Swapping Ski Audiences: K2 Gives Retailers Access to Its Visitors

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Ski and snowboard maker K2 Sports is giving its retail partners a new ability to reach people who are interested in its products such as Super Charger skis or Bottle Rocket snowboards.

In December, the company, which also makes snowshoes as well as ice and inline skates, paired with OwnerIQ to open its data marketplace, a co-op program allowing retailers selling K2 branded gear to aim co-branded ads to winter sports shoppers who have visited K2's 10 websites.

Today, five retailers have signed on to the opportunity to deliver ads for their stores to people visiting K2's in-house-managed websites, which generate 1.5 million page views each month. With a total of 50 retailers pre-approved for the co-op, K2 anticipates more interest from those other stores, particularly when it makes a planned push behind the co-op and co-branded ad collateral this summer, when its 2017 product lines are introduced.

The company, like others in the winter sports business, still considers full-page ads in print ski magazines a cornerstone of its marketing efforts, and has operated a traditional co-op program assisting retailers by subsidizing local TV and print ads.

However, data-centric digital offerings are becoming as important. The firm hired Adam Harkness as its digital and social marketing specialist in September 2016 in an effort to steer the brand toward a more data-driven digital marketing approach.

"With many high-quality brands competing in our space, we need an in-depth understanding of both our customers and the initiatives that resonate with them to design better products and grow our brand," said Alex Draper, VP-marketing at K2 Sports. "Data partnerships help us accomplish these goals."

Because the winter sports equipment industry is what Mr. Harkness calls "relationship-based," the data marketplace should enhance and nurture the relationships brick-and-mortar ski shops build with customers who buy K2 products, he suggested.

Brands that work with OwnerIQ grant permission with specific conditions allowing retailers to aim programmatic ads across the web to audiences who have viewed their brand sites. An appliance brand might give a home supply store access to its audience through the platform, or a political campaign might be able to serve ads to people who have visited a like-minded nonprofit's or publication's website, for example.

The idea, said OwnerIQ CEO Jay Habegger, is to turn brand site traffic generated when people are doing product research and "make it actually matter from a sell-through perspective." OwnerIQ counts 1,000 retailers and product brands using the platform.

K2 has also used the system to get more insight into the people who visit its sites. While the K2 audience also checks out sites from the usual suspects such as Rossignol skis and Ride snowboards, they also visit Barnes & Noble and women-centric apparel and home goods site Zulily.

"That one is not quite as obvious as a sporting goods store," said Mr. Harkness. In the future, he added, when K2 builds out demographic data the company will use this sort of information to "build out better profiles for the women involved in our sport."

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