Conversations around mental health and wellbeing have accelerated this past year, with physical exercise often held up as one of the best ways to tend to both the external and the internal. And as Gary Raucher, the executive vice-president and EMEA head of product, marketing and merchandising at Asics, tells us, this relationship between physical and mental wellbeing has always been baked into the sports brand’s ethos.
“Many people don’t know that Asics is actually an acronym, standing for ‘Anima Sana In Corpore Sano’ – Latin that roughly translates to ‘healthy body, healthy mind.’“
Asics’s commitment to both physical and mental wellness has been renewed as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing mental health crisis, says Raucher. “Even before the pandemic we were facing a crisis in mental health, with stress and anxiety levels at record highs. Then the pandemic came and made everything worse.
“Throughout, we have seen people turn to sports as a way to improve not only their physical wellbeing but their mental wellbeing too, so we thought it would be great if we could help people see just what impact exercise was having on them.”
Uplifting through exercise
Asics has been prompting consumers to take part in the world’s first live study into the impact of movement on the mind. The Asics Mind Uplifter Tool, developed by bioinformatics company Emotiv with the support of exercise and mental health researcher Dr Brendon Stubbs of King’s College London, allows users from all over the world to see exactly how physical exercise can benefit their mind.
Using a combination of facial scanning technology and self-report data collection, users capture the impact of sport across 10 emotional and cognitive metrics including confidence, positivity, calm and focus to see how different sports impact how they think and feel.
The data forms part of a wider global study by Asics that visually transforms ‘mind uplifts’ from individuals around the world into an interactive map. The map then allows Asics to track the collective moods of cities and nations, with the overall aim to deepen its understanding of the relationship between movement and the mind on a global scale.
Raucher says the campaign is largely social-driven, but that it also includes physical and virtual events where people are encouraged to use the tool before and after activity.
“We can organize what we are calling big ‘mind runs’ with thousands of people, but at the same time our retail partners can host a weeknight run at one of our stores and we are training them in how to promote the use of the app both before and after activity.”
The localized aspects of the campaign will also allow Asics to target specific communities and work with relevant partners there. “When we launch the world map, we will be able to zoom in on different cities, different countries, and talk about the collective mental health and wellbeing that has come from sport in those areas.
“This will allow us to have localized insights into what additional activities we could be setting up – we have sports marketing assets, ambassadors, coaches and trainers that we can encourage to engage with local communities to encourage people to be active.”
Healthy body, healthy mind
Asics will also be partnering with Mind in the UK to raise funds for local mental health organizations across the country. “We have looked for partners that share our core company values and are really committed to getting more people involved in sport and movement and that are champions of mental wellbeing in general.
“There are a number to choose from, as this is becoming a bigger issue and more and more people are getting involved. But we picked those that shared our vision and purpose and really fit with our brand in the best possible way.”
The trend throughout the pandemic of people around the world turning to exercise as a way to cope with stress and to feel less restricted in at least one area of their lives is one that Asics predicts will continue. “Even when Covid is a distant memory, stress and anxiety will always be pervasive in society and I think people will always be looking for healthy coping mechanisms,” says Raucher.
“I like to think that our founding philosophy is more relevant today than ever and that we, as a brand, have not only a responsibility, but a huge amount of untapped potential to highlight that.”