Marketing Lessons from the 2016 NYC Marathon – The Value of Shameless Self Promotion

Living across the river from New York City we all know about one of the greatest if not the largest marathons on the planet – The New York City Marathon. In my mind, it was the closest thing to conquering Mt. Everest. It’s not an easy feat to be a part of. So, after years of trying you can imagine my shock and amazement when I got the email saying I made it in.

Past runners can share their experiences with you and you can see all the video footage from the news outlets, but it doesn’t compare to YOUR experience once you run it. THE most exhilarating I’d have to say. I had no idea the level of marketing that goes into this event until I saw it from the inside.

There were hundreds of camera crew members strategically placed along the route and embedded with us. I believe the number of runners this year was upwards of 50,000. There’s no way to capture all of us, so what helps them determine who to video and photograph for the promotional shots you’ll no doubt see next year? The brand ambassadors better known as ‘Shameless Self Promoters’.

I’ve always been a proponent of it and preached it to others but seeing it in action on such a high-profile level is a whole different animal.

There were runners in full costume dressed as everything from super heroes, ballerinas, semi-burlesque dancers (complete with sequined bras and feathers… yes, in November) to brides-to-be with full veil and tiaras. Tee shirts with pictures of their inspiration, balloons tied to their backs, painted faces, wigs, hashtags for social posting and everything in between. Funny sights to behold, yet media darlings at their finest, and the cameras ate it up!

They’re the ones who got prime “face time” followed by those with big personalities. Even those on-lookers with the most outrageous signs and antics had their share of screen time. Then there’s the B-roll… everyone else. Great takeaways for the marketer that I can sum up like this:

  1. Lose your inhibitions when you need to promote – No one else knows your products, services or business like you do. You’ve worked tirelessly to have it come to fruition. Now it’s here and you need to sell it. Find every opportunity (within reason) to talk about it, share it, pass out flyers, demonstrate or post to social media. You really are your best salesperson.
  2. Go beyond the status quo and make your unique trait a BIG deal – This race was so important to those runners that stood out, they let the whole world know it and brought us into the celebration. Accentuate what your product/service has, can do, benefits it provides and other traits that are beyond the usual. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and find those little-known facts that could give you an edge over the competition. For example, I know a business owner who sells oils and bath products. In particular, she carries lemon essential oil. Many people know lemon to be soothing and somewhat healing. But she found it also helps to disperse cellulite and keep wrinkles at bay. A definite trait she touts proudly.
  3. Be genuine – You can use your best sales pitch, perfect smile and have all the gimmicks in the world to make that sale, but if YOU don’t believe what you’re saying, chances are we won’t either. Use the very products and services you’re selling to get a real sense of their outcome and share their results publicly. Be honest about their strengths and limitations, and crystal clear in your message. If it’s a major part of how the products came to be, tell your personal story. Sincerity is a direct path to connecting with your audience. Though a lot of the costumes were big head turners, those runners with signs on their backs saying it’s their first marathon, or they’re running for loved ones who’ve gone on, or running for a cure to a disease got the greatest enthusiasm from the crowd. Connections were made, tears flowed and inspiration sparked just from the looks on their faces as I ran by.

Yes, I made it to the finish line, albeit dark and not much of a crowd left. But best believe I gave the cameras a big heartfelt show especially when I saw my husband and two boys waiting at the finish line with my medal. That was a genuine moment I’ll never forget.

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