Four ways charities used digital to engage London Marathon runners

Kirsty Marrins examines how charities made personal connections with their fundraisers at this year's major event

With over 39,000 runners taking part in the Virgin Money London Marathon this year, raising millions of pounds for charity, it’s little wonder that the marathon is a flagship fundraising event for many. With the rise of digital, not only is donating made easier but so is reaching out to runners and creating those personal connections. Here’s how charities used digital to engage with their runners and supporters:

The build up

More and more charities are factoring the London Marathon into their content strategy and spending time and resource building case studies of their runners so that they can share their stories across social, raise awareness of why they are running for their cause and encourage donations to their fundraising pages.

Lisa Clavering, Senior Digital Fundraising Manager at Anthony Nolan says," The Virgin Money London Marathon is always one of our peak times for engagement on social media channels with our warm audiences.  We are always looking for new ways to support our amazing runners and this year was no exception.  With a team of 255 runners raising over £600,000 to look after, we created a series of fun and friendly posts to show them we were thinking of them and supporting them in the run up and on the day itself. Our goal was to show we understood both what they’d been through during their preparation and their race day experience; and empathised with their very personal reasons for running for Anthony Nolan. Over 80% of our Marathon team had a close personal link to our cause, including runners taking part in memory of a loved one lost or to celebrate a loved one saved by Anthony Nolan."

Teenage Cancer Trust had around 180 runners and profiled six of these runner’s stories on their website and across their social channels. Nick Hardy’s story reached over 640,000 people on Facebook, was shared almost three hundred times and had 127 comments.

By sharing the very personal reasons of why supporters are running for you, you are moving beyond just a challenge event and helping people connect to your cause and share their own experiences through conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

Personalised social content

For years charities have sent out personalised emails to their London Marathon runners to give them important information about the marathon, tips on how to reach their fundraising targets as well as wish them good luck and, of course, congratulate them after the marathon. These emails are highly valuable and necessary but there’s something about that very public recognition that social media provides that’s very rewarding both to the recipient and to the charity, in terms of building relationships and measuring engagement.

Of course it can be very time consuming, depending on how many runners you have running for your charity, but the increased levels of engagement make it worth the effort.

Here are some great examples of personalised tweets from charities:

Real-time interviews and media

With the recent introduction of Facebook Live and the ability to upload native video to Facebook and Twitter, more and more charities are taking on a journalistic approach to reporting the London Marathon. Only just a few years ago was it enough to just cheer your runners along the route but now it’s about bringing the marathon to life for your supporters as well as creating lasting memories for your runners.

Of course it’s every charity’s dream that one of their runners is interviewed by the BBC or that their branding along the route is picked up in coverage of the event (and traditional media still has a very important part to play) but more and more, charities are able to create their own coverage which is tailored for their audience. Sue Ryder posted two Facebook Live interviews with runners after the marathon, one of which below has been viewed 2,200 times and has had a reach of over 88,000 people. Not bad for a Facebook Page that has just over 7,500 Likes.

Anthony Nolan did a great job of live tweeting about their runners, adding some interesting and personal information about them.

Macmillan Cancer Support used Snapchat and Twitter to bring to life one of their cheering points on mile 19:

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Great atmosphere at mile 19 of the #LondonMarathon! Listen to those drums. Our Snapchatusername is:

— Macmillan Cancer (@macmillancancer) 24 April 2016


Parkinson’s UK shared a hugely inspiring story of one of their runners who has Parkinson’s and who finished last in the marathon. This story is worthy of national coverage but instead of waiting for media pickup, they have turned to Facebook to share John’s story. The video has been viewed over 41,000 times and has had a reach of 172.5k. They also saw a significant increase in donations to John’s fundraising page, which they attribute in part to this post. John had raised £4,750 before the post went out, and since the post has raised an extra £6,560 (not including gift aid).


Post-race communication

There is nothing worse than a charity that builds up to a campaign only to never share the end result. If you’re asking people for their support, then it’s imperative to take them on the whole journey. Here are some great examples of charities that have shared post-London Marathon information with their audience.

The Children’s Society has done an amazing job creating a landing page that has captured on a map every single one of their runner’s journeys. They’ve also complied a Storify of the top social media messages. Below is a 30 second video of a map where you can see each of their runner’s progress along the route from start to finish.

NSPCC created a great little image for social that thanked their runners and shared how many runners they actually had and, collectively, how far they had all ran.

<blockquoteclass="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb">

What an amazing bunch #TeamNSPCC is. All their hard work during #LondonMarathon will help us keep all children safe

— NSPCC (@NSPCC) 25 April 2016

Sue Ryder shared a native video to Twitter on London Marathon day where they thanked their runners for raising £79,000.

They’ve recently shared the latest total on Twitter:

Weldmar Hospicecare Trust shared a Facebook post which showed photos of all their runners, congratulated them all and thanked them for raising over £14,000 for the charity.

This approach takes time and resource but is highly rewarding. As Lisa Clavering says,"The huge spike we saw in our engagement stats around our Marathon tweets is testament to the success of our approach and we will continue to develop fun, engaging content to thank and celebrate the amazing supporters who raise amazing amounts of lifesaving money!".

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