that it has made endurance events accessible to everyone. The teamwork that its courses foster is the very opposite of the solitary nature of regular endurance events. There are no winners, and the races are typically untimed; about four-fifths of participants make it across the finish line.

“We’ve always been a lifestyle, a community and a tribe because we unite people around and deliver a thrilling, life-changing experience,” said Jesse Bull, svp of brand and creative at Tough Mudder. “And that doesn’t end at the events. We continue to expand this tribe-based lifestyle brand at additional physical and digital touchpoints beyond the events.”

Since being founded in 2010, the brand’s military-style obstacle races have emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing athletic activities, with over 60 annual races that draw between 10,000 and 15,000 participants. Tough Mudder claims 2.5 million have finished its races to date.

“Tough Mudder has done well because it is a more accessible entry into the world of more challenging sports,” said Shaun Varga, chairman and creative director at Ingenuity.“We’ve seen huge growth in the popularity of the likes of triathlons and Ironman competitions, and I think it is part of this broader trend.”

Tough Mudder has expanded quickly by designing its marketing and messaging around shareable content like photos and videos from its events with the #ToughMudder hashtag. There are now nearly a half million posts with the hashtag on Instagram alone.

But it is video that is the brand’s new focus. An in-house team of three people oversees branding and creative, including content, copy and video. The typical video explores themes like training tips and inspirational participant stories.

Coachified,” for example, is a weekly training series distributed on YouTube and Facebook. It has over 5 million views for its 2015 Season and over 2 million views to date for its 2016. On the inspirational side, there’s a video on a paraplegic person who is a regular participant in the races.

A mudder flaunting his tattoo at a recent event in Atlanta.
A mudder flaunting his tattoo at a recent event in Atlanta.

“Tough Mudder is an incredibly visual event,” said Bull. “We’re at an incredibly privileged position now, but we’ve worked hard to reach here. The key is to keep them engaged and keep listening.”

Tough Mudder has also sought to create brand “rituals.” It has dubbed Mondays as “Headband Mondays,” where it encourages all participants who have finished their courses to wear their headbands and share their pictures on social media. Similarly, Tuesdays are “Tattoosdays,” where it celebrates its most loyal fans who have gotten tattoos of the brand. (The brand claims over 10,000 have gotten brand tatts.)

“We would not be anything without our community — they’re doing a lot for us in terms of evangelizing the brand and getting more people to sign up,” said Bull.

Live streaming may just about be taking off, but Tough Mudder is betting big on it as a way to further expand its community. The brand live streamed video on Facebook as well as its own website from an event getting views to the tune of 2 million and over 30,000 interactions. It also has an ongoing partnership with Livestream.

“Live streaming is a huge priority for us right now,” said Bull.

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