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.
Mobile editorial office
An editor, a creative writer and a content manager joined their efforts for the time of the project. We had a sort of a distributed editorial office that we called “mobile EO”. We used Trello to manage project task setting and communications. WhatsApp messenger was used for quick updates on project status.
Editor — Anna Krampez, Creative Writer — Alla Ivonina, Content Manager — Irina Osipova.
An example of a post by a Partner — Mulebar, energy bars and gels manufacturer
A few sample Instagram posts:
Rinas Akhmadeev, Master of Sports of International Class, four-time National Champion of Russia in 3,000 and 5,000-meter race.
Еще один известный марафонец России приедет на международный Томский марафон! . Это Ринас Ахмадеев из Татарстана. Он 4х-кратный Чемпион России в беге на 3000 м. и 5000 м. и Мастер спорта международного класса! На «Томском марафоне» Ринас Ахмадеев будет преодолевать полумарафонскую дистанцию. https://tomskmarathon.ru/blog . Фото из архива Р. Ахмадеева. #РинасАхмадеев #участникмарафона #чемпионроссии #tomskmarathon #томскиймарафон #марафонвтомске #томскбег #томск #марафонтомск #участникимарафона #марафон11июня #томск #tomsk #такбываеттольковтомске #марафонярче
Branded image with an announcement
Закончилась регистрация на Томский марафон! До старта осталось 10 дней! Ровно 10 дней осталось до старта международного Томского марафона. Подготовка в этому грандиозному спортивному мероприятию выходит на финишную прямую. 🏆 В марафоне будут участвовать лучшие спортсмены России, гордость отечественного марафонского движения. 📝 За прошедшее время было подано 2000 заявок на участие из 40 регионов России и 5 зарубежных стран. Большинство спортсменов – мужчины, их число составляет 70%. 400 детей от 1 года до 12 лет будут участвовать в детском забеге. Грандиозное спортивное мероприятия лета-2018 поддерживает власть Томска, малый и крупный бизнес, да и вся общественность города. 🏃 Ждем вас на «Томском марафоне»! #регистрация #tomskmarathon #томскиймарафон #марафонвтомске #томскбег #томск #марафонтомск #марафон11июня #стартмарафона #такбываеттольковтомске #марафонярче
An interview with Olga Veselkina, a Tomsk Marathon participant
We tried to post all short videos that we could get which included an interview with Alexander Gordiyevskikh and local TV spots. We made one of the TV spots in cooperation with 33 Penguins company, one of Tomsk Marathon Partners.
First visitors to the site and first social network audience were friends and acquaintances of the Promoters, Tomsk athletes who were waiting for website opening to complete their registration.
We still had hopes to attract international participants in March but lack of time became obvious in April. We needed multi-language content covering the topics of visa issues, transport, accommodations, city features etc. that were quite wide. And we not only needed the content we also had to have it distributed. Besides, our research showed that an international athlete normally takes a decision 6 to 9 months prior to the event. Our decision to partially wrap up development of the English version of the content was driven by the above. For example, we reduced English tweets to the minimum.
The highest activity was observed in VK and Telegram groups where members communicated daily and almost for 24 hours. We should note friendliness and civility of the group members. In three months we had only five emotional messages from Tomsk people being unhappy about closing city central streets. But that sort of reaction would be expected and was followed up without escalation of the emotions.
- Content plan development for the website and social networks.
- Creation of posts to be published on the website and in social network.
- Posts publishing on the website.
- Posts adaptation for translation into English.
- Preparation of press releases and communications with the media.
- Communications with running societies and athletes.
- Communications with Marathon participants, incoming messages processing and consulting.
- Support of Partners in preparation of their publicity materials. VK, FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, YouToube:
- Creation and design of groups/pages;
- Online community maintenance — publications placement, inquiries processing;
- Statistics monitoring.
Promotion — content distribution
Our promotion strategy was pretty straightforward — we communicated with athletes in person. We tried to show our contacts that they are communicating with real people who care so we would invite the athletes personally and would send e-mails to communities and messages to popular running websites, athletic clubs. Some would be quite responsive and add the events to their calendars, some would post the info in their communities, some would ignore invitations. Important personal contribution into interaction with participants was made by Alexander Gordievskikh, Director, whose communication style and attitude made it less formal and more relaxed as opposed to the tone normally taken by large events organizers.
What didn’t work out?
First, we made mistakes:
- Grammar mistakes, to be honest, especially in quick posts.
- We made two factual mistakes using outdated information on Russian champions achievements.
- We picked a wrong emoticon in an important announcement — instead of an index finger we picked a middle finger one (on the bright side — we got lots of views with that).
- We used lots of hashtags. Second, we couldn’t finish planned video content but it is still in plan for 2019.
Third, we were not always there to respond to questions in Instagram right away.
To sum up
In three month — from March 12 to June 12 we created and published
- 82 full-scale blog posts;
- 587 social network posts (6 posts a day in average):
The highest user activity was noted a month before the start:
The following posts immediately related to the Marathon had most of views and reposts:
- participants’ interviews;
- Organizing Committee’s announcements.
Event-related audience formed in the social network groups including athletes and potential participants of Tomsk Marathon. We manged to perform a significant amount of work staying within the budget.
July 1, 2018