When newspapers run community events, it's important to stay committed to the convictions of the paper, says Marcin Gadzinski, editor of Sport.pl/Gazeta Wyborcza in Poland, speaking at the WAN-IFRA conference 'Using sports news to optimise your revenues'. Get that right first, and profit will follow, he adds.
His paper, which runs some sporting events, is no. 2 in Poland in terms of circulation, and likes to get involved in social issues and public advocacy campaigns. People all around Poland work for the paper, so it's helpful to use their contacts to organise activities.
They were not very successful when putting sports content on the web, he says, so in 2007 Sport.pl was launched, a strictly internet sports brand. They added online-only features rather than seeing it as a way to promote newspaper content. In 2009 the paper jumped from the number 5 to the number 2 sports website in Poland, with 5 million unique users a month. Plus, every Monday the paper publishes a Sport.pl-branded section.
Jogging is becoming very popular in Poland, he says. After the paper had already run some other campaigns on social issues, they decided to promote running and jogging, helping people organise events in local communities, providing resources and promoting events. On one weekend every year, usually in May, there are a variety of local runs held around the country, known as 'Run, Poland, Run'. 100,000 people took part in these in 2009.
These events are promoted in the newspaper, through stories in different sections of the paper, including the weekend magazine, travel section, and women's section, as well as the front page. In 2009 there were 20 of these stories published. They include interviews with celebrities who like running, and interviews with experts about equipment or warm-up techniques. Maps and details of local events are published through the local offices. Reports and photos are published after the event.
Polish Public Television (TVP) was on board as a media partner, and the internet platform polskabiega.pl was used. The events were also prominently featured on the publication's other websites.
"Frankly, we didn't make that much money, but it was not our concern," he says. Rather, the paper wanted to be seen as a top brand for promoting recreational running and a healthy lifestyle. It demonstrates that staff at the paper are not just sports news experts, but also sports experts. One editor at the paper who didn't run before now runs marathons, he adds. Further, the paper was able to connect through new audiences across different platforms, thanks to the media partners. The event also boosted newspaper circulation because it enabled connections to be made with new audiences, including younger people.
In April 2010, a new campaign will be launched: 'Poland rides a bike'. This is a new campaign to promote recreational biking. From late February, stories, advice and interviews about recreational biking will feature in the paper. New internet platforms are being launched. The biking events are not designed to be races, but events where people can come together and cycle for 20-30km in a forest or another pleasant spot. Some celebrities will take part in promoting the event by riding bikes from town to town, with accompanying media coverage. One Polish Olympic athlete is already on board. Local cycling guides will be published as a follow-up, for those who get hooked and want to keep going.
So why do another campaign? 'Run, Poland, Run' didn't make a lot of profit, so 'Poland rides a bike' will hopefully monetise the first campaign's success. A cycling company approached the paper to be a sponsor, and the event should be a major source of revenue for this year. The potential is evident for long-term relations with advertisers, as the event may take three or four years to grow to the scale that everyone expects. This enables the newspaper to make a profit and also do something that they have strong convictions about, that is, promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Sport.pl is not just on the internet anymore, but is a sports liftout in the print newspaper, and is also diversifying into radio, video, and hopefully television. Sponsors like this approach because they get a whole package integrated across media platforms that also includes interactive maps, blogs, and social media.
So why was the paper able to succeed with these campaigns? It was known for its good sports coverage, and had contacts and credibility in the domain of sports. Writers at the paper really do love jogging and cycling, he says. Plus, the events weren't initially set up with plans to make money: once they were established, then they considered how to monetise them without losing their mission or convictions. It also helped that they had contacts at their disposal across other media. And once 'Run, Poland run' became their trademark, it was the sponsors who approached them.
What's next? Maybe 'Poland plays basketball', or 'Poland loves tennis', he suggests.