How the Playbook helped tell the world the digital story about Eliud Kipchoge’s epic 1:59 Challenge

At The Playbook, we’re not prone to boasting about our achievements, preferring to quietly take pride in the roles we play in helping our brilliant clients create projects that truly help them change the game.

But on this occasion, we’d like to share some thoughts on our role in what happened early on Saturday morning in the heart of Vienna when Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge redefined the physical possibilities of mankind and became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours.

As a business we’re bursting with pride to have been privileged enough to be telling the digital and social story of Kipchoge’s subsequent history making from the moment the project was announced to the world in early May.

As the drama on the course was unfolding and with millions watching across the world, our team were huddled over laptops and roaming the course, capturing, posting, sharing and engaging, with the central aim to tell the story of the day in as many ways as possible, to as many fans as possible.

One of the key elements of this whole project from day one, was how could the world feel that they were part of the challenge and support Eliud in his efforts – whether on the course or following socially wherever they were in the world.

Throughout the project Eliud was crystal clear that he wanted the world to support him at every stage and he wanted a crowd to propel him and his pacemakers to the finish. And he certainly got his wish.

Globally the project trended across all channels and the numbers watching, following and engaging were eye-watering, while along the course thousands cheered Eliud and his team towards history.

During the race, a flood of content poured in from world class photographers and cinematographers across the course, but equally as important was capturing the raw content and colour from these fans.

With any event of this scale and ambition, there are times of great uncertainty from an engagement point of view- How many people would turn up? How many would watch on the YouTube feed? What would the social engagement be?

We had pre-event targets in mind, but the scale of the engagement was beyond expectation. While the numbers are still rising, two milestones in particular stand out.

An hour before the start time we hit 159k followers on Instagram and five minutes before the start 159k subscribers on YouTube. 159 – the magic number and surely a good omen of the remarkable things to come!

What happened during the race and the celebrations were largely a blur but 48 hours of reflection later, one thing is crystal clear – this was the most remarkable team event I’ve ever seen. Being a marathon runner is perceived as a solitary sport, but one of the central things this experience has taught us is that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While Eliud and his team of pacemakers were the sporting stars, behind the scenes the project team had brought together some of the world’s very best and I’ve never worked with such a remarkable group of partners, many of whom only met face-to-face in race week, in an unfamiliar city and faced with a very demanding schedule.

But the group became a team and worked brilliantly together. One of our own, our colleague Nico Heemskerk has been part of the project team embedded with our game changing clients at INEOS Sport since the very early days of the project and along with the excellent teams from Into The Blue, Global Sport Group, London Marathon, Sunset+Vine (and countless others) we all contributed to deliver the remarkable.

In the winning press conference Kipchoge began by thanking his family, his coach, his teammates but then he paused, looked into the cameras and thanked all the fans who had watched on YouTube, sent good luck messages on Facebook and celebrated the achievement on Twitter.

He made history, but we certainly made sure that the world was watching and we’re very proud to have done so.

In the words of the great man, truly #NoHumanIsLimited

Thinking by Nick Meakin.