Marketing a Big, Fat, Cajun Triathlon

A post from our special guest blogger, Ann Harris…

Louisiana is fat.

The ‘gras’ in ‘Mardi Gras’ doesn’t stop on Fat Tuesday! Did you know Louisiana is currently ranked as the 49th unhealthiest state?

In an effort to bring awareness to the state of health in the bayou, Patrick Fellows swam 32 miles in the Gulf and kickstarted the Rocketkidz Foundation (RKF).

“RKF started Rocketkidz Triathlons to give kids a fun way to get fit. RKF started Rocketchix Triathlons because kids don’t often make their own choices and when a family gets fit together, the odds of fitness and healthier eating choices becoming a lasting habit are increased by magnitudes.” – from the RocketKidz Foundation website.

A month ago, RKF Chairman Susan Hayden and I had a full weekend charette for brainstorming ways to promote RKF fundraising events. The real struggle was how to coordinate the volunteer directors in a way that honored their commitment yet kept them on track with an easy checklist so they didn’t get overwhelmed (and decide never to volunteer again). Now RKF is totally drinking the Basecamp kool-aid!

The new marketing plan incorporates social media promotion, traditional PR, emails, and volunteer coordination.

For a bunch of buff triathletes with full-time jobs and families to boot, managing a complicated project management application was out of the question. Some tools, ahem SharePoint cough, go beyond being user-unfriendly and are downright user-hostile. Basecamp was the perfect solution for RKF because it allowed Susan and her team to create project templates that could easily be reused and tweaked for every new race.

Races, Olympic distance triathlons or plain ole 5Ks, make up the backbone of RKF programming. Each volunteer race director takes on an enormous amount of responsibility and months of planning. A race director must be able to talk the talk, walk the walk, and coordinate a bunch of well-meaning volunteers who do neither of those things. Keeping volunteers clued-in, on task, AND happy is a tall order. Using a simple system like Basecamp was the answer for RKF.

It is especially important for non-profits to harness social media and online marketing. When you don’t have a budget for print advertising, you better make sure those emails get opened!

For example, here is an email template that reaches out to a very specific segment of the RKF mailing list. See if you can guess who we’re targeting here:

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“Hi [First Name],
You joined us for [event] and we hope you had a blast! We noticed you’re not registered for our next race, [race], that will be taking place [date, time, location].

As a past racer, RKF wants to offer you a super secret special rate on your registration! Just use the discount code [####] for 10% off on your race registration!

LINK: Register now!

Even if you can’t join the fun in person, you can still make a tremendous difference by supporting the RocketKidz Foundation online.
LINK: Donate today!
We hope you see you on race day!

Race hard,
[Name of Race Director]

Did you know RKF has FREE training schedules you can download? Don’t just beat your personal best time – kick it’s butt! You can get your customized training schedule at [link]. See you at the finish line!”

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We had a mantra, too! “Begin with the end in mind.”

From flyers to Facebook posts, the entire marketing timeline begins and ends at the finish line. I created a spreadsheet (get a copy below), that allows the race director to enter the race date and count backwards to plan all of the marketing events that leads up to it.

It was important that we not focus on just one method of outreach. You don’t need an MBA to know it takes a mix when it comes to marketing.

Marketing plans are like cupcakes – too much of only one ingredient and you get something undercooked and funny smelling.
The RKF plan combines targeted email marketing, social media automation, and creative PR to drive registrations to races and rally support in the greater Baton Rouge community. Done and done!

Click here to get your copy of the marketing timeline from the free Google Doc

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About the author:
Ann Harris is a social media coach and national speaker to brilliant entrepreneurs and “sassy pants” small business owners. Native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and graduate of Louisiana State University with a B.A. in Arts Administration. Ann blogs about online marketing best practices and social media tools at Southern Social Marketing.