A week later, I’m still riding high on finishing my first half marathon. By the time these feelings finally wane, I’ll be gearing up for my next race – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half on St. Patrick’s Day.
After posting what might be the wordiest race recap in the history of race recaps, I don’t want to bore my readers with more thoughts about my experience with the race. Instead, I’d like to take a look at runDisney’s digital marketing campaign for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. (Note: these are my own opinions and observations as I did not interview anyone for this article.)
A company like Disney has significant marketing budget to throw behind race promotion compared to other, smaller organizations that put on races. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I’m generally impressed with how runDisney used social media to build awareness for the event, drive it to sell-out status for the fourth year in a row, and – most importantly – foster a sense of community among runners and spectators on various social channels.
Before I even thought a half marathon could be in my future, I “liked” the runDisney Facebook page to stay updated on events, announcements, and participate in the community of runners who also love Disney. The team does a great job of updating the page on a regular basis with relevant content and news, but also posts status updates the foster conversations about active lifestyles, running, and training. When I finally registered for the race, this Facebook page became my go-to source of information regarding the race and to get ideas for my training plan.
What I really enjoyed about runDisney’s page is that that it’s become a true social community. Fans use the Wall to communicate openly with each other, sharing tips and asking questions. Fans quickly answer others’ questions thoughtfully and correctly. When you’re on the page, you notice a real sense of community as you see strangers offering words of support and encouragement as people post their accomplishments to the page.
While there is no official runDisney handle, the @DisneySports account is used to share news and updates about Disney races. Leading up to race weekend, the profile pushed out numerous runDisney-related Tweets to keep runners informed. However, I didn’t find the Twitter channel as effective of a resource as the Facebook page.
One aspect of the runDisney Twitter strategy I did like is that the team promoted the #runDisney and #princesshalf hashtags, resulting in heavy usage throughout the weekend. While on the road to Orlando, I tracked these conversations on my phone to get an idea of what people were saying about the Expo, traffic, and the race, which help keep me better informed about the event in real-time.
At the start line of the race, the emcee told runners to use the #runDisney tag. Once I crossed the finish line, I had fun going back through the #runDisney stream to look at photos and Tweets other runners had shared during the race (I still don’t know how they Tweet and run at the same time!). It was fun to send and receive congratulatory notes from other runners who finished their first half marathons or achieved personal best times. Like on Facebook, runDisney used Twitter hashtags to foster the community, which left me with even more positive feelings about the race.
Blogger Engagement via FitFluential
About 2 weeks before the Disney Princess Half, I noticed a few of my daily must-read running bloggers posting that they would be running the race, staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and attending several special events on behalf of runDisney. This came about through FitFluential, an organization that introduces fitness brands to relevant online influencers.
As I’ve said before, blogger engagement – when done well – is an effective means of social marketing. I enjoyed the FitFluential group’s runDisney coverage and think it helped improve my experience as well as built awareness among their readers about what a full Disney race weekend could look like (and cost).
In addition to reviewing extra events like the Pasta in the Park party and The Race Retreat, these women used their blogs to share little tips and tricks I never would have known otherwise, such as that Disney hosts free first-come, first-served meet-up runs with Olympian Jeff Galloway that are announced on the Disney Parks blog or that the family 5K events aren’t chip-timed (um, no way will I be paying $50 for a race that doesn’t include official times!).
Heather, one of the FitFluential bloggers, organized an independent meet-up the day before the race that allowed bloggers, social media enthusiasts, and readers to all meet in person. This event apparently went well and, coupled with the runDisney/FitFluential partnership, showed the importance of bringing the online offline when developing an active and engaged community.
The heavily integrated social media campaign that runDisney executed for the Princess Half Marathon succeeded so well because it didn’t focus solely on pushing out content. The marketing team used social channels to build a community of engaged people with similar interests and then provided them with various ways to communicate with each other, making for a better overall experience during the race weekend.
Personally, I already can’t wait to cross the finish line of another runDisney event.