- Promote to the media that the Trek Across Maine pivoted to a virtual event and anyone could register and fundraise.
- Create message map for interviews and Trek spokespeople.
- Secure media coverage for the event prior to the registration deadline (May 20).
- Secure news coverage on the day of the originally scheduled event (Father’s Day).
The Trek Across Maine is an annual three-day, 180-mile cycling event. It is the largest fundraising event of its kind in the nation for the American Lung Association (ALA). Each year, nearly 2,000 cyclists and 750 volunteers take part in this Father’s Day weekend event. Over the past 36 years, the Trek has attracted cyclists from mostly in New England states and raised more than $29 million for the ALA.
In 2020, the ALA wanted to increase participation in the ride. It looked to Marshall Communications (MC) for assistance for the second year in a row. Part of MC’s strategy was to increase advance media coverage of the event to drive registration. To accomplish this, we created a media relations campaign to generate coverage of individual cyclists and their compelling stories within their local media markets. This plan was significantly altered by COVID-19 because all media nationwide was dedicating much of its coverage to pandemic-related stories.
Due to the rise of the pandemic in March (three months before the event) and the safety concerns it brought along with it, MC worked with the Trek staff to pivot and introduce a virtual ride. This marked completely new territory for the Trek as this had never been done before in the event’s 36-year history.
Media relations efforts shifted as well as the COVID-19 situation was not only a challenge, but also an opportunity. Since the ride was going to be virtual, quickly, the agency pivoted to recruit people from across the country that would still participate in the virtual event. We made sure to promote the benefits of riding virtual (no travel expenses and the opportunity to ride at home on a stationary bike or in communities and on local trails).
MC worked with the ALA to identify the Trek’s top 10-20 brand ambassadors throughout the U.S. It conducted interviews with the ambassadors to determine the most newsworthy elements of their personal stories. In addition to press releases and op-eds generated as a result of these interviews, MC facilitated Zoom and phone interviews (due to COVID) between the ambassadors and media outlets in their local areas. We also provided support for brand ambassadors who were unfamiliar with how to do video conference calls with the media.
- Raise $500,000 from the virtual event
- Secure at least $2 million in estimated coverage views from media results
- Secure 100 new registrations from outside of Maine
- Secure at least four Father’s Day related stories to emphasize the Trek is a Father’s Day tradition
- Used internal and external messaging to promote to the media that the Trek pivoted to a virtual event and anyone could register and fundraise
- Created message map for interviews and Trek spokespeople
- Secured media coverage for the event prior to the registration deadline (May 20)
- Secured news coverage on the day of the originally scheduled event (Father’s Day)
- MC issued two press releases and an opinion piece on the virtual Trek to garner local and national media attention for the event
- Bylined op-ed article by cycling enthusiast, and Maine native, Olympian Eric Weinrich
- Spent nearly 75 hours pitching specific, targeted journalists across the country via email and phone calls. Journalists were targeted based on their beat, previous coverage of the event and location based on where the ambassadors lived (across the country from Maine to California)
366 pieces of coverage
1.71 billion online readership
$2.39 million estimated coverage shares
3,120 social shares
The virtual event raised $550,000. In fact, it was so successful that the Trek hosted the event virtually again in 2021. One month after the 2020 event, more than $28,000 had already been raised for the 2021 Trek Across Maine.
Media results increased 119 percent compared to the same period last year (January-July). This is incredible considering the 2020 event was virtual, and the 2019 event was a traditional ride.
There were also two stories picked up by the Associated Press.
Highlights of media coverage in media markets include:
The virtual event and publicity supporting it encouraged more cyclists across the U.S. to take part, including 303 new participants from states including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, New Mexico, and California.
Categories: Public Relations