Marathon woman delivers
A concern for some marketers is that their campaigns won't ignite public interest, but Rhoda Chan Shuk-wai had few such worries.
She knew when signing on as head of corporate responsibility for Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) that 50,000-odd local runners were waiting to see if she could deliver on a couple of much-discussed possibilities. Would she be able to change the route of the Hong Kong marathon, half marathon and 10km races to create a better spectacle and a more spectator-friendly finish? And could she arrange additional start times to attract ever higher numbers and keep expanding the city's biggest mass-participation sports event?
The fact that a record 65,000 entrants will be lining up next February for the 2011 edition, before winding their way through Causeway Bay to a finish at Victoria Park, means Chan can confidently report 'mission accomplished'.
It also explains why she won the top individual accolade as Marketer of the Year at the HKMA/TVB Awards for Marketing Excellence 2010.
'There is a huge workload in organising such an event, but the key focus when I joined the bank in 2007 was to propose a change of route,' Chan says. 'We wanted to make it better for runners, give spectators somewhere to cheer, so there was more of a carnival atmosphere, and create the opportunity to keep expanding.'
A series of meetings involving government departments, the police, support services and residents' groups ironed out the technicalities. And, with agreement to start 2008's 10km races on the Island Eastern Corridor and switch the finish for all distances from Golden Bauhinia Square, the stage was set for the attendant marketing campaign to kick into gear.
Each year this involves building a bank-wide programme around the buzz the marathon generates. It includes activities for primary and secondary school students, with cheering teams and charity fund-raising competitions. Initiatives are tied in to promote environmental awareness and sustainability. Record numbers of participants are out training every day, accepting the challenge to get fit and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
'There has been a great response,' Chan says, citing surveys that showed 91 per cent of runners were satisfied with the new route and that 97 per cent of respondents felt the marathon has made a real mark on the community.
'We wanted to turn this into a truly Hong Kong event for people of all ages, but we also realise it's importance for staff engagement by creating team spirit and great morale within the company.'
Chan used social media, videos and online games to spread the message, and billboard-style adverts on trams, buses and at key outdoor locations along the new route. She also got schools to hang out banners and sent direct mailings asking residents to put posters in their windows showing support.
'We have a long-term vision, that's what drives us,' she says. 'We want this event to unite people and do something good for Hong Kong.'