John Hancock has been the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon since 1985, and while "every year is significant, [the 2014 race] was especially significant in light of the bombing in 2013," Jim Bacharach, Vice President of Brand, Marketing and Creative Services, John Hancock.
For the 2014 race, the marketing team wanted to assess the content of the campaigns to strike the right balance, while "certainly acknowledging what had happened but do so in a respectful and sensitive way.
But, at the same time, help and recognize that people wanted to and needed to move forward," he
"The Boston Marathon sponsorship is a significant undertaking for our company," said Bacharach
, adding that unlike some other sponsorships "where it really involves writing a check to whatever you're sponsoring, John Hancock
is highly involved with the actual planning and execution of the marathon."
The communication around it is complicated, Bacharach
explained, as there are a full variety of events associated with the marathon, ranging from a fitness expo where the runners pick up their numbers and information, to a wide range of community relations activities.
"Our sponsorship of the marathon is multifaceted and multidimensional and one that we're especially proud of," he
For the #WeRunTogether campaign, the marketing team thought a picture and story mosaic was "really an opportunity, we felt, for people to express how they felt and what the marathon, this marathon in particular, meant to them," Bacharach
The community that makes up The Boston Marathon is multidimensional, he
added, and the event is a celebration of all of them.
"We wanted people to be encouraged to share that with us.
That was what was really at the heart of the hashtag, #WeRunTogether," he
said, explaining that it has multiple meanings.
's sponsorship of the marathon is about an 11-month cycle, according to Bacharach
"I guess you can say [the sponsorship is] it's own marathon … Seemingly no sooner does the last runner cross the finish line that we begin thinking about next year.
As you would expect, there's always sort of a review of how things went, what would we do differently, what could we do better, what could we add in," he
The marathon happens in April, and in late May, he
said, a review and evaluation process begins where the team discusses, "the overarching objectives, communication objectives in particular, take form then, which begins to translate itself into an overarching theme," he
Promotion for the campaign ramped up to full speed in early April, Bacharach
This was the first time that John Hancock
had ever used a hashtag with the Boston Marathon Sponsorship, so the team wanted to be thoughtful about it.
Coming up with the official hashtag was the fruit of a detailed group brainstorm session.
The team initially focused on recognizing "the multiple constituencies involved in the 'We,'" Bacharach
said, explaining that 'run' was chosen not only for the literal meaning of the word, but also to represent a blending of the runners, volunteers, spectators and communities that would represent 'together.'
"Together" was also chosen "in recognition of the sense of spirit that frankly was, despite the tragedy, strengthened by those events, by the response [in] Boston and beyond, how we collectively responded in the aftermath," he
The team had to be especially cautious regarding the approval process because not only was social media presence new for the sponsorship, but it was relatively new for the company in general.
"It's highly regulated so that any hosts or response that we make as a company, if it has to do with our business, has to be pre-approved by a legal and compliance functions," he
Even though John Hancock
was in new territory when it came to social media, Bacharach
said, the marathon sponsorship was the perfect opportunity to "learn [about] and grow our capabilities because it doesn't have to do with our products and our business."
For instance, John Hancock
is responsible for recruiting, compensating and hosting the lead runners in the marathon, and "It's always a big deal announcing who those runners are going to be," Bacharach
There were a lot of things done for the first time … But it was significant beyond the results it generated for us as an organization because it required a level of collaboration across many functions and organizations that hadn't been done before," Bacharach
"It's not enough for a hashtag to be fashionably accurate, but that it has to have some form of resonance for people to want to participate, to remember it and then to actually contribute," Bacharach
Jim Bacharach, Vice President, Brand Marketing and Creative Services