- Rakuten Viber, the calling and messaging app with 1 billion users worldwide, partnered with obstacle course racing (OCR) organizer Spartan to create an online gathering place, per an announcement. The Spartan Viber Global Community lets race participants and fans access exclusive content from athletes of the sport.
- Rakuten Viber and Spartan created the online group as athletes and fans prepare for the Spartan World Championship Powered by Rakuten in California on Sept. 28-29. The Viber community platform offers Q&As, training plans, nutritional tips and other OCR sports-related content. During race weekend, fans can see race highlights and updates on the go.
- The organizations created a digital sticker pack with Spartan-inspired digital characters that people can use to decorate their mobile messages. Rakuten Viber became the official communications platform of Spartan when parent company Rakuten, the Japanese online retailer, signed a multiyear deal with the OCR promoter last year.
The Spartan Viber Global Community is a culmination of Rakuten's sponsorship of Spartan and the rollout of Viber Communities in October. At that time, Viber touted the online communities as group chats that let mobile users interact with an unlimited number of members.
Marketers can create a Viber community to build a following around their brands and connect with customers through exclusive mobile content. Half of consumers follow a brand on social media to learn about new products or services, while 48% are looking to be entertained, per a Sprout Social survey, suggesting that many people may be receptive to connecting with brands via mobile community platforms.
By starting a Viber community, Spartan can engage with the more than 1 million people who participate in its hundreds of events worldwide and support its brand in a highly competitive industry.
OCR went through a period of rapid growth and consolidation in the past decade, with brands such as Spartan, Rugged Mania and Tough Mudder emerging as market leaders. Warrior Dash last month canceled all its events as parent company Red Frog Events exited the industry, according to an announcement on Twitter, pointing to an opportunity for competitors to capitalize on and work to capture Warrior Dash's customers in its absence.
As recently as February, Warrior Dash had been considered one of the biggest brands in the OCR industry based on the number of annual events, per Obstacle Racing Media. Other OCR event organizers, including Spartan and Tougher Mudder, offered free entry for Warrior Dash participants to their own events, GearJunkie reported.
Digital sticker packs like the one Viber created for Spartan have become a popular way for marketers to extend their branding into mobile messaging as app users liven up their texts. Viber last month created a tiger-themed sticker pack to help the World Wildlife Fund raise money to protect endangered tigers.
Realtor Re/Max this week similarly introduced a digital sticker pack to elevate connections among brokers, homebuyers and sellers while they message on mobile chat platforms. Mars candy brand Snickers recently generated millions of interactions by letting people decorate their mobile messages with branded images and stickers.
About 71% of Americans use digital stickers, emoji and GIFs in messaging, saying they can better express their emotions through visuals than text alone, a survey found.