Social Media Follows Old Glory Across America

Team RWB is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activity. This year, the group is running its second annual coast-to-coast Old Glory Relay—and Stackla is helping to spotlight the experiences of participants and supporters.

The run began at sunrise on September 11, with a formal Reveille ceremony in San Francisco. 59 teams of runners will carry a single American flag more than 3,540 miles across the country to Washington, DC. The relay will end at sunset on November 8, just days before Veterans Day.

This year’s theme, “Faces of Old Glory,” is intended to spotlight the diversity of veterans by encouraging them to share their personal stories and experiences. “Someone running with an American flag by the side of the road is a powerful image,” says Dan Brostek, Marketing & Communications Director at Team RWB. “Last year, we had people pulling over by the side of the road because they wanted to join us and run with the flag as long as they could. Everyone has their own personal story about what the flag means to them, whether they served themselves or they have a family member, friend, or colleague who was in the military.”

Live on-course celebrations are planned for several cities along the relay route. More than a dozen off-course supporting events, including remembrance runs, will be held in communities along the way. In addition, Team RWB is engaging supporters on social media by asking them to share photos and videos with the #OldGloryRelay hashtag. Participants can enter to win a variety of Microsoft prizes, from the Microsoft Surface 3 to Microsoft Bands.

Although Team RWB had used an event hashtag in the inaugural relay in 2014, Brostek found aggregation and curation a challenge. “We had a couple of hashtags, but we didn’t have a tool to help us aggregate all the content across all the social networks,” he says. “That’s where Stackla came into the mix.”

The relay’s website prominently features photos, videos, and other social posts from participants in its social hub. To promote the #OldGloryRelay hashtag it uses to aggregate this content, Team RWB created a press kit, wrote blog posts, and worked with lead sponsor Microsoft to co-market the event. In addition, teams of veterans from Salesforce, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google ran with the flag on September 11 to kick off the relay. Teams out on the course are given leave-behind materials that they can hand out to members of the communities they run through to explain the relay and TeamRWB’s mission.

Team RWB has three success criteria for its social media aggregation efforts. The first is fundraising and donations. Team RWB has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 for the relay. Less than two weeks in to the event, nearly 40% of that goal has already been reached.

The second criterion is registration for the event (which is also a form of donation for people who register as virtual runners). “At the end of the day, we are a community of communities,” Brostek says. “Team RWB is a national organization; we are a collection of local communities and chapters. People wearing the eagle and sharing pictures of what they’re doing at local events or activities is hugely motivating and inspiring to others. It’s also really effective for getting others to want to come out and participate.”

The third metric Brostek is focused on the number of new veterans who join the organization. “This is an opportunity for people along the relay route and beyond to become more familiar with what we’re doing to connect veterans to their communities,” says Brostek. “A lot of veterans live with physical and mental disabilities, and when they see other people like them engaging with other veterans and civilians within their community—when they see that camaraderie like they used to have in the military—it’s powerful. It helps get them out the door and engaged in their own communities.”

“In the beginning, people thought Team RWB was just this crazy ultrarunning organization. User-generated content has helped us show that we’re about a lot more than that,” says Brostek. “The images our members share show veterans from all eras, civilians—everyone, really—doing all kinds of things together, from yoga to going to movies to rock climbing to hiking to walking to biking to golfing. Our goal is physical and social activity. That comes to life a lot better through user-generated content than it does when we just push the idea at our audience.”

Old Glory Relay by the numbers

  • Total funds raised: $436,000
  • New Team RWB members: 10,118 (19% YoY increase)
  • Participation: 59 teams and 1,170 athletes
  • Events: 13 community celebrations with over 800 participants
  • Route: 3,540 miles, 13 states, 4 state capitals and over 7M steps taken
  • Weather: Temperatures north of 110 degrees and well below freezing
  • Elevation: From sea level to 11,312 feet (Monarch Pass, Colorado)
  • Content: Captured over 4,200 user generated photos and videos with countless personal testimonials
  • Media: Generated a potential reach of over 950M impressions across traditional and digital media channels
  • Website: Increased YoY website traffic during the Old Glory Relay by 65% and total pageviews by 94%
  • Influencers: Engaged numerous individuals and organizations in the Veteran space, news outlets, athletes, politicians, community leaders, and brands.
  • News: The top 30 media stories generated over 7,700 social shares with close to 10M in web traffic including an appearance on Happening Now on Fox News with national viewership over 1.1M
  • Microsoft incentives: Delivered over $20K in Microsoft product to top individual and team fundraisers
  • Hashtag engagement: The #oldgloryrelay hashtag was used over 3,500 times via Twitter and Instagram with over 6M impressions generated in the last 30 days of the campaign alone
  • The photo: A single photo shared by Fox News of a police officer saluting Old Glory (held by Tim Muessig from Microsoft) reached over 19M people with 1M+ likes, 650k shares, & 17K comments… in the first week.
  • Freedom honks: Too many to count.