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  • Chris

Landmark Sport Group - Marketing Manager - Full Time

Background


Early in my career I was the Marketing Manager for Landmark Sport Group, an organization in Mississauga, Ontario which owned and operated the Mississauga Marathon, Oakville Half Marathon, and the Mississauga Steelheads.


Increasing event registrations for the Mississauga Marathon was my primary focus in this role and I managed a small team of part-time co-ordinators, reporting directly to the CEO.


Responsibilities


The marketing mix at Landmark included a variety of digital and traditional marketing channels. On the digital side I was responsible for social media management, media buying, email marketing and graphic design. My objectives included generating greater awareness of the Mississauga Marathon in local and national markets, engaging with existing and past event participants and ultimately generating new registrations.


Additionally, I oversaw the design and production of co-branded collateral for our sponsors and other partnerships as well as the creation of visual creative for print advertising such as rink boards, posters, magazines ads and pamphlets.


Challenges and Opportunities


While the Mississauga Marathon was an established brand among the 35-50 year old demographic in the local market, the event had steadily declined in attendance year over year, especially among a younger target demo.


Despite the decline, secondary market research revealed that race event participation had actually increased overall among every age group across North America as a whole.


The organization relied heavily on cross-promotion with competitors, leveraged almost entirely by sharing a large email list which was being threatened by the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).


Additionally, the historical use of the organization's marketing budget on print and traditional media resulted in a challenge to attribute sales and provided limited visibility on what was working and what wasn't.


Process


Given a short runway of just a couple of months until the first Mississauga Marathon event date, I reviewed primary and secondary market research data and performed a competitive analysis in order to better understand the road race industry and the needs of event participants.


We were able to identify a correlation between the decline in our event's participation with the rise in trending obstacle course races (OCRs) such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.


A marketing plan was created which prioritized refreshing the brand's digital presence, better engaging new and existing audiences on social media and launching a national campaign across more easily attributable channels.



The #TakeBackRunning campaign challenged the idea that traditional road race events were becoming outdated in favour of the new and exciting OCRs. Social posts, email campaigns and media buys in national road race publications all made polarizing claims that OCRs might be ruining the sport of running, only to surprise readers with research statistics that attributed a rise in road race participation overall to these very events.


With my limited design skills, we also approved a new brand guide for the Mississauga Marathon and applied changes to the recently redesigned event website.



Highlights


Our social media strategy focused largely on social listening and frequent engagement with users mentioning direct competitors as well as those mentioning our own event but not following the official social media pages. This resulted in a 338% increase in follower growth rate across all channels compared to the previous year, nearly doubling our audience in just a few months.


Our #TakeBackRunning campaign received a tremendous response, leading to our branded hashtags trending nationally on Twitter and a 440% increase in branded mentions. One full spread editorial piece which I'd written as an ad-buy from Running Room Magazine even eclipsed the publication's top 10 all-time most read list.


Ultimately, we sold out of our 5K event registrations (the most accessible distance targeting younger, more casual runners) during the year of the campaign, and the Mississauga Marathon saw an increase in registrations across all distances of over 25% the following year.



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©2020 Chris Kowalewski
Illustrations from undraw.co