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A Retrospective Look At The Guinness Mount Cameroon Race 

By Ngassa Felix Nguemani*

CameroonPostline.com — My hometown, Buea, in the Southwest Region of Cameroon is endowed with one of the best blessings of nature any place in the world could have. Standing magnificently 4,100m tall is Mount Cameroon like a giant watching over the city. At this time of the year (the heart of the dry season) there is usually the Mt. Cameroon Race, an event in which some of the best athletes from all over the country and abroad race to determine who will be the King and Queen of the mountain. O

ver the past years to our despair, the event has declined in importance from one that kept Buea awake for two weeks on a row to a relatively quiet one day event. The digital marketing side of me cannot resist the allure of looking at how grandiose the event could be if very affordable social media and other digital marketing tools were used in its organization.
 

As a kid in Buea, I witnessed Guinness organise the race so wonderfully. Buea boomed with activities in the weeks leading to the race with promotional events and games at every spot. The roads were decorated with flags and posters and musicians, athletes, journalists, tourists and government figures poured into the town. On the day of the race, Buea was unquestionably the centre of attention of Cameroon and I can only think of it with a nostalgic feeling today.
 

Buea’s population has grown exponentially in recent years and as opposed to the narrow, bumpy road it had during the Guinness days, there is now a well tarred two-way road. Moreover, internet penetration in Cameroon is high now and there is very high adoption of social media, all presenting a perfect opportunity to use Digital Marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter to transform the race from a one day or two-week event to a three to six-month one. Let’s see how.
 

Facebook

Facebook has the unique advantage of enabling low cost one-to-one two-way communication between a company and its audience, something which was cost-prohibitive and practically impossible prior to its arrival. It is the perfect forum for such an event as it facilitates and encourages engagement. Organisers of the race can leverage on this by creating a page on the platform through which they communicate regularly with members. News on the build-up to the race could be posted there.
 

People love to win things and that is very true on Facebook. A contest could be organised using a Facebook application in which members vie for prizes such as mobile phones, tablets PCs and unique experiences such as helicopter ride with the sponsoring team on the day of the race. This will get Cameroonians flocking to the page.
 

Moreover, this provides an opportunity for Cameroonians and other aficionados of the race and athletics in general all over the world to be informed on the race and engage with it in various ways.
 

Forms of engagement on the page could be:
•    Requesting participants to post pictures of themselves on the mountain or of their preparation for the race.
•    Asking them to write short poems about the mountain and the race. They could also vote for the different entries by participants.
 

•    Organising quizzes and rewarding the winners.
•    Posting videos, interviews and pictures of athletes as they prepare for the race to build a sense of anticipation. Participating in such contests usually requires the contestants to like the page and provide personal information such as their names, age, email addresses and location. This is an ideal opportunity for the sponsors to build a database of potential customers.
 

The page could also be used to educate the public on the history of the mountain and the race with regular ‘Did you Know’ posts. TV and poster adverts by the event sponsors could be given more visibility by posting them on the page. To encourage regular participation, the contest should be organised in stages with successful participants progressing to the grand finale just before the race and small prizes being won across the various stages.
 

Most engaged participants should be rewarded. This is determined by how regularly they participate and how other members engage with their contents. Such applications have the ability to post updates on the timelines of the participants as well as invite their facebook friends to participate in the contest, thereby increasing the reach of the contest and the race.
 

All these activities in conjunction with TV, radio and Newspaper adverts will draw attention to the race long before the actual date. The contest could run for three months prior to the race and get people involved with the event while promoting the history and culture of Buea in particular and Cameroon at large.
 

Twitter

Activities on twitter could be less complex than Facebook as its main functions will be to inform the public and generate traffic to the Facebook page. Twitter could be used to build relationships with athletes, mountaineers and other sport enthusiasts from around the world, by following them and having them follow the page.
 

Here major landmarks of the build-up to the race, pictures and videos could be shared to the world very easily. A vital use of the tool in the event could be to provide minute-by-minute update of it on the day of the race. This will enable people from all over the world who may not have access to the images to live the event and even participate through comments and by sharing the contents.
 

Email Marketing

Email marketing could equally play a vital role in the event. Given how widespread the use of email is in Cameroon today, it will be unwise to ignore it. Emails could be used to inform the participants on the evolution of the contest and to remind them to return to the page and participate. One important use of email marketing could be to nurture the participants into customers of the product or cause of the sponsoring company even long after the contest and race ends.
 

A single blog post is not enough to go into details of how digital marketing could be used in conjunction with traditional marketing activities such as TV, Radio and Newspaper adverts to transform the Mount Cameroon race into an even bigger event than what it was in its best days.

Guinness did an exceptional job of organising it in the past and it will always be great to them or any other company/institution to do it even better now by leveraging on the strengths of digital marketing. Because of my love for the Mount Cameroon race, Buea and Cameroon, I can only pray that the transformation happens sooner.

*MA Marketing Communications and New Media,
University of Bologna, Italy)

 

First published in The Post print edition no 01409

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