Inc.com: Why a Japanese Brand is Rooting for U.S. Gold in Rio
...the little known mattress company has even paid the price to become the official mattress supplier of the U.S. Olympic Committee, official partner of U.S. Swimming and U.S. Volleyball, and is engaging in a 9-stop tour leading up to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. It is part of the process for airweave, which launched in the U.S. in 2015 with a flagship store in New York City's SoHo district, to promote itself to a brand new demographic of American consumers.
Why spend resources in becoming an associate sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee?
"Achieving a restful sleep and waking up feeling refreshed is core to airweave, and because tonight's sleep has such a strong impact on a person's performance the next day, I wanted to engage those who hold their body's performance to the highest standards--Olympic athletes," explained Motokuni Takaoka, President and CEO of airweave. "Day in and day out they have to perform at peak levels, and a good night's sleep and how they feel in the morning is part and parcel to maintaining that."
As Takaoka sought to expand airweave's business to the United States, it simply made sense to him to continue airweave's previous partnerships with the Olympics. He cites the fact that America's elite athletes, such as swimmer Ryan Lochte and golfer Bubba Watson have found a sleep advantage with airweave.
Takaoka hopes that the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics will have the same sales push/success in the U.S. that it had in Japan just after the London 2012 Summer Games, which saw a 4-month back order thanks to the brand buzz in London, as well as inspired partnerships with major hotel chains like Andaz Hotels as well as Japan Airlines (used on all international overnight flights).
Takaoka is particularly proud of his company's partnership with the U.S. Olympic team. His challenge is to convert the message to persuading spectators that they don't have to be Olympians to benefit from better sleep and that airweave is a product for all types of people.
The importance of selecting specific athlete endorsements.
There is no lack of Olympic athletes to choose from in shopping possible endorsements, and many of them will cost much less than prominent American professional team sport athletes. A good fit for airweave is Jessica Long, a Russian-born U.S. Paralympic swimmer who is a 12-time gold medalist.
Leading into a competition, Long says she has to pay extra attention to making sure she gets a full night's sleep. During competition, she always naps between prelims and finals; she depends on naps so that she can feel rested and recovered heading into the gold-medal race.
Long plans on bringing her airweave topper with her to Rio, and, is excited when she goes to Colorado Springs to train, as all the beds there have airweave. The USOC has installed 130 airweave bedding toppers at its Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Chula Vista, California, which led to a relationship with Long that now serves as a strong testimonial for the mattress brand.
How broad education and experience prepared Takaoka for now launching in the U.S.
Takaoka has a masters in engineering from Stanford and put that education to practice in Japan, which he claims to have been key to the launch of airweave in the US.
"The two were the fuel and motivation behind a sleep study we conducted with IMG Academy to test airweave first-hand with young athletes," said Takaoka, who used the fishing line resins from his uncle's plastic fishing line company to develop the mattresses for airweave. "The study laid the foundation of trust among US based consumers, showing observed tendencies of improved athletic performance."
The IMG Academy study was conducted among 51 healthy male athletes, using a randomized eight week crossover design with high rebound or low rebound mattress toppers. The athletic performance and subjective sleep quality were evaluated twice a week during the last two weeks of each mattress session through the study. The quantitative measures of athletic performance included the 40-meter spring, long jump, and star drill.
As a result of the study, tendencies of improved performance were observed in all 3 objective athletic measures using a high rebound mattress pad (airweave was used in the study). Now Takaoka waits to see if the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics match or beat his company's performance in 2014.