Media interest was massive, and the online coverage during the challenge got 2,260 social shares over the two days.

 
 

Charity challenge and a social media explosion

It happens quite a lot at The Partners Group; an email comes through with a few details outlining a potential PR story and we’ll do a bit more digging to find out what the story is.

What looked like a straightforward sponsorship story last week turned into a two-day social media explosion.

Our client CMS Window Systems had offered to support five friends undertaking the ultimate Scottish footballing challenge – visiting all 42 senior club grounds in under 42 hours. The '42 in 42' was the idea of CMS Technical Manager, Gordon Moffat, and CMS would sponsor the fuel for the trip.

The challenge was to raise money and awareness for the JMA Trust, set up last year to celebrate the life of John Maurice Aitken who tragically died aged 32 after a decade fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. John was a huge fan of Celtic and Annan Athletic, and Gordon thought the challenge would be a fitting way to remember him and raise money for the charity. He put together a '42 in 42' team – with John’s brothers, Kevin and Ciaran, and former Annan Athletic players Joe Cranston and Gary McMenamin.

We realised how big the story would be when we mapped out the route – the team was set to travel over 750 miles in just 42 hours, or 150 miles of driving each on no sleep.

Media interest was massive – a half page feature in the Metro saw them on their way on Thursday morning, and was quickly followed by posts on the BBC, ITV and STV websites as well as a dozen other pieces of regional coverage. The team had secured celebrity support along the way; they were presented with a cheque for £1,000 by Scottish footballer Cammy Bell at Ibrox, met snooker legend John Higgins at Celtic Park and were greeted by Dundee United fan Lorraine Kelly at Tannadice.

it was the careful management of social media that really propelled the challenge.But it was the careful management of social media that really propelled the challenge. The team took photos at each of the grounds, but also shared photos and video from inside the car along the way.

As the challenge rolled on, and the team posted photos and updates from each ground, we were able to grab content instantly and forward it to news outlets, generating new articles which were then shared on social media. The online coverage during the challenge got 2,260 social shares over those two days – with 1,960 of those on Facebook (next time someone tells you Facebook is dead, feel free to show them that statistic).

On Twitter, the hashtag #ForJohn made a potential three million impressions, with 298 users posting 1,026 tweets. We managed to get a few tweets from Lorraine Kelly ahead of her trip to meet the lads in Dundee; BBC Breakfast’s Carol Kirkwood gave them a shout out on Friday morning and they even got a mention from Frankie & Benny’s when the lads stopped off at their Perth branch for dinner.

There were also plenty of radio interviews along the way – well, if you’re in a car travelling 750 miles, you might as well make the most of the time!

The team set a fundraising target of £5,000, but by the time they crossed the finish line at Annan after 39 hours and 37 minutes they’d seen donations more than three times that amount. Auctioning off signed football shirts and other memorabilia that they were given during the challenge, the total raised is set to top £20,000.

So what can we learn from the '42 in 42'?
  1. A strong story sells. The challenge had all the elements that appeal to us as readers and as donors. It was fun and unusual, but also physically and mentally challenging. It had a strong personal element – we never forgot that this challenge was #ForJohn. It was inclusive – football rivalry was set aside with all the clubs pulling together to show their support. There was a celebrity element. It was visual – there were photos from every ground. And it was also regional; appealing to local media is just as important as national.
  1. Social media helps build momentum. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its impact. Research from Tecmark in 2014 found that the average user picks up their smartphone 221 times every day. But it also works both ways – social media helped the team to stay connected to their supporters whilst they were on the road. Not only did supporters feel like they were part of the journey, their messages gave the team a boost at times when they were flagging.
  1. Planning goes a long way. The team went prepared, with boards and marker pens to create interesting images from the inside of the car. They made a Vine. They did short videos of themselves singing along to the radio. They shared the camaraderie of the challenge with their supporters, which no doubt contributed to the huge amount of donations they received. They knew their schedule, and stuck to it, which made it easy for the media. They had interesting events planned, such as celebrity support, which was an easy hook for the story.
  1. Following up is just as important. When hundreds of people have intensely followed your story, it’s important not to cut them off at the end. Once you have engaged someone in your cause, the key is to retain them. The challenge team has continued to post photos and social media updates, share new media coverage and encourage people to donate.
To find out more about the JMA Trust and the '42 in 42' challenge, find them on Facebook, on Twitter or go to their fundraiser page.
 
 
 
 
 
    
 
The Partners Group

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