How brands can tap into the challenge mentality and win

Can your brand motivate people to get up off the sofa and do something positive for themselves? Inspiring people to make a change to their lives is an incredible thing – and there couldn’t be a better time to adopt this kind of motivational messaging. 

A recent study carried out by Attest showed more than 70% of UK and US consumers are looking for opportunities to challenge themselves physically or mentally. Millennials in particular are seeking personal challenges – a massive 81% in the UK and 79% in the US agree they want to be put through their paces.

This trend can be seen in the rapid rise of boot camp style training brands like CrossFit and British Military Fitness, while mass participation events like the London Marathon have never been more popular – a record 414,000 people applied to take part this year. The desire to take on challenges is so great that climbers must now join long queues to summit Mount Everest.

Consumers are crying out for ways to push themselves mentally and physically – they want to push their bodies to the brink and ultimately win. And, as the four case studies below show, the brands that enable them to do this are enjoying the associated glory. 


For Adidas, all people are potential runners and all neighbourhoods are potential running tracks. In 2017 the brand launched City Runs – a series of closed road running events in London, including a one-hour run and two 10k races.

Lee Gibbons, Senior Director of Sports Marketing at Adidas, told Campaign: “We wanted to create a series of runs which offers runners of all abilities the chance to unlock, explore and celebrate the diversity of London’s best neighbourhoods and communities.”

The scope of the initiative has grown over the last couple of years and for 2019 Adidas has introduced Project 500, aimed at inspiring 500 people to commit to a year of running. Project 500 offers discounted entry to all three 2019 City Runs events, a front-of-race starting position, a training session led by a GB athlete, a gold series medal and a race shirt, as well as exclusive special offers and prizes.

Adidas understands the importance of recognising runners’ achievements and making sure they feel like a winner. For its activation at the 2018 Boston Marathon in the US, the brand created custom videos for all 30,000 runners. According to PR Week, “The campaign team set out to highlight individual runners in a way that would showcase their experience and cement them as legends for their participation.”

This was achieved by using advanced cameras and radio frequency identification chips built into runners’ race bibs to capture and identify footage of each runner as they progressed through the race. Grow, Adidas’ digital agency for the campaign, developed a custom algorithm to enable videos to be edited and shared just hours after the race concluded.

Boston Marathon runners could access their personalised videos, which also showed their checkpoint and finishing times, via their bib numbers. Social shares of the videos generated more than 64,000 social engagements, measured through reactions, likes, favorites, and comments. 

Participants felt like legends and they thanked the brand by shopping with it – product sales garnered per participant email were up 1,189% on the year-to-date baseline.


Nike encourages customers to push their limits not just at special events, but every day. The brand has a suite of sporting apps to “unlock your potential”, including a Nike Training Club app with over 100 full body workouts and a Nike Run Club app.

Runners who download the app can participate in “Go more. Get More” monthly challenges to win prizes. Those who take part in all of the challenges and complete 60k of running can win an all-expenses-paid trip to Nike World Headquarters in the US.

Nike not only brings customers together digitally, it also organises regular Nike+ Run Club and Nike+ Training Club sessions in London, while you can “push yourself further than you ever thought you could” by joining a local running club

Nike has long been at the forefront of the challenge mentality – its “Just Do It” campaign celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, however its recent messaging has gone even further. Its anniversary campaign tells customers they shouldn’t settle for being the best in their school or town, but in the world. We should dream big, even if it seems crazy.

Nike’s CEO Mark Parker said the campaign, which stars NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, tennis star Serena Williams, skateboarder Lacey Bakerhas and American footballers Odell Beckham Jr and Shaquem Griffin, has driven record engagement with the brand and helped boost sales.

“We’re motivated to inspire our consumers to connect and engage,” Parker told Marketing Week. “We feel actually very good and very proud of the work we’re doing with Just Do It, introducing Just Do It to the new generation of consumers on the 30th anniversary of the campaign.”

He added that the message of unrelenting ambition and pursuit of excellence had really connected with consumers. “We know it’s resonated quite strongly with consumers. It’s really transcended the North American market to touch people around the world.”

Lucozade Sport 

With obstacles that play on common human fears such as fire, water, electricity and heights, the Tough Mudder endurance event series represents, for many, the perfect challenge. Since it started in 2010, millions of people across the world have taken part. 

The Tough Mudder mindset is one of sheer determination, with participants encouraged to get ready with “comfort zone crushing” training sessions. Lucozade Sport saw an opportunity to align itself with this go-getting audience, signing a multimillion-pound sponsorship deal with Tough Mudder in 2017.

Photo by Epic Action Imagery (

James Young, Head of Sponsorship at the drinks company said the deal made “perfect sense”. “With Tough Mudder we share the ambition to get people moving more and we’re delighted to come on board,” he told The Drum.

As official sports drink sponsor of Tough Mudder’s UK events, Lucozade wanted to do more than advertising the partnership on 50 million of its bottles – it wanted to give people the chance to up the ante on their challenge. The brand introduced Level Up Lanes on 10 selected obstacles on course, letting people push themselves even further with ever more gruelling obstacles to overcome. 

To complement its Tough Mudder sponsorship, Lucozade Sport launched its Made to Move campaign. The ambitious initiative aims to get one million people moving more by 2020. People who register at least 5,000 steps a day on the Made to Move app are rewarded with prize draw entries. People can score extra ways to win by completing a weekend challenge (such as walking 18,000 steps) and by setting their own personal challenges on the app (up to 50,000 steps per day).

To help people reach their targets, Lucozade’s Made to Move Ambassadors host #WorkoutWednesday, a weekly workout broadcast live on Tough Mudder’s Facebook page, cementing the partnership between the two brands.

Pizza Hut

As a fast food brand, you wouldn’t necessarily associate Pizza Hut with personal development. You might also think it counterintuitive to encourage people to examine their eating habits, but that’s exactly what the brand did in the UK this year.

Pizza Hut decided to partner with Veganuary, a charity-run campaign encouraging people to try a vegan diet during January. Using social media it encouraged customers to take the Veganuary Pledge, signing up to receive daily emails containing recipes, meal plans and tips, such as where to get nutrients when going without animal products. 

Pizza Hut also set out to educate people about the impact of what we eat on our health, animals and the environment. It could seem like a risky move for a brand that is not exclusively vegan, but it’s also strategic because of the number of people who look to overhaul their lives after New Year. 

For those whose New Year’s resolutions included trying a meat-free diet (but perhaps not losing weight!), Pizza Hut’s initiative offered an ideal challenge. Worldwide, more than 250,000 people signed the Veganuary Pledge in 2019. Pizza Hut aimed to onboard 10,000 customers, but ended up smashing the target with 17,700. 

It’s important to note that the brand has done more than simply pay lip service to the movement – incorporating permanent vegan options into the menu has been a two-year development process costing nearly £200,000. The move has included training staff to follow protocols to keep vegan and non-vegan options separated in the kitchen.

“I can’t tell you that launching a vegan pizza range is a big money maker for us. It’s much more expensive to run a vegan menu than a non-vegan menu at the moment,” Jens Hofma, CEO of Pizza Hut Restaurants UK told Marketplace. “It’s quite a significant investment and it’s a real commitment. Veganuary just raises awareness and gets people to think about what they eat and experiment with vegan food.”

A final thought

Inspiring consumers to get up and get moving is good for everyone. As they achieve things and feel great about themselves, your brand benefits from the halo effect. But helping people be the best they can be doesn’t have to be limited to sporting activity – there are many more lifestyle changes people wish they could make. If your brand can help people take on personal challenges, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake or gaining new skills, it can succeed in connecting with consumers in a truly life-changing way.

Want to learn more about consumers’ challenge mentality and the opportunity it presents? Ask Attest.

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.

See all articles by Bel