The IRONMAN triathlon has come to represent the ultimate test of body, mind, and spirit. When we learned that 21-year-old Chris Nikic was training to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete the IRONMAN, the toughest single-day endurance event in the world (consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run) our goal was to document the ins and outs of his journey and provide a compelling case study on the importance of inclusivity in sport. We wanted to help Chris challenge perceptions of what a person with Down syndrome can accomplish. The ultimate goal was to show that the only limits on our abilities are the ones we accept for ourselves. We wanted our audiences to see Chris’s pathway through the daily realities of Down syndrome, a genetic disorder resulting in developmental delays and physical disabilities, and into truly unchartered territory. In documenting the months of grueling training and preparation for the IRONMAN, we wanted to chart a very personal journey to fulfilling the ultimate dream of inclusion. Ultimately, we wanted to use our social platforms and storytelling mechanisms to show how Chris Nikic embodies the IRONMAN mantra of "Anything Is Possible" and thus create a meaningful and compelling argument for inclusion of people of all abilities. We knew this storytelling would be instrumental in creating a paradigm shift, in awakening others to unknown capabilities of individuals who have been historically marginalized and underestimated.
Our strategy was to get the audience interested and invested in Chris’s entire journey – training, meeting his family, pre-race interviews, etc, so by the time race weekend arrived Chris had an avid fan-base eager to follow his experience. We believe this multi-faceted, long-range view produced an extra impactful race-day culmination.
The balance was to unwind a very meaningul narrative over months of preparation, while also leveraging short, engaging content to tell Chris's story both at the macro and micro levels. We utilized digital platforms to tell Chris's story with both creatively produced pieces and in real-time. We went live during the final two miles of Chris's race, with cameras right next to Chris to show the dramatic achievement of a dream that trascends sport.
The impact Chris has made in the world has been nothing short of phenomenal, and our content strategy played a major role in getting his message out to the masses. We leveraged a combination of storytelling styles and quick-hit content to keep athletes and fans engaged throughout Chris’s entire IRONMAN journey. We have a very lean team at IRONMAN, but understanding what our audience engages with helped us figure out the most creative and strategic way to tell his story and get it out into the world. For instance, instead of creating extended highlight videos during Chris’s 16+ hour race, we worked with our production team to create and strategically share clips of key moments throughout race day. This helped us turn around our content quickly, and it also gave our audience exactly what they wanted: timely snippets that dropped them right inside the race-day action. Following the race, we leveraged short features centered on Chris as well as follow-up features, from a community celebration to a visit to IRONMAN HQ to keep our viewers coming back for more engaging content long after race day. The beauty of this type of strategy was that we covered every dimension of Chris's journey, and our followers can still experience his still-in-progress story sequentially on our social channels.
The results of our work exceeded all of our viewership expectations (please see attached metrics jpgs) but more importantly, it broadcast a truly game-changing achievement to the world.
We generated 7.4 million video views on race day on our IRONMAN social media channels alone. Our metrics showed that people kept coming back throughout the day to see how he was doing--they were truly invested in his success and fascinated by his historical bid. We capped race day off with a live stream of Chris’s final miles, which culminated in 3+ million viewers. This strategy also generated 160,000+ total social content posts globally (on race day alone) about Chris and his IRONMAN journey. Additionally, Chris's story saw 1.3M+ social shares from news articles.
Using his IRONMAN race as a platform and via the IRONMAN Foundation, Chris raised more than $65,000 for the Special Olympics and Racing for Orphans with Down syndrome (RODS). Chris also achieved a nomination for an “Inspiration of the Year” award from Sports Illustrated. Both of these achievements were showcased and supported via our social media content.
Utilizing our social media content strategies and platform, Chris's story has inspired millions and encouraged a conversation around inclusivity and possibility during a unique time when the world could use more hope and positivity. Chris Nikic's remarkable story exemplifies the boundless potential living inside us all. We believe we acheived our ultimate goal of showing the power and importance of inclusion of people of all abilities, and how one person's example can have a dramatic ripple effect. The Down syndrome community is forever changed in witnessing Chris's groundbreaking acheivement, and we were proud to play a part in amplifying his momentous feat and message to the world.
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