Big Ray’s, an Alaskan–born and –owned sporting goods clothing store, opened 70 years ago as an Army surplus store in Anchorage called Army/Navy. When they expanded to Fairbanks in 1947, they called that store Big Ray’s (one of the partners was named Ray and very tall). The acquisition of Kodiak-based Mack’s Sporting Goods in 2010 further expanded the company. The company decided to rebrand all of the stores in 2015 as Big Ray’s.
Since the rebrand, Big Ray’s has made an effort to emphasize its Alaskan roots and ownership, says Big Ray’s advertising director Deanna Miller. They’ve wanted to make it clear that the name change didn’t happen because of an acquisition by a company outside the state.
The company’s main goal with its People Mover ad campaigns has been driving awareness, both for the brand and its unique products, says Miller. Their in-store clothing brand, Activ8, is a priority, but overall, they want to make it clear that they offer more than Carhartts and are not offering military surplus equipment anymore.
Big Ray’s wants to reach anyone interested in sporting goods clothing. They have recently been focusing on how best to communicate with Millennials and younger customers for whom the store is not top of mind.
Why People Mover
People Mover offers the company the messaging real estate of a billboard (which isn’t an option in Alaska), and makes it mobile. The buses are “more effective and much more cost-effective,” says Miller. Plus, when people see the bus going by, “they can’t change channels or switch networks.”
While the company also advertises on other platforms, including Google AdWords, “the messaging is definitely different,” says Miller. “It’s very visual.” And though the company also runs television campaigns, “Media has changed so much that TV effectiveness is shrinking.”
Big Ray’s has run multiple campaigns, which usually include 5 – 10 signs and last 2 – 4 weeks. Placement has been on the Rear of the People Mover.
Word-of-mouth response has been very positive. Miller hears from customers, employees, and friends that they’ve seen the ads. She doesn’t track specific results, as she doesn’t want to survey customers. “Surveys are very un-Alaskan,” she says, and will turn people away from the store. Maintaining its reputation as a family-owned Alaskan store is paramount.