Bringing the winter heat: a 48-hour IRONMAN marketing blitz

WePlay employee

Zygimantas Koncius

25th Jan 2023

The IRONMAN brand is associated worldwide with the toughest endurance challenges in sport.

And sometimes, you have to push the limits to get people to the line.

WePlay has been a proud partner of IRONMAN, our longest-held client, for over seven years. We work with them across a portfolio of over 30 events globally, from the Singapore Marathon to mountain biking’s Swiss Epic and the hero IRONMAN ultra-triathlons.

Every year, IRONMAN runs two major discount events for its mass participation races. One is for Global Running Day in the summer and the other is the Winter Promo in early December.

In 2022, our team supported IRONMAN’s Winter Promo sales goals with an intensive 48-hour campaign for paid, targeted digital advertising. With teams working round the clock – WePlay in the UK and Europe, and IRONMAN at its US headquarters – it was an exercise that needed commitment and cool heads, as well as careful, smart planning and execution.

Setting targets

Our task was to sell entries for the marathon and half-marathon events in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series in 2023.

IRONMAN had an overall sales target for those runs. As they already had an estimated average conversion rate from similar campaigns, we needed to monitor the traffic. If we drove the right number of people to the website with our messaging, they would be confident of hitting their sales objectives.

It is quite an intense period because the budgets are big: the spend on these 48 hours was equivalent to the digital marketing budgets for two or three events. Reporting is crucial.

Moving from a 24-hour to a 48-hour window for the first time, we were in constant contact. The partner team were pulling hourly registration data, so we were setting hourly targets for traffic and readjusting our conversion targets. We also prepared reports every three to four hours.


Planning and priming

There was a five-day lead-up period to the event, with announcements warming up our engaged audiences – many of whom already know when the Winter Promo is coming.

The target audience for a campaign like this is active members of the running community and individuals who have engaged with IRONMAN content. They may have liked or shared content on social channels, watched videos, visited our landing pages or registered on one of RnR’s email databases.

Meanwhile, we also knew that behaviours around a short-term sale event like this differ from the rest of the year. Many runners who have participated in or been interested in these races will be waiting for the Winter Promo. They will often use it as an opportunity to sign up friends as well.

That means the sales journey is likely to be shorter with a better cost-per-click (CPC), cost per acquisition (CPA) and much better conversion rates. Our main goal was to drive consideration, so our advertising was optimised for driving traffic. However, we also had reach campaigns running for upper-funnel audiences, which helped to deliver three times more visibility than the consideration.

In such a brief, primarily US-focused campaign, you must also be highly aware of timings. We were most active between 6am and 10pm ET, which meant our European teams worked from 11am until around 6am.

And we were looking to engage people when they were likeliest to be online: factoring in working hours and traffic peaks across the three American time zones. Optimisations and budget shifting were crucial in maximising our advertising efforts during main ramp-ups.


Rolling out the campaign

We had multiple platforms running across the 48-hour period. We had advertising on Meta’s platforms, Facebook and Instagram, as well as Google Search, YouTube, Discovery, Performance Max and Reddit. We also had programmatic activities live.

We ran prospecting campaigns alongside the messaging we sent to connected audiences, CRM and retargeting audiences of those who had previously engaged with our social channels and website, creating targeted segments for lookalike audiences from these segments to fuel the top of our funnel.

This meant we had 14 different pieces of creative in play throughout the campaign. These included videos, static images and GIFs. And one thing we found was particularly effective in driving conversions was a pricing table – which confirmed that the discounts available would be the last nudge many prospects needed to buy an entry.

Our ads were automatically sequenced to keep a sense of urgency, whether or not viewers engaged. So they would be served messages with 24 hours to go, 12 hours, eight hours, and for each of the last six hours. That gave us the best chance of reaching the right prospects and maximising the incentive of the limited-time promotion.


Communication and camaraderie

Throughout the campaign, the WePlay and IRONMAN teams remained in close communication. We were sharing hourly updates on traffic and sales figures and making weighted data-led decisions and improvements.

This was my fourth campaign like this, so I had thought about preparation: when I should drink throughout the day, when I should snack, when to be quiet, and what thoughts to share with the team. You need to look after yourself and maintain focus because if you start missing targets, then things only get tougher, practically and emotionally. You have to be ready for the mental and physical challenge.

And you need to keep your spirits high within the group. If you concentrate on the numbers for eight hours, you can go crazy. We shared stories and jokes, and memes and GIFs flew around.

We used that as a way to stay motivated. When we hit a major target ahead of schedule, for example, one of the team members shared the Kobe Bryant ‘job’s not finished’ video – where he talks about being 2-0 up in the finals but not yet being happy.


Knowing how hard it is to play catch-up in these circumstances, we set an ambitious pace for the Winter Promo.

Our hard work and determination paid off, as we not only met but exceeded our overall traffic target by a staggering 50%.

This success was not only reflected in our traffic numbers but also in the sales figures of our partner, IRONMAN. They surpassed their sales target by 2%, which placed them in a stronger position for upcoming campaigns.

The results of our efforts were clear, and we couldn’t have been prouder.

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