After years of supporting and taking part in the series of running races organised by the company Prague International Marathon (‘PIM’), Jo was asked to join the marketing team as the consultant in charge of PR activities, with the support from her agency.
This was a very complex project as, at that time, the races (which were made up of just the Prague Marathon, Prague Half Marathon and Grand Prix) were quite unpopular with the locals, mainly due to the disruption of the traffic, and the city generally, when they were being held. There was also some misunderstanding about this type of road racing at that time (hard to believe in today’s world!), with the general perception being that these races were for professional or semi-professional athletes (and therefore of no real interest to regular people), and that they were not really for the locals (about 60-70% of the people taking part came from abroad). The consequences of these issues being that it was difficult to attract sponsors, to get the media interested, to get locals to take part at all (particularly women, who made up just a small percentage of competitors), to raise money for charity (which is always one of the aims of road races) and to make the events, in the long-term, financially viable.
The brief to Jo, therefore, was to put together a PR strategy that would directly address all of these issues, and for the agency, then, to carry it out. What was clear, though, was that one thing very much followed another – if the races had a much bigger percentage of locals taking part, then the media would be more interested in covering them, and if the media was interested, then sponsors would be easier to persuade, and if there were more sponsors, the races would be more financially viable.
In brief, therefore, the final strategy was heavily weighted towards attracting as many locals to take part in one or other of the races as possible, and this involved:
- A complete re-design and change of focus of the website
- The introduction of many different direct marketing campaigns (newsletters, regular updates, personal letters)
- The upgrading of all PR activities – more regular press briefings, the re-design of all written materials (press releases, briefing notes, press packs, etc), very regular distribution of press releases (sometimes one a day in the lead-up to one of the races) and the formation of many media partnerships and the involvement of key journalists.
- An aggressive and ongoing PR campaign with regular positive stories and interviews with key PIM people, each time targeting different sectors:
- General media – interviews with the PIM team, stories about celebrities getting involved (by persuading top sports people to take part – Petr Nedved to run in the marathon, Jiri Jezek to run in the half marathon, various different Olympians to take part in the team and relay races), articles about running for health and interviews with high level doctors that were persuaded to take part in the races, etc
- Sports media – inviting key sports media to become media partners of the races, holding separate briefing meetings for them to have first information about runners, numbers, giving them the opportunity to interview the top professionals taking part before the general press conference, organising one-to-one interviews with some of the top sports people involved
- Charity media – offering charities the chance to become charity partners, and offering runners the chance to run for charity, then holding separate briefing meetings for the charity journalists allowing them to learn about the charitable side of running, offering them interviews with respective charity ambassadors and people running to support them
- Women’s media – as a way of attracting more women to take part, Jo and her team thought up the ‘PIM Women’s Challenge’ where women could apply to take part in one of the races and were then selected based on their own, personal story. They were then followed through their training and in the lead-up to each race, with a prize for the woman that achieved the most (through improvement in fitness, mental health, etc). And then, throughout the course of the challenge, feeding the lifestyle and women’s media with information, stories and interviews as well as invitations to the races themselves and potential partnerships.
The relationship with PIM went on for three years and was immensely successful, with both PIM and the JWA team winning several awards and, more importantly, the PIM races becoming the biggest events in the Czech Republic (the Prague Marathon today is the biggest one-day event in the country).