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The brand with integrity: interview with Jaimie Fuller, CEO of SKINS

By Yutang Sports 04 May 2016

SKINS is an Australia-based sports compression wear manufacturer. Its unique branding strategy in sports industry which is troubled by problems like doping and corruptions draws our interest. SKINS' executive chairman Jaimie Fuller says his own personal attitudes drives his company and make sure his company culture has the unique blunt aspects of Australian culture. In the same time, he says he would implement the same branding stragety for the Chinese market if he were to run this market himself. 

Yutang:What meaning do you think the name ‘SKINS’ has?

Jaimie Fuller:Because it’s compression and compression is very tight. So it’s like a second skin. It’s not like loose. It’s very tight. So that’s why it’s called SKINS. They act like SKINS. 

Yutang:Does it have any other meanings?  

Jaimie Fuller: I think when it comes to sporting context, it’s more about acting like a second skin. But there is a philosophical perspective about the role that sports plays in society and about the functional properties of the product. Because what SKINS do is make your flood flow more quickly and if you can have faster blood flow, then you can have more oxygen delivered to your muscles, which gives you a better performance. So that is why SKINS is about performance, but it’s also about integrity and about what sports stand for and what it means, which is more than just a game.

The campaigns

Yutang:You have done many campaigns, such as #ChooseTheRightTrack which is targeted at the International Olympic Committee, #ChangeCyclingNow targeted at Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI) and #NewFIFANow targeted at FIFA. Can we say all these campaigns are part of your branding strategy?

Jaimie Fuller:Yes, absolutely. It’s a combination. It gives us an opportunity to talk about what we stand for, because great brands stand for principles and values. People think that brand building is just stick a logo on a product and put it on a shelf, that’s not about brand building. Brand building is connecting to the consumer, and so these are issues in sport that are very important. That have to do with expectations that all of us should have for the behavior of people in positions of authority in sport. So it’s part of a brand building and marketing philosophy. 

But it’s also doing something positive for sport. If we can make a reform happen in UCI, FIFA and IOC, that is doing something positive for sport on behalf of all people in the world who own sport. 

Yutang:Did you design these brand campaigns yourself?

Jaimie Fuller:No, I work with a creative agency in London, plus, I have a strategy team. So between us we work on strategy, creative, opportunity. We do it altogether.

Yutang:  Does it have anything to do with your personal... ?

Jaimie Fuller:Very much. Very much. I own the company. It’s my company. And I drive the values and principles. And, yes very much reflects my personal passion but also is reflected internally of our company culture. 

Yutang:  what’s your company culture like ?

Jaimie Fuller:It’s a strong culture. There are some Australian aspects to it. We Australians are very direct and very blunt. We are not very diplomatic. If we think something is wrong, we say it. I think life could enjoy a lot more. People will like that, instead of people who will tell you one thing and believe another. 

Yutang: Does it help to do so many campaigns? In the end, it’s the revenue and how many products you sell matters.

Jaimie Fuller: Yeah. When I do a campaign whether it’s #ChooseTheRightTrack or “OFFICIAL NON-SPONSOR”, people don’t rush out and buy my product. It’s not a short-term sales boost. It’s long term branding. And we believe very strongly that consumers are influenced through ethical and social issues in their purchasing. We believe if we act ethically, if we campaign for social issues that intersect with sport, I believe overtime that our brand will become bigger, but it takes time. 

Yutang:Do you have any short term advertising strategies?

Jaimie Fuller:No. Now the way we look at our marketing budget is we don’t do too much advertising, it’s more about public relations, sponsorship, and digital work. It’s telling stories and creating content, as opposed to traditional advertising. 

Yutang:You have sponsored rugby teams and football teams in Australia. Why don’t you sponsor international brands?

Jaimie Fuller:We are a very small company. And if you want to have a sponsorship asset that is global, there are not many. You know, you are talking Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods. For example, we sponsor Australian rugby teams. They are very influential for Australians. But they are not influential for English or for Americans. And if you want something that’s truly global, it cost a lot of money. 


Yutang:Is SKINS doing good in China? 

Jaimie Fuller:Yeah, it’s our largest growth market. In China we are growing more than any other country, but still from a small base. China is very challenging, even though there’s a big population, there are not many people who are active in sport.

Yutang:Have you done any sponsorship and marketing in China?

Jaimie Fuller:We worked with a company called Itochu Corporation, who run the Chinese business, and they sponsor a Chinese marathon run. 

Yutang:Would you do anything similar to what you have done with FIFA’s campaigns in China? For example, corruption happened in Chinese football, would you do that?

Jaimie Fuller:Yeah, it’s a bit tricky, because I don’t own the brand in China. Itochu owns the brand in China. So that’s something Itochu would need to do. But if I own the brand in China, yes. 

Yutang:The Chinese political environment is very different. 

Jaimie Fuller:I understand. But these are principles of our brand. A lot of times things I say piss people off. These are a lot of times people are not happy with what I say. But this is what our brand stands for. Just as long as they don’t arrest me and put me in prison. 

Yutang:Do you consider yourself an expert on branding or marketing?

Jaimie Fuller:No, I don’t think I am an expert. This is just our strategy. We have different strategy. I have always believed it’s good to stand out from everybody else. When everybody else goes over here, I wanna go over there.

Yutang:You worked with Lining, you don’t work with them now?

Jaimie Fuller:Mr Li. That was a very exciting time, but Lining then had their own problems. You know their business has changed a lot, and their CEO, a very nice people, but their business have been through a lot of difficulties, now we no longer work with them, we work with Itochu. 

Yutang:  which brand do you think is the most direct competitor for you in Chinese market?

Jaimie Fuller:The biggest ones, NIKE, ADIDAS, Under Armour as well. 

Yutang:Any Chinese brands?

Jaimie Fuller:Anta, Lining, 361, but it’s very different. The Chinese consumer has a different mindset to western world. Chinese consumer likes to have foreign brands, whereas in other countries, it works the other way.

Yutang: Globally which market are you good at and which market do you plan to spend more resources to develop?

Jaimie Fuller:There are a few. I think we can continue to develop Japan, certainly France as well. Some markets are more challenging and difficult. USA is very difficult. In Australia we got limited growth, because we are so fully distributed and mature. Like I said, in China we grow very strong albeit from a small base. China is a very long-term plan.

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