By Caroline Henley

April 21st, 2015

Yesterday, over 30,000 runners took to the streets of Boston for one of the world’s biggest footraces: the Boston Marathon. Are these long-distance runners socially savvy? Let’s take a look at the Boston Marathon’s earned media (people buzzing about the race) and owned media (the Marathon’s efforts on social). We’ll then compare the Big Six Marathons’ social media presences to find who is making the most out of social media to promote some of the biggest sporting events from around the world.   

Boston strong  
Over one week, the Boston Marathon gathered over 307k mentions across the web. On Monday, the day of the marathon, the phrase “Boston Marathon” and its hashtag picking up a combined average of 8k per hour.

marathons social media


Is the Boston Marathon receiving international buzz, or is it mostly of interest in the US? Diving into the query, 90.8% of the noise (which includes social media, news outlets, blogs, comments) is from the US. Canada comes in second at 2.3% of the noise. The Boston Marathon looks to be a very American race.  

marathons social media

A quick scroll through the #bostonmarathon hashtag, and you’ll see the Boston Marathon’s social channels are promoting a #SaturdaySubmission hashtag. The marathon has been highlighting the training routine of one runner every Saturday up through race-day. The runner’s full story is featured on Facebook, which they tease and link to from the other channels.

marathons social media

We run together
Meanwhile, marathon sponsor and financial services company John Hancock is continuing to back its #WeRunTogether hashtag. John Hancock is creating a digital time capsule, encouraging people to use #WeRunTogether to submit pictures via social media. “For each submission John Hancock will donate $1 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, up to $26,200.” The hashtag currently has 8k submissions over this past week, and peaked the day of the Marathon at 9am EST with 1,150 social submissions.

marathons social media

The Big Six on social 
Marketing a marathon can get complex quite fast. Think about it: you have to attract thousands of runners to pre-qualify, to register, and then you have to engage audiences with training ideas and inspiration. Then comes the logistics the day of the race, which includes communicating where and when runners and fans should be around the city, and then communicating to the city about traffic and street closings, etc. This all requires year-round marketing and communications for a one-day event. Social media is clearly the way to go in order to reach a marathon’s targeted demographic and keep them engaged through race-day.

Let’s look at the Big Six Marathons around the world. Which is optimizing social media the best? (This includes the marathons’ parent page, World Marathon Majors.)

marathons social media

While the New York Marathon attracts more runners every year, the Boston Marathon has the largest Facebook audience.

Now let’s zoom in on the pages’ engagement levels. The Berlin Marathon had a huge spike in engagement last Thursday–so what did they do so well?

marathons social media

The Berlin Marathon posted a link to the final 100 slots open for its marathon–which created a flurry of likes, shares, and comments on Thursday. Way to shore up excitement, using tactics of exclusivity and a ticking clock!

marathons social media













Boston’s page has kept steady engagement on Facebook, using a mix of content like runners’ submissions and behind-the-scenes marathon prep. A common theme between the marathon pages: shots of medals gather a ton of engagement.

marathons social media













A huge congratulations are in order for the winners of the 119th Boston Marathon, Caroline Rotich and Lelisa Desisa! And after their marketers have caught their breath, it should be about time for the fanpage to start gearing up for next year’s race…

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