Prudential Creates a Literal "Race for Retirement"

See how the financial services company combined education and entertainment at its inaugural 4.01K race.

By Mitra Sorrells November 12, 2015, 7:15 AM EST

Runners were asked questions about retirement readiness via a series of gates throughout the course. They could run through the "yes" or "no" gates depending on their answer.

Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Prudential Financial, Inc.

More than 5,000 people filled the R.F.K. Stadium Festival Grounds in Washington Saturday for Prudential Financial’s first “4.01K Race for Retirement.” While most running events serve as fund-raisers and require a fee to participate, Prudential created its event to raise awareness of the need for Americans to increase their retirement savings and asked participants to sign a pledge that they would save an additional 1 percent of their annual earnings. The fun run, the first of what organizers say may be a series of runs around the country, also brought to life the company’s “Retirement Challenge” advertising campaign.

“This brings us closer to the people, and that’s what it’s for. I think the magnitude of the challenge is underserved if we do it purely with a TV spot,” said Niharika Shah, Prudential’s vice president for brand marketing and advertising. IMG Live produced and managed the event.

As participants ran and walked around the 4.01 kilometer course, they encountered five large overhead signs showing questions such as, “Are you completely prepared for retirement?” and then had to choose whether to run under the “yes” or “no” lanes. “We’re asking these provocative questions because the end goal is to raise awareness for this cause that is affecting all of us,” Shah said. “Ten thousand people are retiring every day.” Prudential also made a $25 donation for each registrant to the 1:1 Fund, an organization that helps to fund college for children from low-income families.

After the run, organizers hosted a festival with food trucks, interactive activities, carnival games, and a performance by singer Aloe Blacc sponsored by Pandora. The interactive activities, set up in five tents, were tied to Prudential’s “Retirement Challenge” campaign, which is intended to help people understand five human behaviors—based on concepts such as emotion and gratification—that get in the way of financial planning.

Shah said Prudential selected Washington to host the inaugural race as part of its strategy to bring attention to the issue. “Retirement and savings and college education will be key points during the election next year, so it’s symbolic in that sense. And for us to be part of the conversation and that solution is important,” she said. The run was originally scheduled for October 4, but the threat of severe weather across the mid-Atlantic region caused Prudential to postpone it. The company relaunched a social media marketing campaign in the weeks leading up to the new date that brought in several hundred new registrants.

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