Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Marathon Money

A program that would both inspire his staff to confront areas in which they had been avoiding or that were particular challenges for them as well as give them an opportunity to earn some extra cash.

Following the success of Bingo Bucks (see Advertising Executive, August 2011), Above the Fold/EZAdsPro’s Sales Manager Greg Ludlow created Marathon Money for his sales staff at The Times in Frankfort, Ind. Ludlow said he designed Marathon Money with similar intentions — he wanted to develop an incentive program that would both inspire his staff to confront areas in which they had been avoiding or that were particular challenges for them as well as give them an opportunity to earn some extra cash. His hopes were to increase revenue while getting his reps out of their comfort zone. Marathon Money, which followed Bingo Bucks by about a year, was fun for his reps, who enjoyed monitoring the progress of the race — which was displayed on a big graphic course posted on the wall — throughout the month-long competition.

HOW IT WORKS

“The concept was inspired by the various marathons I used to run,” Ludlow explained. “During marathons, each mile adds a bonus or incentive to finish, an added accomplishment. I created this based on the concept of running a 26-mile marathon, so there are 26 different objectives for each sales rep to accomplish. You start at the starting line and after you complete the first mile’s objective, you cross that off and move on to the second mile, and the third mile, and so forth. You can’t jump ahead from mile five to mile 16 — you have to do it in order.”

And like any running race, the first few miles are pretty easy, but by the end, the going gets tough. “You might want to mirror that strategy and put some of the tougher objectives at the end so the real winners can cross that finish line,” Ludlow added.“Also, there were four free mileage points which mimicked a marathon’s rest stops — like the ‘oasis freebie,’ which is like a water spot.”

You might want to mirror that strategy and put some of the tougher objectives at the end so the real winners can cross that finish line” 

Though the primary incentive was cash, Ludlow also gave away race-related paraphernalia, like water bottles at the beginning, towels in the middle and medals at the end. The cash prizes were paid along the way and were awarded as follow:

  • Five dollars for each mile completed.
  • At the end of each week, whomever had the highest mileage point got a $20 incentive for being in the lead.
  • The first person to cross the finish line, got the grand prize —$50.

While The Times did see an increase in sales, it wasn’t anything significant. “The challenges were my focus,” Ludlow stated, “to make sure they attempted things that were difficult for them.” When asked if he saw an improvement in the reps weaknesses, he reminded me that this was just reintroducing something that the rep had been avoiding for a long time, and only one attempt at it won’t make them comfortable with it. “So, the challenge is for Ad Directors to reinforce the contest at the end,” Ludlow added.

For those looking to create a contest similar to Marathon Money, Ludlow warns that each rep’s race card is different — because not everyone has the same challenges/weaknesses — so it requires a large time investment from the manager at the beginning.

Ludlow warns that each rep’s race card is different — because not everyone has the same challenges/weaknesses — so it requires a large time investment from the manager at the beginning. 

He urges managers to keep it fun, and within the theme of the marathon race. “The ritual of long-distance racing events is to have a spaghetti dinner the night before. So, maybe start the competition by all going out to dinner,” Ludlow suggested. “Also, you could have a formal awards ceremony at the end of the race in front of the newspaper staff. Make it fun, and have the weekly updates of the mileage. If there are any opportunities to interject anything that has to do with running, take that opportunity to make them smile. And, keep them focused on it.”