McBean/Vodafone 1sts GPS Participatory ‘Poppy Run’

Royal Marines veteran Ben Mcbean linked with the ongoing Vodafone Firsts programme to run a giant poppy outline across the map of central London to raise funds for the British Legion.


Inspired by the thought of wounded soldiers like himself and those who never made it home, and guided by his mobile, in October McBean ran 31 miles across London in the shape of a huge poppy.


Then working in tandem with the mobile operator, McBean asked the public to join him in in the project by helping complete (and fill-in) the poppy shape by running all the roads inside the flower outline to add their own fundraising contributions.


The campaign predominantly used social media and PR to spread the word to colour the poppy by pounding the hundreds of miles of roads within its outline.


The campaign kicked off with an introductory online teaser film,



and activity hubbed around a central website at firsts.com/bigpoppyrun.


The initiative gained viral traction and spread across the web.


Answering the call/challenge, London’s runners hit the streets with their running apps between 29 October and 9 November.


Non runners could also support by donating to The Royal British Legion via the JustTextGiving SMS service by texting ‘POPP58 £5’ to 70070 or by visiingt JustGiving.


The Vodafone Foundation matched all donations pound for pound up to £100,000.


As of 13 November, more than £15,000 had been raised, with 635 people running 8087 miles.


That’s 92% of the poppy.


This initiative builds on the existing British Legion mass poppy runs, which it has been organising since 2011: essentially this is a nationwide series of 5km ‘open to all’ fun runs (mostly on the last Sunday in October) to raise funds and awareness for The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.


See http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/about-us/calendar-of-events/fundraising/the-poppy-run




Not only do initiatives like this illustrate the growing power of technology-enabled consumer-led, mass market participation events, something which the old school sponsorship space needs to embrace, but it is also the latest high profile event within the expanding Vodafone Firsts catalogue.


At the turn of the year Vodafone announced that it was pulling back from its traditional approach to sponsorship properties and switching much of its strategic partnership investments to its new ‘Firsts’ programme.


Vodafone Firsts, which will span all Vodafone markets, is a social media and experience led strategy which sees the telecoms giant abandon its previous (fairly traditional brand badging) sponsorship approach in favour of creating deeper interactions with its 400 million customers through world firsts.


The first major event under this new strategy was sponsoring the world’s first multi-sensory fireworks display to celebrate London’s New Year’s Eve (see previous case study).


According to the company, ‘Firsts’ doesn’t necessarily mean that Vodafone’s relationship with specific sports will come to a complete halt. Whilst the company has ended its high profile spearhead McLaren F1 sponsorship, rugby and cricket are likely to feature as part of the new brand engagement strategy.


The new path sees the brand refocus on highlighting remarkable, first time personal achievement – whilst connected through Vodafone technology. It is built on the brand’s insight that its technology can (and does) enable, empower and inspire people to do amazing ‘first time’ things.


The programme’s structure aims to identify, enable and activate three tiers of firsts across 30 countries: ‘personal’, ‘local’ and ‘global’.


‘Firsts represents a radical break with almost a quarter of a century of Vodafone-branded badged sponsorship,’ says Vodafone Group brand director Barbara Haase.


‘Firsts is all about achieving connectivity and interconnectedness for the first time, ‘ explains Haase. ‘I  think where we are as an industry right now is a very good time to tap into a more intimate and emotional relationship [with consumers]. Technology is at the point where it’s really intimate with consumers, in terms of what they’re doing with their mobile phones.’



Vodafone Firsts Ben’s Poppy Run Website



Vodafone Firsts Facebook



Vodafone Firsts Twitter




Vodafone Firsts Instagram



Vodafone Firsts YouTube



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