Strava, a leading fitness tracking application billed as the social network for athletes, endured an acute crisis when researchers and journalists uncovered a way to identify classified military bases and patrol routes based on public data shared and aggregated by the company through its global heatmap. The story was tailor-made for Hollywood, placing a fast-moving, Silicon Valley tech company at the intersection of national security and America’s Armed Forces — and it took off with immense velocity.
The Strava heatmap is a one-of-a-kind resource that athletes all over the world use to discover new places to be active, and it requires trillions of data points to create. In managing the crisis, not only did Strava need to preserve its brand reputation, it needed to secure the future of a valuable product that suddenly hung in the balance.
As a longstanding Greenbrier client, our team immediately jumped into action, setting up a war room at Strava’s headquarters, managing responses to inbound media inquiries, engaging with reporters behind the scenes to shape their stories, and ultimately publishing a blog post addressing the vulnerability. After two days of flawless execution around managing the media cycle, the frenzy began to subside. Our team then pivoted to preserving the long term viability of Strava’s heatmaps, developing an inoculation strategy to repair existing reputation damage, and building a beachhead against additional damage if the issue were to resurface.
In managing the crisis, not only did Strava need to preserve its brand reputation, it needed to secure the future of a valuable product that suddenly hung in the balance.
The repair strategy began with a swift neutralization of the media cycle and culminated in a rebrand of Strava Heatmaps, complete with enhanced privacy and data protection policies. An exclusive was granted to a trusted Reuters reporter, whose reporting helped reset the narrative around the feature.
Today, Heatmaps stands as a Strava offering that is beloved and widely utilized by athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and journalists throughout the world.