The American Kennel Club is reaching beyond its traditional base of pedigree dog owners and breeders while staying true to the values that have guided it for 128 years.

With more than 40 million records of registered dogs, litters, entries and show results, more than 5,000 sanctioned and licensed clubs and more than 20,000 annual sanctioned events culminating in the prestigious and highly watched AKC Eukanuba National Championship, the AKC is by far the world’s leading dog registry. It has earned its top-dog position by putting its customer base of dog owners first.

“We’re driven to create the best service and experience for dogs and owners and strive to educate people about how to be responsible pet owners,” says Daphna Straus, assistant vice president of business development for the New York City-based organization. “Over time we’ve developed our reputation not just as the largest dog registry, but also as the best resource for all dog owners.”

With this reputation behind it, it’s no surprise the AKC’s name and seal of approval are sought after by many companies who target products to the owners of “man’s best friend.” “As a licensor, we’re always talking to potential licensees about the types of products they’re interested in introducing, and are looking to broaden the categories we’re in,” Straus says.

Lifestyle and healthcare products are two growing areas for the organization. Recent licensing partners in these areas include:

  • Toy and treat provider Pet Brands, which is introducing a new line of dental products;
  • European Home Designs’ Bow-Wow Pet, a producer of pet beds and designer beds, as well as pillows and throws;
  • Jewett Cameron, a maker of kennels and dog runs; and
  • Pet Partners, Inc., a leading provider of pet health insurance.

In addition to products aimed directly at dogs themselves, AKC licensees are reaching owners and pet enthusiasts with two new products – bedding sets for children produced by CMN International, and a smartphone app developed by Red82. The app, which offers a database of dog breeds and AKC standards, has already proven useful to dog show judges.

As a nonprofit organization, it is important for AKC-licensed products to reflect the organization’s educational and dog-centric focus. “We’re driven by a responsibility to educate and create value for dog owners,” Straus says. “We believe the positive relationships we build, whether through licenses or sponsorships, are important to our success.”

Canine Connections

The AKC-licensed app is just one of the ways the organization has embraced technology. In addition, a number of other  internal and external platforms help the club reach its registrants, member clubs and other dog enthusiasts.

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs play a large role in the AKC’s marketing and communication efforts. These platforms give the club the opportunity to not only promote its offerings and flagship events – which include the annual AKC Eukanuba National Champion­ship, AKC Meet the Breeds and AKC Responsible Ownership Days – but also serve as a way to connect dog enthusiasts with each other.

The AKC’s website offers a host of resources to registrants and dog owners, including online dog registration and a store maintained by sponsordog.com. The club’s operations center is in Raleigh, N.C., and is dedicated to preserving its records of pedigrees, breeds and registered dogs. Current technology plans include moving to a formal customer relationship management (CRM) system. “We’ve been maintaining data for 128 years, so CRM is very relevant to what we do, even though we are a not-for-profit organization,” Straus says.

All Dogs Welcome

Social and other online media also support the AKC’s efforts to expand its offerings beyond its traditional base of breeders and dog show participants.

Owners of spayed and neutered mixed-breed dogs can participate in the AKC Canine Partners™ program. This program, already serving more than 125,000 dogs and owners, includes a lifetime enrollment in the AKC Companion Animal Recovery program, a one-year subscription to the club’s Family Dog magazine and eligibility to participate in agility, AKC Rally® and obedience events. The program is promoted on the AKC’s website and through social media channels.

“We want to communicate that the AKC is an organization for everyone who loves dogs and wants to enjoy life with dogs as responsible owners – whether experiencing fun in the show ring or just owning a family pet,” Straus notes. “We’re always developing and delivering content to dog owners like no one else can, and all of the channels we use to reach customers help our licensees leverage a passionate, enthusiastic market for their products.”

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