Brand wins and fails at the Dublin Marathon

On Monday I ran my second marathon, my first was in Brighton in April, I completed the 26.2 mile course in 4 hours 39 minutes and I am very tired but quite pleased with myself 🙂
About 18,000 individuals ran the marathon and the streets of Dublin were lined with tens of thousands more out to watch and cheer on their friends, as such this is quite a nice and (often low cost) opportunity for brands to take advantage of the extra foot fall (no pun intended!) and do something nice to build some good will in a very human way.
So I have outlined a few examples of the good (where brands have engaged), the bad (where opportunities have been missed) and the ugly (where brands have messed up!) from my experience of Dublin this year:

The good:

BMW: There was a BMW dealership about half way around the course, as the roads in the area were shut, they weren’t going to sell many cars so they had their staff out cheering on the runners and handing out drinks, a nice change of pace for the staff and an easy win for the dealer.

Spa (convenience store chain) had a sponsorship to the race and had brought ATL (bus shelter locations mostly) on the race day to display “good luck” messages to the runners, admittedly they could have done more but this was nice.

The bad (missed opportunities)

Hotels: We stayed at the Best Western along with at least 30-50 other runners, a good clean hotel but they could have made a few small changes (as could other brands) to make life easy for runners, for example: offer a late checkout for runners so they could come back and shower after the race. It’s easy but wasn’t offered, don’t know why?

Local restaurants: Diet is important when running a marathon (particularly for me, being a diabetic) the night before we ate at a local Italian, it was packed with runners “carbing up” before the race, it would have been clever for some Dublin restaurants to simply offer “marathon deals” before and after the race, maybe the hotel restaurants could have benefited from this too!

The ugly:

Starbucks: Yeh I didn’t expect this one either, but there you go… Starbucks really dropped a ball here and this is why: On the marathon course (at about mile 22) you run past a large and prominently placed Starbucks, I happened to notice a big sign on the door, it read something like: “Marathon runners: your nearly there, but please remember our toilets are for patrons only!” Now fair enough, Starbucks may have had issues here before, and the sign was clearly well meaning, but it struck the wrong chord with me, a simple change of the language would have made all the difference: “Marathon runners, sorry our toilets are for patrons only, but feel free to pop in after the race with your medal and get a free coffee! – This would have done 2 things: firstly it would have stopped a number of runners saying rude things to each other about Starbucks as they ran past and secondly: It would have brought runners and their families to the store after the race to get a free coffee, but they would have also brought food and coffee for family! Win.

Now there is a big point here: All of these little initiatives (with the exception of SPA’s ATL buy) would have been done at a very local, regional / store manager level. I very much doubt anyone from marketing or PR was involved in BMW giving out drinks or Starbucks putting up a silly sign, this would have been the initiative of local management.

This really shows how important it is to both train local managers on how to do this kind of thing and also in empowering them to actually do it, with the budget and freedom required to do the good stuff and the smarts to avoid the bad stuff. So often local opportunities are missed because the local teams (I mean in store / dealership) don’t know how to take advantage of them or are worried about head office PR / marketing backlash so don’t do it.

Just a few of my thoughts.


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