In a record-breaking week of October last year, Safaricom launched a temporary logo for its M-Pesa brand to embrace Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to become the first man to run a sub-two-hour marathon.
Just like Kipchoge hoisted himself to peerless status with his one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds run, the Safaricom rebrand, with the tagline “Eliud 1:59: From Kenya to the world – no human is limited,” broke several records itself.
According to market analysis, the temporary rebrand created 12 billion impressions worldwide, with an all-time high 85.5 per cent positive brand sentiment and an impressive 1.5 million engagements.
“We are honoured to renew our commitment with Eliud Kipchoge and to support him as he races against time,” Safaricom CEO at the time, Michael Joseph, said.
“As part of our support, we will be empowering any Kenyan across the country to stream the challenge for free, wherever they are, with the advantage of our strong network and wide coverage.
“For every Kenyan, Kipchoge is a reflection of our resilience and determination as he has taken on challenge after challenge,” the CEO added.
In the seven-day period of Kipchoge’s record run, dubbed INEOS 1:59 Challenge owing to the attempt being bankrolled by British petrochemicals concern INEOS, Safaricom offered its customers a major treat with a free YouTube bundle to allow them to stream the race from Vienna’s Prater Park live.
Safaricom also offered its 27 million subscribers a free message service to allow them to show solidarity with the Olympic champion and world record holder.
It was easily the most noticeable rebrand of the M-Pesa platform since its arrival in the market in 2007.
Twitter was set ablaze with Twitterati embracing the Kipchoge emoji to show solidarity.
“We’re doing it for the culture. We’re doing it for the 254. And more importantly, we’re doing it for our own. We wouldn’t want you missing out on #Eliud159 ; a most cherished page in our history,” Safaricom tweeted.
“Twitter enabled Kenyans to take the front seat and rally the ‘world’s fastest man’ through their messages using a custom emoji created for a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Carolyne Kendi, Safaricom’s Head of Brand and Marketing Communications explained.
“The emoji and mosaic allowed each individual connect to something bigger than them; it made them connect with each other.”
Besides driving engagement, the Safaricom emoji helped in uniting Kenya and the world in celebration on man’s mission to break barriers.
“Thank you for showing us that we can push beyond our limits. Congratulations!” Safaricom celebrated Kipchoge’s October 12 Apollo, first-man-on-the-moon moment.
“It takes a great amount of mental and physical strength to actively choose to defy traditional mindsets each day.
“Being on the same journey too, we take the next few days to honour a man who continues to inspire us,” Safaricom said, extending the free messaging service and Kipchoge-related promotions to last a week.
The significance of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge went way beyond Kipchoge pounding the streets of Prater Park in much-talked-about prototype Nike Zoom Alphafly Next% racing shoes, which, incidentally, the Olympic champion himself helped design alongside Nike’s research and development team in Beaverton, Oregon.
It proved that with proper focus, science and bespoke training, anything is possible in sport, and in life too.
“To run a marathon in under two hours and to show to the world that when you focus on your goal, when you work hard and when you believe in yourself, anything is possible,” Kipchoge, the philosopher, Kipchoge, who was supported in the INEOS 1:59 Challenge by a team of experts led by performance cycling expert Sir Dave Brailsford, said after the landmark achievement.
Unbeknown to many, Kipchoge’s success in Vienna triggered a rich global legacy, not even he would have imagined.
‘1851 Trust’, a British charity that focuses on taking science beyond the textbook, launched three new, free, digital learning resources inspired by Kipchoge’s record-breaking Vienna run.
Through its digital education platform known as INEOS Stem Crew, the resources targeting children between the ages of 11 and 16, explore the science and theories that led to ensuring Kipchoge had the best possible conditions to dip under two hours.
“It is brilliant to see so many schools are using the INEOS 1:59 Challenge STEM Crew resources, learning the science behind my record-breaking sub-two-hour marathon. I hope that my challenge will continue to bring STEM subjects to life for pupils and showcase that no human is limited,” Kipchoge said upon the launch of the free learning resources which are fully linked to the UK National Curriculum.
It hardly comes as a surprise, therefore, when Google indicated that Kipchoge was one of the most searched names in 2019 at number two, just behind Safaricom’s fallen hero Bob Collymore.
Kipchoge’s legacy certainly transcends sport and offers hope to humanity through his now-famous mantra “no human is limited”.
This story was first published in the Nation Africa and is part of the Safaricom@20 celebrations. For 20 years, Safaricom has developed new technologies and innovations to support and enable Kenyans to communicate, connect and to go beyond.