Women’s Health Takes Fitness, Philanthropy to the Streets to Feed the Hungry
Five years and 4.5 million meals later, Run 10 Feed 10 continues to deepen the Rodale brand's relationship with its readers.
As magazine brands continue to grow from the print books that birthed them into multimedia content hubs stretching across a diverse set of platforms (both online and off), publishers increasingly seek to transform their "readership" into communities — groups of relatively like-minded people connected by common interests, ideals, and behaviors.
Whatever the title, the goal is generally the same: to develop a direct relationship with the consumer, one that motivates them to connect with a brand in whichever way they prefer to consume content. Key to fostering that direct relationship, many brands have found, are live, face-to-face events.
In 2012, seeking to create another audience touchpoint in the real world, Rodale's Women's Health launched — in partnership with Lauren Bush's FEED Foundation — the Run 10 Feed 10 race, an annual event with a relatively straightforward goal: run 10 kilometers and provide 10 meals to your local food bank.
"It's more than just a race," Laura Frerer-Schmidt, Women's Health VP and publisher, tells Folio:. "It's a physical fitness goal for people, across the nation, that is tied to a very quantifiable charitable donation, so they know that when they work towards this, cross the finish line, commit to this, that they are feeding 10 people in their home town."
The decision to launch an event with a distinct and specific philanthropic outcome was a deliberate one. Not only does Women's Health's audience respond very well to brands that give back, says Frerer-Schmidt, but young consumers in particular demand transparency and a clear view of the impact their charity has on a community.
"In New York, the person who’s hungry is literally standing right there on the corner," Frerer-Schmidt adds. "We’re all part of this community that has a few holes in it. If we can help to make our community healthier, we should."
Now in its fifth year, Run 10 Feed 10 has provided over 4.5 million meals to food banks throughout the U.S. Far more than a single event, Run 10 Feed 10 includes three flagship races: today in Chicago, September 18 in New York, and October 29 in San Francisco.
In New York, thousands of participants will gather on the shut-down West Side Highway, where runners can qualify for the New York Marathon and afterward enjoy a festival in Hudson River Park. In San Francisco, thousands more will race across the Golden Gate Bridge.
And for those who can't make it to any of the flagship events, runners in over 1,000 additional towns and cities across the country will participate all month long by mapping their run on the Runtastic smartphone app.
It's all about making both fitness and philanthropy as accessible and inclusive as possible, says Frerer-Schmidt.
"We added a 5K this year to the 10K run because we want even more people to be able to participate," Frerer-Schmidt adds. "Fitness, for us, is not just for everyone who is going to get involved with something like a marathon or a triathlon. We want to give everyone something to aspire to that they can really do. It doesn’t have to be easy, but we want it to be accessible. It’s about fitness, for sure, but it’s also about socializing."
The presenting sponsor for this year's Run 10 Feed 10 is Macy's, who was attracted to the opportunity to connect with fitness-minded consumers outside of a retail environment. This evening's 10K in Chicago begins and ends at Macy's flagship State Street store, the location of a post-race party sponsored by brands like Aveeno, Hydroxycut, and Vitafusion, among others.
"Activewear and athleisure are taking over. This healthy lifestyle is really affecting retail sales in a very good way. [Macy’s] wants to be a part of people’s lives beyond just selling them products," says Frerer-Schmidt.
Women's Health expects the number of participants this year to run in the tens of thousands, and while there is certainly a lot of sponsorship and registration revenue to be earned, Frerer-Schmidt insists that very few expenses were spared. The goal is less about quantifiable revenue or brand lift and more about creating a direct and shared experience with consumers.
It's those shared experiences, says Frerer-Schmidt, that has allowed Women's Health to grow its audience across every platform (including print) for the last five consecutive years.
In 2016 alone, Women's Health has increased its print ad pages by two percent and print revenues by six percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Those numbers may not seem gaudy, but in today's media world, any growth in print is worthy of recognition.
On the digital side, visitors to WomensHealth.com are up four percent since January and page views are up 20 percent, according to comScore. In total, Women's Health now reaches over 18 million consumers in the U.S. each month, according to the MPA's Magazine Media 360° report, which would place it well ahead of its competitors in the women's health and fitness space.
"We’re seeing continued growth in a year that’s been very difficult for most brands in pretty much every category," Frerer-Schmidt concludes. "I think it’s because we are in partnership with our consumers about taking some sort of action in the world. This event is the perfect example of that, and we’re doing it with brands who really see this as the way forward."