Today marks a year since the INEOS 1:59 Challenge went live – a year since I was sat at home at midnight with tabs open for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, turning our social pages from ‘private’ to ‘public’.
365 days on (or more accurately given the leap year, 366) it’s amazing to look back on a year ago – partly panicking that my shaky Wifi wouldn’t ruin the worldwide launch, but incredibly excited over what the coming months would bring.
Back then, we didn’t know where the event would take place, or when – only that at some point later in 2019, Eliud Kipchoge would attempt to make history and become the first person to run a sub-two hour marathon.
Of course, our work on #INEOS159 had already started well before 6th May.
After pitching and winning the business, we at The Playbook got to work creating the digital strategy for the campaign – setting the foundations for an event that planned to capture the attention of the world.
We’d also captured content with Eliud at the Iffley Road Running Track in Oxford – the site where Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954. Launching the campaign on the 65th anniversary of Bannister’s feat, the parallels were obvious – as was the sense of history around what Eliud was hoping to achieve.
Eliud had been in the UK for the London Marathon – and arrived in Oxford just two days after breaking the course record. Showing no signs of having just run a 2:02 marathon, I was struck by how calm, determined and humble Eliud was – and how to an untrained eye, you’d hardly realise he was one of the world’s leading sportsmen.
Indeed – quite a few pedestrians passed by Eliud posing on the pavement by the entrance to the track, with more people stopping to wonder why there was a camera crew taking pictures in the road, rather than spotting one of the greatest athletes of all-time.
We managed to get plenty of content with Eliud that we could use on launch day and beyond – luckily a lot better than my ‘behind-the-scenes’ photos on my phone that were never required to see the light of day.
While Eliud was in London, he was also taken to the pub for a tease image.
Taken in the INEOS staff local, the image featured plenty of Easter Eggs such as a clock set at 1.59, Roger Bannister’s book on the table, and a picture of Everest on the wall.
Published on Eliud’s channels a couple of days before the launch, only a few eagle-eyed fans worked out what it all meant.
After launching at midnight (and turning my Instagram notifications off at 12.01) the accounts saw a combined 40k followers and 1.9m impressions completely from scratch on the first day – numbers that seemed absolutely massive, and set the scene for what would come over the coming months.
A year on from the launch, I feel privileged to have been part of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, and to have worked alongside some amazing people who made it all happen.
You can read our case study on The Playbook website for the full story, but being able to grow those accounts from zero followers to a combined 850k for the event five months later (with 264m impressions and 27m engagements along the way) is something I’m very proud of.
And as anyone who knows me knows – it will take a lot more than a year for me to shut up about it all…
Thinking by Will Atkins