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Why There's No Yoga in Lululemon's First Global Campaign

In Lululemon’s new video, the retailer highlights activities from surfing to singing and almost everything in-between. The new spot, which runs nearly two minutes in length, excludes the traditional yoga for which the 19-year-old brand is known. Instead, “This Is Yoga” emphasizes how the meditation, breadth and self-discipline learned from yoga translates into other pursuits.

“The irony is that it’s all about yoga,” said Duke Stump, exec-VP of brand and community at Lululemon. “One of our goals was to make it aspirational but both accessible and inclusive so people can see how yoga can be part of their everyday life.”

Rather than spend a lot on advertising, the Vancouver-based brand has traditionally relied on grassroots marketing and word-of-mouth by loyal fans. Such a strategy, of course, could also have the opposite effect as illustrated by Lululemon’s now notorious see-through-pants disaster of 2013. But now, Lululemon is flexing its dollars to include more of a marketing push as the athleisure market grows more crowded and consumers begin to spend less on apparel.

In 2016, for example, the brand spent $56,200 on measured media in the U.S.—more than double that of 2015, according to Kantar Media.

Stump said the new effort is Lululemon’s most-expensive, though he declined to specify how much the campaign will cost.

While Lululemon is doing well financially—the chain raked in $2.3 billion in revenue last year, a 14% rise over the prior year, and posted a same-store sales increase of 6%—it’s still competing in a stretched-out space.

“It will have to contend with the saturation of a slowing athleisure market,” wrote Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, in a recent research note, adding that the year ahead will be challenging for Lululemon. Under Armour recently suffered its first quarterly loss. In addition, Kit and Ace, a high-end line that was co-founded by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson only three years ago, recently said it will be closing all of its U.S. stores.

Lululemon’s new push includes digital and social, some over-the-top TV and global out-of-home.

This is the retailer’s first time working with Brooklyn-based Virtue Worldwide, Vice Media’s ad agency, and its first time working with a creative agency on a project of this scale. The relationship, which came about because Virtue’s global reach fit well with Lululemon’s hopes for expansion, is ongoing, Stump said, noting that Virtue is expected to handle Lululemon’s holiday work.

“When I first met the team from Lululemon, I barely knew what yoga was, but we gelled immediately and collaborated exhaustively,” said Virtue’s founder Spencer Baim.

The new push follows the retailer’s successful holiday campaign “The Air Out There,” which was primarily product-focused.

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