The Client:

For an agency that is as passionate about sport as JWA, Prague International Marathon, or PIM, the company that organizes the Prague Marathon and Half Marathon as well as a number of other races, has always been interesting to us; many of our team have run in its races; our Managing Director has taken part in the Half Marathon on eight different occasions! It was, therefore, a very exciting day for us when we were appointed to handle the PR for PIM. No-one on the outside could possibly imagine the amount of work and the huge team that is required to organise running races of this magnitude, and even after an enormous initiation process, we were constantly being surprised at the different issues that have to be dealt with. From local authorities, to professional athletes’ requirements, to celebrities attending and the needs of the sponsors and media, the work required from a PR agency point of view, was, particularly at the beginning, near to overwhelming. Our initial brief was three-fold; first of all, to improve the overall perception of the PIM races in the media (in the past, particularly in the early days, there was more talk of the disruption to traffic caused by closing the roads for these long distance races than all the positive benefits that these races bring to the city). Secondly, to find ways of building the corporate brand throughout the year, rather than just focusing on the PR around each race. And, thirdly, to get more of the local people, particularly women, up and running – in the year before JWA was appointed, nearly 50% of the participants in the PIM races were from outside the Czech Republic. As we continue to work for PIM, we can see that we are succeeding with all three parts of the brief, but it is an ongoing project that continues to grow with an equal mix of stunning successes and occasional dramas, along the way. The work required is enormous; prior to each race, we need to write one press release per day (some of them translated into more than five different languages), organise two or three press conferences in the week of the race itself, handle interviews with celebrities and athletes, organise the press centre, and, of course, be involved in and attend the various events and other activities during the build up to and during the event. And then, in between each race, we are looking for stories, coming with new ideas, discussing additional activities and so on. In our first year, we came up with the idea of organising the PIM Women’s Challenge – PIM invited women who entered its races to fill in a form about themselves, giving reasons why they took up running, what they would like to achieve, etc, and organized a panel of judges to choose ten women to follow through their training and up to the race. All women entering the challenge received a number of benefits, but the ten ‘chosen’ competitors had access to their own trainer as well as various other benefits, with the outright winner receiving the use of a new Volkswagen car. The competition is now an annual event, as it proved so successful – in the first year, we more than doubled the number of women taking part in the PIM races (the third part of our brief), plus we opened the door to a lot of PR opportunities that we hadn’t had in the past – the women’s magazines, glossies and lifestyles, who had not, until then, followed PIM. Last year, we persuaded some of the leading Czech winter sports athletes (the world champion cross country skier, the Olympic gold medalist speed skier, and the Nordic Olympic Ski team) to take part in one of the team races during the Volkswagen Marathon Weekend. The spectacle of three leading winter sportsmen running alongside the top Kenyans at the head of the pack was something to behold, and the media went crazy. Topping that is going to be difficult! The PIM project is demanding, difficult and, at times, dramatic. It requires the whole gambit of PR and marketing skills, from great writing skills and creativity, to drafting speeches and presentations and crisis management. We have learned and achieved a huge amount and we continue to be challenged by it on a more or less daily basis. But if we had to give one reason for our success, it would be planning; we are continually making plans and going over and over the detail, we have plans for everything – press releases, press conferences, activities, who is doing what, budgets – you name it, there is a plan. And it is the planning, more than anything else, that is, we believe, the basis to any good PR campaign.