By: Kristi Dosh / Link to article
Last September American Eagle launched its #AEAthletic Dept program to take advantage of new name, image and likeness rules and legislation allowing college athletes to work with brands. Three new athletes are the campaign: UCLA softball star Maya Brady, Sam Houston State cheerleader and star of Netflix’s Cheer Jada Wooten, along with LSU track and field athlete, Eric Edwards Jr.
American Eagle kicked off its initial campaign last fall by working with Klutch Sports Group to name Kedon Slovis, quarterback for University of Southern California, Sevyn Banks, cornerback for Ohio State, and Tank Bigsby, running back for Auburn University, as its inaugural #AEAthleticDept partners. The brand later worked with WME Sports to secure Olivia Dunne, All-American gymnast for Louisiana State University.
“We’re a leader at being first to market with innovation that keeps our Gen Z customer engaged, so when we learned that the NCAA relaxed its sponsorship rules, we took action and launched a college athlete marketing program called #AEAthleticDept,” said American Eagle CMO Craig Brommers.
The first four athletes to work with the brand each have profiles where consumers can learn more about them as individuals and also shop each athlete’s list of favorite apparel:
Wooten says the partnership was an easy decision for her because American Eagle is a brand she has a long relationship with as a consumer.
“I don’t remember a time in my life where AE wasn’t there. In reflection, the brand was just part of our family. My mom and sister always wore AE jeans long before I was old enough. When I finally fit them, I was in them.”
“Over the years as I grew and developed my identity, my style changed many times. Throughout all the changes AE was always a staple,” said Wooten. “When all else failed I went back to the basics: AE jeans, T’s, and sweats. It felt like I was able to wear the brand no matter my age or style. The AE vibe always works for me.”
Edwards agrees that American Eagle is a good fit for his personal style as well.
“American Eagle is a great style fit for me. I feel it embodies who I am, not only as a track athlete, but my overall individuality.”
Asked how the athletes were chosen, Brommers said the brand looks for athletes who are relatable to the collegiate consumers it is trying to reach.
“As with all of our partners, we look for influential talent who embody our brand values of authenticity, individuality and most importantly – relatability to our community.”
“Sports are one of the top passions of our customers, and our goal for the program is to further highlight these interests through identifying college-level athletes who are relatable and inspirational to their peers,” said Brommers. “We’re excited to add some new players to the bench including Maya Brady, Jada Wooten and Eric Edwards Jr. who all bring a unique and personal perspective on style and represent diversity across different schools, communities and sports.”
Brommers says the brand is watching engagement both through social and email marketing as it measures the success of the campaign.
“We’ve already seen strong customer sentiment and engagement across our social platforms with significant drive in visits to the site through email featuring the athletes with a 45% increase in email open rate. We also continue to see an influx of direct messages on social media from athletes looking to be a part of what we’re building. These athletes are resonating with the customer.”
Athletes in the program create authentic content that is featured across both American Eagle’s and each athlete’s own social channels, in addition to the brand highlighting their personal stories and passions within blog posts.