In Spring 2020, Belron was confronted with the reality that its annual sporting and fundraising event, the Spirit of Belron Challenge, had to be canceled because of the ongoing pandemic. Partnering with atlasGO to replace the event with a virtual edition was an emergency solution, which turned out to be an unexpected success story.
An Annual Tradition
Each year Belron brings together over 1,500 employees, families, friends, customers, and suppliers worldwide to swim, cycle, and run in the Spirit of Belron Challenge. This sporting event is an important part of the company culture – a time for Belron employees to get together to celebrate and raise vital funds for their global charity partner Afrika Tikkun. This event, held in the UK for 19 years, has raised over €11 million for the children and young people in South Africa.
A Special Year
In late Spring 2020, when the ongoing pandemic was at its peak, it became obvious that the physical edition of the Spirit of Belron Challenge could not take place later that year. “Whilst it’s disappointing that we can’t hold the event in its traditional format this year, let’s look at our options and see this as an opportunity to be innovative,” Belron CEO Gary Lubner said when his team proposed a virtual edition of the event. So, Group Reward Director Julia Davenport, Corporate Responsibility Executive Carolyn Johnston, and Group Communication and Events Manager Jane Bracewell reached out to atlasGO to work together and organize the first virtual Spirit of Belron Challenge.
A Dive into the Unknown
Planning for the event started in June and, after facing a tight timeline, the registration phase for the Challenge started on September 1. However, the team wasn’t sure if all the hard work to get the virtual event up and running would pay off. Would only a few hundred people buy into the virtual concept, or would the Spirit of Belron Round the World Challenge attract thousands of participants? The answer was the latter: over the 23-day registration period, the momentum and enthusiasm built, leading to over 7,300 employees, family, friends, business partners, and suppliers signing-up for their virtual Challenge through the atlasGO platform. Each person was asked to make a small donation of 5 Euros to participate, which was matched by Belron and its CEO.
A Simple Format
The Challenge’s format was simple; each participant was invited to sign up for a specific challenge to complete between September 23 to September 27. Participants had eight challenges to choose from, including completing 5, 20, 50, or 100 kilometers in 5 days by walking, running, swimming, or cycling; an Olympic distance triathlon; or a duathlon. Additionally, participants could compete in teams of five.
The Challenge Starts
Once the virtual Challenge started on September 23, it quickly became clear that it wasn’t just about logging kilometers and competing on the atlasGO mobile application. Thousands of people connected by posting pictures and comments about their activities worldwide, leading to tens of thousands of virtual (and virus free) high-fives exchanged on the platform. And the virtual Challenge allowed thousands of people to participate who wouldn’t normally be able to attend the physical event. The community shared inspirational stories, including Maxim from Belgium, who completed 2.4 kilometers in his wheelchair just three months after major surgery. Also, Witty, who cycled from Cologne to the Atlantic coast and back; Marie-Louise, the oldest participant at 97 years old, walked 1.3 kilometers; and Jonathan, who is blind, did his first walk since the pandemic started, completing 13 kilometers. These are just a few of the hundreds of stories that virtually connected the Belron family throughout the five-day Challenge. Julia Davenport said: “The Challenge brought people together in a way that hadn’t been possible for a long time because of the virus. We wouldn’t have believed this achievable with a virtual edition of the event.”
Impressive Numbers and a Big Impact
Together, the Belron family, across 29 countries, logged 166,594 kilometers, virtually circling the globe more than four times. 18,648 individual activities led to 2,868 pictures shared on the platform, and 27,571 virtual high-fives were celebrated. More importantly, a total of 1.7 Million Euros was raised for Afrika Tikkun, the Belron global charity partner – making a difference for thousands of children and young people in South Africa.
A Virtual Celebration and Unexpected Success
A few days after the Spirit of Belron Challenge concluded, Belron invited their people, family, friends, and partners to virtually celebrating the event’s results and impact. Hopefully, Belron will be able to hold a physical event again in 2021. Gary Lubner stated, “I really think this event and the technology we’ve used has brought us closer together during this difficult time. It has been an unexpected success, and we will definitely hold a virtual one again in 2021. It will inspire us to rethink how we can run other events in the future. Without atlasGO, none of these things would have been possible.”
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