How HOKA ONE ONE prioritizes humanity in its CSR initiatives

Fourteen years ago, lifelong trail runners Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard co-founded the Hoka One One brand. Since then, the brand has joined forces with elite athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and a diverse community of runners at all levels, creating an inclusive and diverse community.

In 2017, Hoka officially entered the mainland market. Over the past six years, as health awareness among Chinese people has continued to rise and the population engaged in sports has increased, the market has seen significant growth. According to a report on the Chinese wellness industry in 2023-2029 published by Zhiyan Consulting, the market size of wellness and sports reached 7.4 trillion RMB ($1.02 trillion) in 2022. To align with the trend, Hoka optimized its product offerings while building up connections with Chinese runners.

Authenticity and humanity are the brand’s two key words, says Orris Wu, General Manager of Hoka One One China. Last year, Hoke initiated a nationwide charity project, inviting runners from all walks of life to collectively achieve the target of running 6 million kilometers. Once the brand achieved the goal, it collaborated with the Shanghai United Foundation to donate running tracks to two schools in Litang, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.

Hoka collaborated with the Shanghai United Foundation to donate running tracks to two schools in Litang. Photo: Hoka

Why has this internationally recognized high-performance footwear and apparel brand, born in a mountainous region, devoted itself to CSR “Run For Purpose” initiatives? How does it convey its brand spirit and mission to Chinese runners?

Bringing more people to the starting line

In 2022, the brand launched a global brand platform, Fly Human Fly, which has acted as a catalyst for consumer engagement, a vision that has been also brought to China.

In the mist surrounding Louhua Village in Qichun, Huanggang City, Hubei Province, in June, the laughter of the students at Louhua Elementary School cut through the summer heat. A brand new track had been completed, providing the students with the opportunity to stand on their own starting line and run freely. All of this began with a commitment made by Hoka at the beginning of this year.

In March this year, Hoka, along with its campaign ambassador, Li Xian, officially launched the CSR program — “The Running Mileage Challenge” across China, calling on runners across the country to collectively achieve a goal of running 10 million kilometers. The brand partnered once again with the Shanghai United Foundation to build tracks for two rural primary schools in Qichun, one of which is Louhua Elementary School, as part of its philanthropic engagement.

Students are running on the new track at Louhua Elementary School. Photo: Hoka

At the unveiling ceremony for Louhua Elementary School’s track, Jing Daily interviewed Wu, where she shared the story behind the track’s completion.

“Hubei Huanggang is a place that is well-known for its high-quality education, but we saw that the basic sports facilities are lagging and incomplete,” she says.

The hope that the students at Louhua Elementary School can develop their physical abilities while balancing their academic studies to become well-rounded students. According to Wu, the brand’s true sense of social responsibility lies in whether it can provide tangible benefits to those it helps.

“Rather than donating money, we donate sports facilities so that students can genuinely benefit from these facilities and experience the visible changes brought about by the revitalization of sports infrastructure. Our efforts should bring about concrete and visible improvements,” she says.

Furthermore, she believes that sustainability is essential in CSR “Run For Purpose” initiatives. “If we were to do a project only once and then end it, that wouldn’t demonstrate a sense of social responsibility. The burden of responsibility cannot be lifted, so Hoka will continue to engage in CSR endeavors on the long road ahead.”

Elite athlete Yun Yanqiao was at the event of Louhua Elementary School. Photo: Hoka

Prioritizing humanity

Running, a sport transcending national boundaries, is remarkably inclusive. It’s for this reason that Hoka aspires to assist more individuals in crossing the starting line.

When Hoka entered the Chinese market, the team dedicated itself to shaping the label into a brand that is humane and warm. In fact, Hoka has always remained true to its original intentions and steadfastly upheld its commitments.

“For Hoka, apart from providing assistance in terms of these sports facilities, we are also considering collaborating with schools to develop running programs that can help students broaden their horizons beyond academic pursuits and explore the wider world through running.”

Whether it was last year’s charity project in Litang or the donation to Louhua Primary School this year, prioritizing human care has always been a key consideration.

“We hope to rally all runners who share a passion for running, provide them with more professional equipment and better services, and enable them to run smoothly, longer, and farther,” Wu says.

Orris Wu, General Manager of Hoka One One China. Photo: Hoka

We are also considering collaborating with schools to develop running programs that can help children broaden their horizons beyond academic pursuits and explore the wider world through running.

Sharing “joyful performance” via localization strategies

Based on its caring and inclusive brand values, Hoka has established a vast and loyal community network worldwide. In mid-June, it announced the official launch of the second chapter of its global brand marketing campaign, titled “Fly Human Fly 2.0,” which aims to invite people into “a world of infinite possibility created through the joy of movement,” says Wu.

Global brand marketing campaign “Fly Human Fly.” Photo: Hoka

Despite the impact of the COVID-19, Hoka has achieved a growth rate of over 50 percent in the global market from fiscal year 2020 to 2023, with consecutive growth in China as well. Meanwhile, the brand’s Fly Human Fly 2.0 campaign has been well received in global markets. With the guidance of the agile global strategy initiated by the headquarter, Hoka’s China team has brought it to the Chinese audiences with a local twist.

“Experience is crucial. All foreign languages undergo a secondary interpretation after translation in China. However, what we can do is provide this experience ‘one-to-one’ for our consumers,” she says.

At the retail level, the brand’s DTC and stand-alone stores in China feature treadmills, foot measuring devices, and professional footwear, which aims to create immersive shopping experiences and meet the personalized needs of different runners.

In terms of communication, the brand has been dedicated to its long-running project “Humans of Hoka,” to share the story of global runners including the elite and general ones. The label has also been creating various communities and inviting elite athletes to share their running experiences firsthand.

To convey the “Joyful performance” and gather more sports communities, the brand launched its own running day event in July. “It is a running carnival, where we hope to bring all the communities together. The event will not only involve running, but also include music and joyful conversations, providing everyone with a comprehensive experience,” Wu says.

According to Euromonitor, Chinese sports footwear is expected to pick up momentum over the next five years, expanding at a robust single-digit current value CAGR. These favorable market conditions undoubtedly presents enormous opportunities.

“What we want to do more is to build Hoka into a brand that cares for people. We hope that when people mention us, they think of a brand that once supported their running, aided their growth, and helped them break through from one stage to the next,” Wu concludes.