The Sport of Subject Lines: Our Olympic Winners

Posted by Henry Gutierrez 

The Olympic events these past few days have truly been a sight to see. World records and milestones are being set across several sports and categories, and the personal stories of the athletes have been captivating the hearts of many. We continue that spirit, of captivating the audience, as we give away our own gold medals for best subject lines from our Olympic brands.

In these past weeks, we’ve been taking a look at subject lines across all sports to see what catches our eye. There is no special formula for coming up with effective subject lines, but there are some practices to follow that can help you maximize those open rates.

Before we get to our gold medals, there are a few callouts and recommendations that we would like to make.

  • With some brands, there was a notable absence of relevancy with the Olympics overall. Take the extra step and tie into current events within the Olympics with subject lines such as “Celebrate with the Women’s Gymnastics team!” and “More Gold medals for the US Swimming team”.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Personalized, relevant subject lines increase subscriber engagement…unless they are targeted to the wrong person.  A female colleague of mine received an email with the subject line “UA Boxerjock: Ask Any Guy Who’s Tried Them…” followed by the pre-header message “You’ll Never Wear ‘Regular’ Underwear Again”. Even if the majority of your subscribers fit a similar profile, it’s critical to target subscribers based on data rather than assumptions.

And now to our winners…Simone

Subject Line: Meet Olympian Simone Biles

Why We Like It:
This subject line was refreshing because it was a well-needed break from all of the typical retail subject lines inundating email users. Nike has used similar subjects lines with other superstars from the US Olympic team too. This subject line promotes getting to know one of the athletes, just as TV media channels have been doing throughout the Olympics. The content of the email includes a blurb about Simon and also highlights the Nike products she is wearing.  According to our panel data, this email received a 25 percent open rate, proof of a highly relevant and engaging subject line.



Brooks Running – Welcome
Subject Line: Does this make us running buddies?

Why We Like It:
Brooks uses this subject line for their welcome email message. It stands out in the inbox by asking a question that draws a parallel between the subscriber’s relationship with Brooks to that of a running buddy. Brooks uses first name personalization in the email message to further reinforce that relationship.

Brooks Running – Series
Subject Lines:
Runcation like a local this summer
Summer Runcation Series: City EditionRuncation

Why We Like It:
Brooks’ kicked off a summer series of “Runcation” emails highlighting the favorite running routes of locals in different featured cities. Incorporating a series approach like this into the contact strategy can build strong subscriber anticipation for the next email. According to our panel data, “Runcation like a local this summer” received a 24 percent open rate, while “Summer Runcation Series: City Edition” received an impressive 40 percent open rate. However, Brooks has an opportunity to call out each featured city within the subject line to increase the open rate and could use geo-targeting to further increase relevance.

Good luck with your subjects lines as these memorable Olympics continue! Don’t forget that Return Path’s Subject Line Optimizer is also a great tool to help with creating subject lines based on other senders’ success rate with them.

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About Henry Gutierrez

Henry is an Email Strategist for Return Path's Professional Service team. His current role includes executing client-specific projects to maximize ROI and deliverability. Overall, he has worked in the email industry for almost 12 years, with experience both as an analyst for an ESP and on AOL's postmaster team.

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