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Speaking up for the love of the sock! #willblogforsocks

by @garyfallsover
Thursday 23rd July 2015
Tags  Gary Dalton   |   willblogforsocks   |   Blogging   |   product reviews   |   running sock

Run247 Gary Dalton explains why we should retain a healthy dose of cynicism when we check out reviews on blogs

Blogged. On the Blog Now! RT and follow for a chance to win. 3000 likes and the baby Jeebus will save this poor orphaned kitten from a life of servitude in a Chinese sweatshop. Ok, so I made the last one up but you get my point. It could happen. Those Chinese kittens need help too you know?

It’s seemed to me over the last couple of years there’s been a growing movement amongst some bloggers and multimedia companies to commercialise what used to be the addled musings and half baked ideas of random runners on the internet. Instead of our passing thoughts committed to a blog read only by our mums and liked by our friends  we now have a highly stylised filtered to feck version of something that’s barely recognizable from the reality.

Instead of gurning runners falling over the line and badly posed group shots with hard won medals we have one hundred and twenty different filters to choose from, artfully crafted selfies from carefully chosen angles displaying logos and branding and perfectly groomed hair pieces lamenting how grungy they look!

So who’s to blame for this crossover between advertising and information and why should we care? After all it’s about running and isn’t anything about running good? We’re intelligent enough to filter the wheat from the chaff aren’t we? Well for those of us who are gluten intolerant you’ll know it’s not always as easy as it may seem to recognise what is the opinion of the writer and what has been bought and paid for by either a sports brand or a PR company. Brands have been quick to realise that traditional advertising is viewed with disbelief and skepticism by ordinary people. I’m highly unlikely to feel moved or able to run shirtless up Mont Blanc simply by purchasing the newest offering from Salomon, in fact the most I could hope for is a quick wobble around the local parkrun and some disapproving looks from the ladies who lunch when they realise I take a larger cup size than them.

What brands have realized is that instead of spending huge amounts of money getting big name athletes to endorse their kit on social media it’s far cheaper to send out ‘test’ pieces to key bloggers, tweeters and facebookers asking them to review them. For the sake of the cost price of a pair of shoes they can potentially get their product in front of thousands of new customers. And better yet because it’s a ‘review’ the source will generally be far more trusted than an athlete we know is being paid to endorse the item. Particularly if that blogger/tweeter isn’t absolutely clear that the product has been provided to them free of charge.

Over the past couple of years I‘ve been to a few brand ambassador days where companies essentially interview normal members of the running/cycling/tri community to purportedly determine who would be the best ‘fit’ to promote their brand. However with the inclusion of media monitoring and promotion companies what it actually turns into is a social media free for all where normally sane people try to out douchebag each other with their love of free socks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of socks, they’re one of the first things I think of when I get up in the morning, but even I with my Irish love of talking shite I couldn’t fill a thousand word post on them. Posts there were however, in their dozens, extolling the virtues of socks. The wonder of socks. How these socks could save the world if only they could find their sock voice. There was Youtube videos, Instagrams, Snapchats and even a Pinterest page. Every social media platform was buggered to within an inch of it’s  life and all in the interest of socks. There was even a parody ultra-sock Twitter account. With a beard. I kid you not.

And what was the purpose of this hosiery orgy? Well, that day alone generated thousands upon thousands of hits for the brand in question's website. Hundreds of re-tweets and likes from co-opted friends meant that it reached hitherto uncharted demographics and all for the price of a couple of dozen pairs of socks and some dignity. I tweeted. And then I tweeted again. And I felt a little dirty, because I knew that, though I really liked the brand, I didn’t really fit what they were looking for.

Though I write for a few magazines and periodicals I don’t blog so I really don’t have the same freedom to say whatever old shite comes into my head. I have to keep a modicum of truth in it or the magazine loses credibility and that is actually quite important to me. I need to declare when things have been provided to me for free and why. And I need to know for my own dignity that if I say something is good it’s because I genuinely liked it and not because someone distracted me with free socks.

So what I’m saying is this: Understand that when something is favorably reviewed on the internet, it may not be because the product is genuinely good, it may just be because it was free. Ask if the reviewer was provided the product for free and if they were clear about that in the review. Above all, view all reviews through the jaundiced cynical eyes of someone cornered by a chugger on your local high street. They may have a good point but they’re really going to have to work hard if they want your hard earned money.


About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 


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