How Digital Marketing Helped Secure Record Earnings for the 2016 London Marathon

In Advertising, Cross Channel Marketing, Digital Campaigns, Digital Marketing, Digital Strategy by MediaVision

London Marathon and Digital Marketing

Having raised £716 million for charity since launching 34 years ago, the London Marathon has become the largest annual fundraising event in the world and broken its own Guinness World Record eight times in a row.

With effective marketing having played such a pivotal role in making the event such a widespread success, we decided to take a closer look at the digital elements and promotional tactics that were used in the marketing of The London Marathon 2016.

Focusing on Charity Fundraising

While The London Marathon has been involved with charity since the very first race on 29 March 1981, it became the primary focus of the event in 1996. Since then, it has grown into the largest annual fundraising event in the world.

Virgin Money took over the sponsorship of the event in 2010, raising a record breaking £102.4 million for charity that year.This record has been broken every year since, with runners raising over £700 million since 1981.

With such a strong focus on fundraising for charity,  the event naturally attracts a lot of attention from both sponsors and charities. Add to that the top class event marketing strategy, campaigns and collateral that come with the backing of a global force like Virgin Money, and you’ve got a total marketing powerhouse.

The Digital Base –

The London Marathon website makes great use of a simplistic layout, with the important information around the event and athletes showcased prominently.

London Marathon Website

While the charity and fundraising aspect of the event remains the primary message, the illustrious history of the event is also showcased. Users get to see the far-reaching impact that the event has had, particularly in sports.

The site effectively targets numerous audience profiles with the information provided, by offering valuable resources to both runners and those simply interested in the event, as well as a library of resources for news and media publications.

Valuable, Useful & Entertaining Content

Valuable, useful and entertaining content, in all its formats, was critical to the London Marathon’s digital campaign. Simply providing the user with the basics, even for an internationally renowned event, is not enough. Content must perform the function of pulling the audience into the event, including those that aren’t professional athletes. The London Marathon achieved this using the following hooks:

Guinness world records

Guinness is not only an official partner of The London Marathon, but provides record-breaking hopefuls with on-the-day record verification free of charge too.

The Promotional Potential

By encouraging athletes and enthusiasts to attempt a record-breaking feat, the opportunity is created for organic promotion and marketing of the event by individuals or organisations attempting to set a new Guinness World Record.

Digital Marathon

In the midst of the meteoric rise of virtual reality, The London Marathon partnered with RunSocial, creating the worlds first Digital Marathon. The app combines HD video with Virtual Reality Avatars to make the unique experience of running the London Marathon available to treadmill runners around the world.

The Promotional Potential

By creating this app, the potential has been created to expand the reach of this truly international event even further. Sports enthusiasts are notoriously passionate about their activities and long distance runners are no different. Being unable to attend the event to test your skill & will power is no longer a problem.

Training Advice

With the London Marathon being an event that aims to drive charity fundraising, a large portion of the participants are not professional or even semi-professional athletes, but regular people who want to make a difference.

A training and nutritional advice section, packed with tips & how to’s to prepare you for the big day, is available on the website. Information available includes:

  • Training Advice
  • Training Tips
  • Nutrition & Health Advice
  • Gear Advice

Critique of the content available on the site would be:

  • The training content hub landing page and individual content pages could have been formatted differently for easier and more efficient consumption.
  • These pieces of text-based content can also be repackaged in different formats to be easily shared amongst the audience.
  • Social sharing functionality is not in place on the content pages.

The Promotional Potential

Firstly, through the consumption and sharing by athletes and London Marathon participants, the social footprint and exposure of the event has the potential to grow exponentially.

The content collateral also lends itself to the contribution of user generated content, where advice and tips can be sourced & collated from social followers.

This content was created through collaboration with experts & sponsors, once again opening the gates for third-party promotion through these partners and sponsors and their own audiences.

Participant Bloggers & Forums

A base for consistent new and fresh content to be created on the website itself is in place, through partnering with athletes that are documenting their entire journey, from the initial preparation all the way through to the actual race.

The site also provides a section (hosted by a third party) where participants are able to create their own individual blogs and keep the world updated on their own journey and progress.

A forum where users can ask each other questions and interact also exists, cultivating and promoting interaction between attendees.

The Promotional Potential

Fresh and unique content is the most powerful resource any brand can own and creating content of value and high quality consistently can be very challenging.

By utilising actual athletes and participants to generate content in partnership with the event, but also allowing anyone to document their journey publicly, solves the problem of consistently fresh content.

This again gives the public the option and potential to promote the event far and wide on their own personal profiles, blogs and websites.

Social Campaigns & Coverage

In 2016 the London Marathon will make history as the one millionth finisher crosses the line on 24 April. To mark this momentous occasion, the #oneinamillion social campaign was brought to life to celebrate every single runner that’s ever taken part in the event.

London Marathon Promotional Coverage

The campaign makes use of user generated content by asking runners to share their marathon memories on Twitter using #oneinamillion, while runners can also order a special edition #oneinamillion T-shirt, printed with their unique number, to commemorate the event.

The Promotional Potential

Because the campaign plays into nostalgia and uses emotional storytelling so well, runners are social campaigning for charity themselves, and indirectly promoting the event.

PR & Media Resources and Exposure

A complete media pack with all the information and creative resources has been made available to the public, allowing journalists and bloggers to easily find everything they need to report on the event.

The Promotional Potential

With all the required information at hand, editorials and news networks are free to present this information however they choose, in the form of tips & what not to do’s, lists of participating celebs, interactive route maps, Guinness World Record attempts and loads more.

Partners & Sponsors

One of the main reasons an event like this does so well is because partners, sponsors and the media are heavily involved in the promotion of the event. Not only by successfully exposing their audiences to it, but by helping the event gain momentum by endorsing the brand event online, linking to the website, promoting it via their social channels and encouraging their audiences to participate in fundraising too.

A number of celebrity runners are also involved and the exposure gained from their promotion of the event and the charities they represent causes an immense ripple effect.

Charities are also campaigning for runners to represent them, which furthers the reach of the campaign to entirely different audiences.

Some might say that The London Marathon is one of those globally popular events that markets itself, and there may be some truth to this, but putting in place a well-thought-out strategy and doing the work to create great collateral that interested individuals, journalists and editorials are able to use is clearly extremely important.

The London Marathon has a well-rounded marketing mix that still includes traditional, above-the-line marketing tactics, but there has also been a clear shift in its approach to ensuring that digital and all its promotional power is put to work to involve more people and organisations than ever before.

About the Author