How does it feel running with The Real Mr Garmin

An exercise in viral social marketing

running-with-mr-garminI ran with Mr Garmin (Drew Willis) on Sunday, 4th December, after spotting the Facebook event post a few days prior. The weather was perfect – overcast and mild. It was a good idea to allow extra time to get to a location I’ve never been before. So much time that I was the first person there and immediately spotted and recognised Mr Garmin and his colleague. After the intros, I found that they had put on this event spontaneously and they didn’t know the running route. Soon a few other Garmin reps came. Since it was a popular Parkrun track, some others who joined have ran the track before. 7 a.m. After a short briefing and intro from Mr Garmin, we all started our devices, Garmin and others and ran. It was a 5 kilometre Parkrun course at Rhodes. Spirits were high and everyone was feeling great to be doing this run. We rounded a few turns and were cheered on by the Garmin reps whilst Mr Garmin ran with the 100-odd strong group. Around back to the starting point and then the straight along the beautiful bay created by the Parramatta River.

A highlight for many was Mr Garmin had been running alongside them and cheering them on to run to the finish. The genuine celebration of runners pushing to achieve their best was so evident in the Garmin ambassador. He ran up and down ‘the line’, the procession of runners with seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm. His full beard and brown hair billowing in the wind. To complete the unmistakeable image, he donned a pair of dark sunglasses and black tank top with the white Mr Garmin logo. If you’ve watched the movie, Forrest Gump, he would be like Forrest in his running phase!

The runners pushed themselves a little bit more and some achieved their personal bests that morning. Many were quite exhausted but happy. In terms of a social event and online social marketing exercise, this had been a success. The elements for this success included, an identifiable community, a passionate ambassador used in the messaging, prizes and giveaways, support and encouragement of participants and product users, a concrete connection (using events) of the online marketing with the real world and a clear messaging strategy. Kudos to Garmin for an inspiring and interesting social marketing campaign.

Garmin is a multinational technology company known for its GPS technology and development used in devices for different sports and vocational applications. In order to increase their Australian exposure on the social networks, they ran a somewhat novel campaign, after all, it is cheaper and much easier to test the markets using these channels over traditional media. In August 2016, Garmin announced that there will be a Garmin Ambassador appointed and he or she would run 1 kilometre for every Like that the Garmin post receives until the deadline. Drew Willis was appointed on 31st August. He took up the challenge to run 993km during September. Drew, aka ‘Mr Garmin’ as he eventually became known, ran 1,000km because no one remembers the guy who ran 993km. A movement was born.

Those initial supporters of the page received a t-shirt with the unique bearded face logo with the words Garmin emblazoned across the eyes. Mr Garmin wore this black tank top with the logo and the company went with this by creating more social media posts and giving away activity tracker watches for people spotting him during his runs. To date, the campaign has only been centred on online marketing activities, without anything in the mainstream or traditional media. Word of Mr Garmin got circulating and his invitation to ‘Run with Mr Garmin’ has been popular with participants receiving a free Mr Garmin T-shirt. This campaign still has plenty of legs and hopefully Garmin will run it for a while to come and to continue inspiring runners of all ages.


Mr Garmin logo

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