Apparently I’m one of those who does anything for a free drink. Okay, calm down, not quite. But I’ll run 9km after work, mostly in the dark, for a free bottle of Powerade. How much does a Powerade bottle even cost? I have a feeling I’m being a bit cheap. Don’t tell me.
It’s the third year in a row that I get an RFID bracelet in the post to enter the Powerade Challenge, which will be on in both Auckland and Wellington until the end of June this year. Last year, I somehow managed to make it downtown a grand total of zero times for the challenge. This year, I’ve had the bracelet for three days and have gone down there once so far so that’s already a 100% increase over last year’s efforts. The secret to excellent results lies in setting the expectations really, really, really low.
The challenge is a simple yet really good marketing idea, for a number of reasons:
- It’s free to enter (free stuff tends to be worth the money)
- It gives you free stuff (with potentially extra prizes)
- It’s fairly easy
- It’s centrally located
- It’s on during Winter, giving people extra motivation to get out there
- It appeals to competitive people
- It can be done at any time, day or night
It may be a 9km run, which is not what a lot of people are up for on weekdays, but it is a very flat course, so the difficulty level isn’t so high that it puts most people off. The challenge starts by the ferry building, in downtown Auckland, where runners scan their bracelets on the Powerade vending machine. They then set off on their way, running towards Mission Bay along the waterfront. About 1.5km into it (maybe less, I was too busy jumping over puddles to notice), a massive interactive billboard shows “GO <RUNNER’S NAME>!” which is a cute little detail if you’re into stuff like seeing your name in neon lights in a big billboard (AND WHO ISN’T?). At the halfway point, at the end of a boardwalk, runners scan their bracelet on a different vending machine, which tells them how long it’s taken them to get there (about 26 minutes if you’re me, about 16 minutes if you’re the human-shaped machine who scanned his bracelet right after me). Then it’s time to run back to the ferry building, another 4.5km, where runners scan their bracelet one final time for the free bottle of Powerade.
My completely unscientific research, based solely on my own assumptions, makes me think that weekdays after 5pm are probably some of the busiest times for the challenge. That’s when I ran it on Thursday and there were a bunch of other blue-bracelet wearing runners out there, probably getting their after-work run in for the day. The fact that so many people run the challenge at the same time helps create a bit of a social atmosphere, even if you’re just doing it on your own and not talking to anyone else, because you see their bracelets and know you’re all running for the same reason. Awww, buddies.
By signing up for the challenge, you also get your own dashboard on the website, where you’re able to track all your runs (which get automatically logged on there) and check your progress. Plus, you can join teams and work towards a collective ranking, further adding to that competitive side of things. I logged that run on Strava, Nike+ and the Powerade website which makes me think all this self-tracking deal is getting a little out of hand.
If parking in downtown Auckland wasn’t such a challenge in itself, I’d probably do it even more often. But I’m still looking forward to taking the bracelet out a few more times before the end of June. I guess if I absolutely had to give some negative feedback about the challenge, I’d say that Powerade could very well promote their brand through the billboards and vending machines and bracelets and all that, but partner with the whiskey store for the whole free drinks part of the deal. Nothing against the blue sugary electrolytes, which tasted great after the run, but I’d run further (and potentially faster) if there were other options on offer.