Vans: Off the Wall & Online

Posted By Glenn Sabin on March 19, 2009

Vans, the youthful, hip footwear and apparel company (a division of VF Outdoor, Inc.) knows its targeted customer base and addresses their lifestyle interests with a dozen microsites—all part of its Web network.

Not all the sites go beyond the typical Web 1.0 corporate fare, à la retail store locators, product images, specs and the like, but a few, most notably the Vans Warped Tour pages and the general music pages, are Web 2.0 savvy. “Skate,” “BMX” and “Surf” all feature relevant content, including corporate posts, professional video shorts on “team members” on location (from skateparks and exotic surfing locales to BMX dirt jumps) and bios (http://www.fatbmx.com/modules/news/).

There are also bulletin boards, contests, UGC posts and comment areas in which to engage with over 2,000 “friends.” The BMX site features content-rich Fat BMX magazine, a mix of profiles, educational nuggets, pin-ups, UGC participation and more, while the Moto X pages include video and photo archives. The bulk of the videos and photos displayed in the sites are from Vans sponsored events—a smart way to activate during and after the event concludes.

In addition to select videos, the music pages include semi-regular news updates, a “bands we back” section, a running list of upcoming music events across the country, and highlights of Vans-backed bands—with a focus on Vans gear, natch.

All and all, there’s quite a bit for fans of music and action sports to engage with. However, there’s not enough consistently delivered content to get folks coming back on a regular basis. With more professional content consistently created and delivered, and with a bigger push to drive traffic to these pages, several of the Vans microsites could become real consumer destination locations.

The corporate blog posts lack consistency, with some posts appearing a week apart. The bulletin boards, with a range of 0-132 responses as of this writing, get inconsistent participation. These sites are either not designed for optimal SEO (perhaps for starters there is too much video/photo content and not enough professional and user-generated textual content). It is unclear as to what extent social media applications may be missing from the mix, although there are currently over 1,700 Twitter followers (@vans_66) for the Vans Warped Tour “monster pit blogger.”

Still, Vans has created a solid foundation on which to build a smart content marketing strategy, and the brand is much further along than most apparel companies in terms of activating their sponsorships online and creating true customer engagement.

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