Arby’s virtual marathon attracts new customers

The Greek Gyro Games were “absurdly long,” taking more than two hours to complete.

Campaign: Arby’s Greek Gyro Games
Company: Arby’s
Agency partners: Fallon (creative agency), Moxie (influencers and social media), Edelman (PR)
Duration: August 19-31, 2020

Arby’s held a Greek-themed virtual marathon centered around gyros. The first three finishers won free Arby’s gyros for a year, while everyone else who completed the game during that time received a coupon for a free Arby’s gyro.

Strategy
In May, Arby’s decided it wanted to provide fans with some much-needed entertainment, especially as the pandemic was leading to so many cancelled live events.

“What can we do to make people smile, to re-engage and entertain them for a small period of time?” said Erin Everhart, director of owned digital and personalization at Arby’s.

Fairly quickly, the company settled on the idea of creating an “absurdly long” virtual marathon highlighting its Greek gyros. In honor of the world-record marathon time (2 hours 1 minute 38 seconds), it would take just over two hours to complete.

Tactics
Arby’s knew it wanted to run a campaign in the summer, but didn’t have a clear deadline. The virtual marathon concept was finalized in June; from there, the company, along with its creative partners, worked quickly to develop the virtual marathon.

A few days prior to the game’s launch on April 19, Edelman pitched the campaign to media outlets. Once it was released, Arby’s sent an email update to subscribers, promoted the virtual marathon across its social channels and highlighted the campaign on its homepage. It also partnered with a select number of influencers, who played the game over the next few days, sharing the experience with their fans.

“It was a truly digital effort and it spread like wildfire,” Everhart said.

Results
More than 140,000 people played the game the day of its launch. It has been attempted more than 300,000 times, with users logging a collective 36,000 hours of gameplay.

Of the users who completed the race and redeemed their free gyro coupon, 42% were new customers, meaning they hadn’t visited an Arby’s in the past 12 months.

For Everhart, one of the central takeaways was the amount of interest generated by a campaign that, first and foremost, aimed to entertain.

“There was an element just wanting to make people happy,” she said.

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