For your information: Tomsk Marathon Yarche! following a formally certified course in ancient Siberian city of Tomsk is an international event. The first start of the Marathon was given on June 11, 2018.
Tomsk Marathon had 2,098 registered participants of which 468 registered for the full marathon, 1,034 — for the half-marathon and 596 — for the 5 km race. Kid race had 460 young participants registered.
What made the event so special was its scale as it was the first event of the kind with a formally certified course routed around city center (with central streets closed), serious prize money and a shot at a national-scale event. Event promoters targeted not only people of Tomsk but also of neighboring Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk regions and European part of Russia. The best case scenario targeted engagement of runners from other countries.
Regular marathon participants that take longer races of 42.2 or 21.1 km have their schedule defined a year ahead as a marathoner can take 3 or 4 long races a year. Normally a runner is 90% sure about the races she is taking next season by the end of a current one and every decision is driven by numerous factors such as each particular marathon status and prominence, event organization standards, how easy/challenging or beautiful a course is, events overlap or if an event takes place at the time of a regular leave or holidays, and estimated trip budget. And if a runner takes a decision to take Tomsk Marathon it means that she is likely going to miss some other event.
For those who have never travelled to Tomsk we should mention that ease of travel to the city is not among its strongest sides. You have to go to Moscow first if you are flying from the European part of the country. There’s an option to take a railway trip if you area travelling from the Urals. Travelling from Asian part of the country would take a flight to Novosibirsk first and then a railway/bus ride up to Tomsk. Any potential participant (especially from the European part of Russia) had to give it a serous though before travelling that far to a not very well known city (we would often be asked “Tomsk? Where in the world is it?”) to take part in an event that is not highly hyped so far, not really knowing what to expect in terms of organization.
Content development strategy
Tomsk Marathon start was scheduled on June 11 with a public announcement of the event given March 8 in the first press release by City Administration. Event website went online the same day and participants registration started.
In a technical sense the website was flawless but for its position in search systems as it was too young for Yandex and Google and lacked both content and inbound links. The tasks of event positioning, its presentation in media space, attracting the athletes were to be solved in just three moths. Above that, we knew that direct marketing strategies that could be effective for vast Internet audience would not bring desired results and that what we needed was some specialized content that would help travelling athletes to take a decision and to arrange their trips.
We hope that Tomsk Marathon is going to grow into an annual even so the Promoters should have full control of the key source of participants’ and partners’ information. Marathon website is to become the primary place of announcements and publications. We chose to distribute the content through VK (VKontakte), FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, YouToube interest groups. We also created a group in Telegram messenger.
Limited resources made it crucial for us to apply effective methods and algorithms of works or, at least, it made us look for smart decisions. We have determined the type of materials we were looking for and pre-developed their structure with basic content plan made and branded image templates prepared for each of the social networks. In the very beginning of the project when there are no actual materials available and there’s nothing you can make them of (as you don’t have eye-catching project related images or videos or information for posts) it can be tempting to follow an easy way of posting images and quotes, some athletics news, diet tips etc. Such option would make our life easy but it wouldn’t help in creating awareness about the event and in promoting it among potential participants. So our task was to answers to all possible questions of future event participants that even have not been asked out loud but could very well be implied, such as
- Where is the city of Tomsk located? What are the possible ways of travelling there and how much it may cost? What are available accommodation options in the city?
- What are the event organization standards (covering everything from marathon course certification and Tomsk marathons history up to prize money)?
- Who are the other athletes that have (still!) chosen to take Tomsk Marathon?
- Who are the top athletes invited by the Promoters?
- Who are Tomsk Marathon partners?
- We also wanted to provide info on other issues important for the athletes from the point of their participation arrangement.
Basic content plan included publication of three main news items a week with simpler cut-ins posted every other day to maintain presence in the media space. In fact it turned out that the cut-ins were not necessary as we had plenty of essential materials to post. Information traffic had been increasing towards the time of event and peaked a week before the start.