‘Relaying’ an Iconic Portland Brand Globally

Earlier this year we began working with Portland-based relay Hood to Coast, which is expanding their race offerings to include one-day relays around the world—everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Hilton Head, South Carolina, China, and Israel. Our task is to expand awareness of Hood to Coast’s one-day relay races among running and walking enthusiasts in new cities through paid digital campaigns. We had the opportunity to interview Hood to Coast President, Felicia Hubber, to learn her tips and tricks for expanding a local brand to new markets around the world.

What is Hood to Coast?

Hood to Coast was started in 1982 by my father, Bob Foote, as a local relay race here in Oregon. My father brought his vision to life by creating a two-day relay race where teams of 12 run 35 legs, ranging from 3.5 to 8.5 miles from the top of Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast. Today, Hood to Coast is the largest running event in the world and a worldwide brand. We now host 18 running and walking events and have eight more coming up in new markets, both domestically and internationally.

What makes HTC unique?

We are not just a race brand, we are a truly unique experience. The spirit of the event is about fun and coming together to run or walk 199 miles. So naturally, there is a sense of camaraderie, team spirit, grit and accomplishment. As you travel along the race course, you will see everything from a Sasquatch to hitchhikers hopping in and out of vans. And then you end the race with a world-class party on the beach in Seaside, Oregon.

Why did you decide to expand HTC?

Over the past 10 years, we were approached by many different event organizers around the world who had a desire to partner and replicate Hood to Coast in other markets. Being approached by all of these global race companies made us realize Hood to Coast is not just local, there is a global brand opportunity.

What are the key learnings for people expanding a local brand internationally?

To successfully expand a brand outside of a local market and become recognized on a worldwide stage, it is important to have in place copyright and trademarks, a solid set of brand standards and a scalable marketing strategy. Additionally, establishing close partnerships with experts in the cities where you want to expand is critical to connecting with the right people, adapting to the local culture and appealing to the local audience in meaningful ways.

What is the best part of expanding your brand internationally?

For me, the best part is making new friends, traveling and experiencing new cultures. I consider Lucia Li of Hood to Coast China like a sister to me. I’ve learned so much from her about the race environment and culture of China. She also brings new ideas and insights to the entire Hood to Coast brand.

What is the biggest challenge of expanding your brand?

Realizing we aren’t experts in everything and letting go of some details which will only distract from more important issues. The secret to expanding our brand has been expanding our trusted network of experts.

What is your advice for companies looking to expand globally?

Trust your brand. If you want to grow, do your research and become an expert on the new market, demographic, and culture. Trust your brand and understand how to adapt your story to fit the market—articulate who you are, why you are valid in the market and why your new audience should want your product or service.

How can you best understand a brand? You live it, of course! So, one of the first things Quinn Thomas did was sign up for the “Mother of All Relays.” We ran Hood to Coast Pacific City from Timberline to Seaside, Oregon. Nothing builds team and brand affinity like a relay race and a long road trip!