BART Campaign Ties Viral Marketing to Ennect Sweeps to Maximize Marketing Exposure
When Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) wanted to find a way to increase awareness of its speedy train service from San Francisco International Airport to the Bay Area, it turned to two unique marketing tools for help: viral marketing and Ennect Sweeps. And then it added a twist: it asked Ennect to tie them together!
Probably the first time an online sweepstakes has been designed with a viral marketing component embedded right within it, the "viral / Sweeps" combination forms the foundation for a unique campaign to gain the awareness of 100,000 potential BART riders before it ends on March 31, 2010.
Sweeps + Viral Solution to Increase Awareness
With a limited budget and with an eye to using the latest social marketing tools to help build a customer following, Imara Yokely, senior marketing representative in BART's tourism and travel marketing department, came up with the novel approach. "I wanted to do a word-of-mouth campaign to reach visitors to the Bay Area. While we have funds for local advertising and promotion, there's no money allocated for campaigns outside of the Bay Area." So, out-of-state visitor reach was one challenge the BART marketer faced in promoting the local service.
Working in BART's favor was research showing that people who used the airport train mostly found out about it from friends who'd already used it. Yokely concluded that if he could find a way to reward people for spreading the word about the BART airport service, he might increase his success at more broadly marketing the service. An online sweepstakes was the means to kick-start the effort. Enter Ennect!
"We found Ennect Sweeps through a Google search," said Yokely. "We approached the company about creating a contest that participants could promote on our behalf. We wanted contestants to be able to forward the sweepstakes to friends via email, so that more people would learn of our services through indirect and viral means. As far as we knew, no one else had done this before. Apparently, it was a new idea for Ennect as well."
BART "Friends" Ennect to Build "Viral Sweepstakes" Campaign Tool
The campaign, which went live on November 6, started as a design project in May but was put on hold by BART. An unexpected fare increase and a potential union strike shelved the concept till September. "We had actually already completed the first part of the design before external events interrupted the project. Ennect waited for us and when we gave the all-clear jumped right back in," said Yokely.
"This was a 'first-time' project for both of us. When you do something new, you don't know what kind of problems you're going to face. But Ennect's staff was responsive and good at helping to solve the challenges we met, and they were patient and understanding about our delays. Now, I feel like we're old friends."
Next Step: Awards and Metrics
Co-sponsored with Southwest Airlines, the BART contest promotion will award one hundred round-trip flights on Southwest. Twenty winners will be announced monthly or until the contest ends. While this will help promote the contest and the train service, the real benefit comes from the email addresses and contact information that BART will collect from its efforts.
“Ennect's staff was responsive and good at helping to solve the challenges we met..."
Senior Marketing Representative, Tourism and Travel Marketing
Bay Area Rapid Transit
The composite contestant data will not only be useful for developing future campaigns, it will also provide metrics by which BART can instantly track the number of entries coming in and anonymously select winners at key points. Additionally, the addresses will provide insight into the geographic spread of the campaign.
While the ultimate measure would be increased ridership, Yokely points out that "We don't control when people come into San Francisco." However, having done one sweepstakes opens the door for other types of surveys and contests that would enable BART to more accurately assess whether sweepstakes' contestants have converted to become BART riders.
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