How Community Events can Drive Mass Acquisition - Discovery ERC Big Walk

The Discovery ERC Big Walk is one of 600 trends pulled from the Springleap trend, insight and influence platform. For further information on subscribing to the platform, go to

In May, insurance brand Discovery and East Coast Radio hosted a mass annual event, drawing in thousands of participants; the Big Walk. Starting at uShaka Marine World and finishing at People’s Park at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the concept was to drive awareness and promote healthy lifestyles.

Divided into four heats, participants could choose to walk (or run) a 5, 10, 15 or 20km route. The lengthier the distance, the earlier the timeslot. The route passed through a “magnificent stretch through the Durban promenade”, with the CBD and ocean at immediate view.

The hype was organically stimulated by consumer conversation on social media before and after the event. The knowledge of this branded event from years of its presence meant that people already knew about it, and only needed to be reminded of its presence with effective brand communication. Discovery and East Coast Radio are key players in their respective industries. Hosting annual events is a constructive method of cementing authentic consumer relationships, and is haven for brand recognition and recall.

Having a solid network of sponsors to drive awareness, and playing on healthy lifestyles secured a huge number of participants - over 37 000 this year. Being an annual event, the consumer engagement has dramatically grown since its inception.

“It get’s bigger and better every year” - East Coast Radio

Discovery ERC Big Walk - Background

Originating in 2004 and drawing in just under 2000 participants, the Discovery ERC Big Walk is now a highly anticipated event.

Aimed at celebrating the city of Durban, its rich culture and unique attractions, the event is known to rally more consumers every year. The global trend of promoting healthy lifestyles with outdoor activities and exercise is a mindset that will arguably never get ‘old’. This is exactly what the attached brands’ have been attempting to seed in the minds of the consumers who take part.

As the years progressed, the popularity skyrocketed. The history of this event has seen Durban’s CBD go through innovative steps to rope in tourism and establish the port city as a modern urban hub. In 2004, the same year that the Discovery ERC Big Walk came to fruition, the uShaka Marine World opened its doors to the public - and thusly marked the official starting point. As the seaside promenade of Durban redesigned its function and aesthetic appeal, the Big Walk in turn grew with as more Durbanites and national tourists streamed into the newfound hotspot. One of the most significant occurrences that affected the event’s appeal was the construction of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Completed in time for the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010, the Discovery ERC Big Walk now had a landmark on the horizon and a visually attractive finishing line. The numbers and hype continue to grow to this day.

Discovery ERC Big Walk - Why did it trend?

The first and foremost trending value that the event offers is its wide appeal, spanning across a big target market. The organic hype mentioned earlier was returned by the 37,000 attendees that participated - organisers aimed to draw in a crowd of 25,000. When an event runs successfully for a period of 11 years, there doesn’t need to be a fresh appeal to garner more acquisition.

The Discovery ERC Big Walk was segmented into four heats (5, 10, 15, and 20km stretches) which diversified the target market, allowing consumers of all fitness levels to enjoy the experience. Many consumers have a competitive psychographic, and to facilitate this participants were encouraged to race to take the winning position if they so wished. This ensured that the overall experience boasted a “fork in the road” and the pace was an option that could be chosen by anyone who took part.

Providing different starting points to the route meant that even seniors were catered for. 170 participants were over 70 years old; a small percentage overall but nonetheless a successful commentary on the mass appeal. The 5km route proved most popular as 13,000 people took a leisurely stroll to the finishing line. 4,774 participants were in fact under 19 years old; the largest age bracket at the event. Apart from the mass appeal, the location was beautiful and enough to make any event trend. The scenic beauty of Durban’s foreshore meant that inspirational and iconic views were visual treats for the walkers/runners. The event kickstarted in the early morning, with the sunrise creating stunning imagery on the horizon. If anything is to be critiqued here, perhaps extending the walk into the newly revamped Rivertown precinct, pushing the concept of healthy lifestyles and allowing fitter consumers to take an extended run.

Consumers were very socially active this year; hashtags #healthyselfie and #durbanbigwalk trended on Twitter throughout the course of the event and after. On the social media platform, consumers can be seen enjoying the walk, taking pictures of themselves and their families/friends that participated.

Discovery Vitality members who participated earned 3000 points as a loyalty reward, to which consumers responded positively. Pick ‘n Pay sponsored the event too, and organised a option for consumers to pre order meals for them to collect after the they finished their routes.

Discovery ERC Big Walk - Why it Matters to Brands

Brands and companies in Durban could utilise events like the Discovery ERC Big Walk to position themselves against competitors, and to engage with their consumers on the go.

Amidst Discovery and East Coast Radio, a-Quelle, Pick n Pay, Ram hand-to-hand couriers, Volkswagen, Daily News, SunSure, and TOTALSPORTS served as the events main partners and sponsors. Consumers will be sure to rush in and respond well to brand activations, communications or advertisements during these mass events - as long as the content is engaging.

The health market in South Africa is growing as more consumers are eating nutritional, organic food, and considering the benefits of an active lifestyle. Not only for the higher LSMs, gyms like Virgin Active and Planet Fitness offer a range of membership plans to suit a range of income brackets. The Discovery ERC Big Walk is a platform for local and national gym chains to operate stalls, hand out flyers, promote products etc. It is also a transparent event for sports brands to showcase their value to consumers by sponsoring prizes for those who are aspirational competitors.

Discovery ERC Big Walk - Why it Matters to Agencies

There is one prominent touch point that the creative space of Durban can utilise at an event like the Discovery ERC Big Walk - interactivity.

Consumers were on the move, and on the run. Partnering with relative brands, agencies have the opportunity (if the budget is big enough) to construct brand communication that walks the same footsteps as the participants. Digital media is the best way to fill this potential.

Mobile advertising can make a big impact at this annual event. Consumers, regardless of location, are always on their smartphones. Social media campaigns have the potential to trend, due to #healthyselfie #durbanbigwalk going viral on Twitter. Selfies are a great marketing tool, as it allows people to “show face” and serves as way to locate consumers, and get a feel for their immediate environment, psychographic and preferences.

As the route ebbs and flows through the iconic Durban promenade, participants will be in a goal oriented mindset. This is a perfect marketplace for branded ‘encouragement’. A creative way of looking at the event as an agency is to investigate the opportunity placing print ads on fixed structures to push people towards the prospect of finishing the race - and therefore achieving something. It’s an important point of conversation, as consumers are naturally inclined to boast about their accomplishments to friends, family and on social media. The Discovery ERC Big Walk was an all round successful event, catering to large audiences and acting as a potential frenzy for brands and creative agencies to jump on the train.


Randall Langenhohven

Ian Halsey

Guzmán Luzano

Sebastiaan ter Burg

Simon A. Thalmann

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