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Email marketing offers benefits to organizations of all shapes and sizes, but its ability to reach a large audience quickly, easily, and inexpensively is particularly attractive to nonprofits. Parkrun, a nonprofit based in the U.K., facilitates free 5k and 2k runs in public parks around the world.

Parkrun uses email marketing to share news and inspiring stories around the globe, promote its partners, and market its range of running apparel. Using Campaign Monitor, parkrun is 25% more efficient– spending less time on building email campaigns and sending more emails– than they were with their old platform.

We sat down with Russ Jefferys, Head of Marketing at parkrun, to learn how parkrun leverages email marketing to reach subscribers, build an audience, drive retail sales, and recruit volunteers.
Head of Marketing at Parkrun – Russ Jefferys

Can you share what parkrun is and a bit about your mission?

RJ: Parkrun is a series of weekly, free, timed community runs that take place in more than 1000 locations in 14 countries around the world. Our mission is to create a healthier and happier planet. We believe that by breaking down barriers to participation in physical activity, that we can make this mission come true.

There are more than 3 million people registered to parkrun, and about 160,000 people participate in our events each weekend. We’re growing rapidly– our vision is that by 2023, we’ll have one million runners participating every week in about 25 countries and 12,000 locations.

As the Head of Marketing, what is your role at parkrun?

RJ: The organization currently has 16 full-time paid staff, and I lead a marketing team of four people. In each of the countries where we operate, we have a country manager, and we rely on a huge number of volunteers at a local level (142,000 people volunteered with us in 2016) to run events and get the word out.

As Head of Marketing, I’m responsible for our global brand, marketing, and communications. It is my responsibility to ensure we tell the story of how parkrun breaks down barriers to participation and strives to make the world a healthier and happier place. I’m therefore responsible for defining and implementing parkrun’s marketing both offline and online. Email marketing is an important part of that.

How is marketing at a nonprofit different from a for-profit company?

RJ: We’re on a path of enormous growth and central to our ethos is providing safe, welcoming, friendly events free of charge all over the world.

We’re set up as a nonprofit, but even still, there’s a lot of costs behind what we do. We need to be compliant, ensure our events are safe, and we need technology to time our events and process results. We raise revenue to meet the costs in a number of different ways– through commercial sponsorships with companies like Intersport and Vitality. We raise revenue through retail sales, as well.

As a nonprofit, we have a much smaller budget than for-profit companies, but our audience is more receptive to the communication we send, in part because of the community we’ve created. Thankfully the community loves what we do and responds well to it. With genuine heartfelt stories, our content almost writes itself.

However, it can be challenging to communicate that we do need to generate revenue to survive. When it does come to sending out more commercially-focused emails, we have to be careful to get the tone right to make sure we’re not exploiting our community, but genuinely offering something of value, that in turn helps to keep parkrun free.

How are you using email marketing across parkrun?

RJ: We send regular newsletter emails to all of our opted-in registered runners, currently over 1.7 million subscribers. Through Campaign Monitor, we’ve been able to improve how quickly we can create and send emails. It’s also enabled us to create more emails. We can now send emails in more countries. We believe we’re 25% more efficient using Campaign Monitor than we were before.

We believe we’re 25% more efficient using Campaign Monitor than we were before.

With our previous email service provider, we were sending emails in 8 different countries and three different languages. With Campaign Monitor, we send emails in 12 different countries and in six different languages. So we’re sending in 50% more countries and have doubled the number of languages used in our campaigns. Our country managers produce most of the content for these emails, which comes through to us, where we build it based on templates we’ve created in Campaign Monitor’s email builder. We do all the reporting and the analysis of all the emails that parkrun sends out.

 

We’ve also used Campaign Monitor to launch our retail store. As our audience grows, our potential to generate revenue by retail increases as well.

Finally, we use it to promote our partners. We send dedicated campaigns to promote their brands and we also have sections in our newsletters that give them a shout out. Using Campaign Monitor, we’ve been able to produce better-designed campaigns and respond more quickly to opportunities. We’ve been able to offer a much better experience to our partners.

 

We send our emails to over 1.7 million subscribers, and we see open rates between 40-60% on our newsletters. We can always rely on Campaign Monitor to get our messages delivered.

 

What email marketing features are you taking advantage of?

RJ: We have the ability to segment emails based on our community, and that’s one of the best features we’ve gained from Campaign Monitor. We can segment by gender, age, and geographic criteria, and we also have a lot of historical data, such as a parkrunner’s results history.

For example, we know how many runs someone has done, the times they ran, and the number of times someone has volunteered. We can build campaigns that speak to specific segments of that audience.

We have an API that links with Campaign Monitor’s API. We have one main list that is our registered runners, and within that, we have a whole host of segments based on geography and other factors.

We also love Campaign Monitor’s email builder. It’s incredibly easy to use, and we can create emails quickly and efficiently. It allows us to build better-designed emails at a faster rate.

Why did you select Campaign Monitor?

RJ: I previously worked for a design agency in Australia, and was already familiar with Campaign Monitor and what the platform had to offer. Campaign Monitor’s email builder made our team much more nimble, and the platform is extremely reliable. We haven’t had any issues with something falling apart, or a send taking longer than it should have.

These were debilitating factors of or previous email service provider. Campaign delivery was super slow and unreliable. We also were blind to both our successes and failures and needed deeper reporting and analytics. Our team is very pleased to have made the switch.

Wrap up

Parkrun is growing fast, establishing more events across the world every week. As the organization grows, it will be increasingly important to communicate the brand message with the community. The team has plans to increase their use of email marketing throughout the organization and plans to leverage Campaign Monitor’s features along the way.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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