Kristin is joined by Bill Alfano, Director of Marketing & Sponsorship at the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), an annual bike-a-thon that raises money for life-saving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Bill share’s the PMC’s evolving content strategy, including the soon-to-be-released PMC Podcast.
Kristin Brandt: 0:00
This is Kristin Brandt and you’re listening to the Sundin Sports Marketing podcast. I am here today at the world headquarters of the Pan Mass Challenge, aka. PMC with Bill Alfano. Hi Bill!
Bill Alfano: 0:16
Kristin Brandt: 0:17
Thank you so much for letting me come invade your office.
Bill Alfano: 0:20
Thanks for having me.
Kristin Brandt: 0:20
So let’s start right off the bat with those who may not know. What is the PMC?
Bill Alfano: 0:26
Sure. The PMC – Pan-Mass Challenge is a bike a thon, its a ride, not a race, that started in 1980 with the sole mission to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Over its 40 years, its raised $717 million. $63 million alone last year, in 2019. Made up of now roughly 7000 riders, about 4000 volunteers, 12 different routes. And, um, you know, I think the thing that really were the most proud of and our riders really gravitate towards is 100% of all the money they raised goes right to Dana Farber.
Kristin Brandt: 1:06
And in the spirit of full disclosure for those that don’t know I am a PMC rider, I’m going into my fifth year, and I can attest to the size of a whole lot of writers and the fabulous volunteers that you guys have. I cannot even I can’t even start to express my gratitude to them. Um, And what is your role here at PMC?
Bill Alfano: 1:29
Yeah. I’m the director of marketing and sponsorship.
Kristin Brandt: 1:33
So we’re gonna be talking today. I going to have you on a lot I’ve decided. I think you’re just a wealth of information, but we’re gonna be talking today about the fact that you’re starting a podcast, and again in the spirit of full disclosure, I will be co-hosting that podcast.
Bill Alfano: 1:47
Let’s be serious – you’ll be hosting and I’ll be side kicking
Kristin Brandt: 1:51
and helping me with all things mechanical when I want to throw the recorder across. But the podcast in my mind is just the next step in w hat I see is a pretty amazing content strategy that you have. You know, as I said, I’ve been with the PMC for last four years and I’ve watched it grow. Um, so I was hoping maybe you could just kind of tell me the thinking behind it.
Bill Alfano: 2:13
Sure. Um, you know, for me. It’s all always about the What is the event about? What is the organization about? What’s the mission about in the easiest way to get that point across with the PMC is to let the people who do the event tell their story.
Bill Alfano: 2:29
I walked in here about seven years ago, starting eighth year, and, um, I was just blown away with the every rider you talked to. Every volunteer, every you know, family member of a rider you talk to all had an incredible story of why they’re involved in the event.
Bill Alfano: 2:48
And, you know, we’re a small nonprofit. There’s 11 of us full time so wearing the marketing hat wearing sponsorship hat. I knew I had to get the story’s out and call it genius. Call it lazy.
Kristin Brandt: 3:01
Bill Alfano: 3:03
I thought the way to go would be to ask people to tell their story, So we created what we call the why I PMC program. We send an email out all registered riders and volunteers. We asked them to submit back to us why they PMC and we purposely didn’t call it why I ride or why volunteer because we don’t care what role you play in the PMC. Everybody like you mentioned, you know, you’re a rider and the volunteers are critical to you, you know? And we have that across the way. The donors leave them a Susie, right?
Bill Alfano: 3:36
The sponsors are critical. Obviously, the volunteers are critical, and the riders are critical cause the riders are our main fund raisers. So we put this out to everybody. We have them submit back to us. Um, why they PMC we then, you know, ask for a couple photos. We turn that into blog posts, and we probably post close to 100 a year. Um, of these blog posts of people talking about why they PMC and we distributed on social media, etcetera.
Kristin Brandt: 4:04
And then so when I first met you, was you at some point evolved that from the block to video. So I got that email that said, you know, would you like to do “Why I PMC.” It was my first year I wrote back and then you actually wrote and said, Sure, come on in to WBZ and we’re going to do a video, and I was like, Oh, no, what have I done? Um, so when did that next step come and cause it seems very smart to get another partner involved.
Bill Alfano: 4:32
All right, first of all, when it comes to you and you put in your thing, I think I’m gonna ride this event once. So I knew to keep you around. I need to get more involved.
Kristin Brandt: 4:41
I think that’s called sticky.
Bill Alfano: 4:43
That’s right. No. So, you know, we have a great media partner TV partner with W B Z T V and some really talented people over there. And this one guy, Peter, he really caught on to the blogs that we were posting and said, hey, what if we turned some of those blog’s into vignettes and we’ll run them leading up to PMC’s like the month before PMC will get people really excited about the opening ceremony broadcast in the ride weekend itself. We think we can really help donations by getting these stories out, and sure enough, I mean, you get a professional news agency with that type of creative power behind them to do these, and they’re exceptional and they’ve really played a great role.
Kristin Brandt: 5:23
And it is it’s pro man you know, I mean, you go into the studio, I actually happen to bring my son, who was being a particular you know what in my butt that day because he was being a teenager and ungrateful, and I was like, You know, buddy, we’re gonna skip school. You’re gonna come with me because I’m gonna about to do something kind of cool and and weird and scary. And he sat there and, you know, he listened to me. But he listened. There was a pediatric nurse there with, um with a child who had cancer. There was someone else, and I mean, he left and basically was like, I’m a big dummy.
Kristin Brandt: 5:53
Um, but it was well produced. I have pictures from the set, and so is really the respect that you gave each of the riders. Sure that be the gave the riders and then the content that gave me to share, you know, um so that now, soon after we met, we did start talking about podcasts. When did you and the PMC start thinking about podcasts and kind of how has your thinking on it maybe evolved?
Bill Alfano: 6:21
Yeah, I think we started thinking about it, pretty much at that moment knowing that there are other channels that we should tell these stories on. Um, but I didn’t have a full grasp of what I thought the podcast could be. I didn’t want to be exactly the same thing. And then the other big component that we were getting asked for was Impact. Like, how do you tell stories about impact? Not just why people do the event, but what happens with all this money that gets right.the money, go.
Bill Alfano: 6:48
We launched another video series with doctors from Dana Farber, um, talking to the camera about what the PMC funds do for their particular area of research. And it’s incredible. I mean, you know, it’s incredible to hear a doctor say, without PMC funding, we couldn’t have got to blank um, once we kind of got that reeled in it was time for the podcast. I mean, you and I talked multiple times kind of evolved the concept of what it would be, and we came up with this like a big switch from Why I PMC, to how PMC, you know?
Kristin Brandt: 7:31
The we got to just PMC – PMC Podcast.
Kristin Brandt: 7:38
And then when we sat down to do our first you know, test episode, it was like, maybe it’s just the PMC podcast.
Bill Alfano: 7:43
Right. I mean, it’s what happens you put to marketers together, right? We want it. We all we care about what is the home page Looks like, not how it works behind it.
Bill Alfano: 7:52
So we got to The PMC podcast. And you know, I think our vision for this is to have it touch on many topics. Some very light, you know, chafing. What do you wear for winter riding? Like difference in trainer indoor trainers and then heavy like, you know, we’re sitting down later today, u m, and speaking to a woman who pretty much heads up patient care of Jimmy Fund Clinic and to talk about a family and a child’s, you know, first time into the clinic after the diagnosis. Um and I think it’s going to be extremely compelling.
Kristin Brandt: 8:27
Now are not launched yet. We’re launching in March – So exciting. But I know, you know, through our conversation, sometimes you’ll be like, Oh, I didn’t know that. So what are some of the things you even learned through the process as we’ve been kind of gearing up for this?,
Bill Alfano: 8:45
Yeah well, you know this one well because you laughed at me every time. I say booking guests is really hard for a podcast. Um, everybody wants to do them. Everybody is more than willing to give you the time, but the time has to work. You know, between your schedule, my schedule, the guest schedule between what we’re doing other event wise in the office because we don’t have a true studio, You know, we’re in like a small conference room…
Kristin Brandt: 9:05
This studio is great.
Bill Alfano: 9:34
That was that’s one of the challenges. The you know, trying to figure out topics is not that difficult. Um, And then the next thing you know and I joke about this is because we don’t have a done podcast to share with people we’d like to participate or potential sponsors or everything else. People’s questions. So tell me about the podcast, and I really don’t know what to tell them. Like, I know what’s in my head, right? It’s going to be great is one of my standard answers. And then I start like, you know, you’ve heard Serial, right? So, yeah, it’s gonna be a podcast. ‘
Kristin Brandt: 9:49
It’s going to be like that! I mean, I feel like we’re so advanced, but when we, um when I started podcast when I started podcasting back in the day, which is now well, my daughter’s 14 so 14 years ago, I mean, we literally had to start with so a podcast is like a piece of audio that you put on your BlackBerry.
Bill Alfano: 10:11
You’re the Gregorian Chant of Podcasters.
Kristin Brandt: 10:14
So at least we’re past that. I do think one thing I know that surprised you is I said to you, um, if you have an event, go go get some stories, right? Like because, as you said, booking guests is hard.
Bill Alfano: 10:31
Yes. I mean, in this component I love I mean, we just did our PMC winter cycle, which is our big indoor spin event that we do at Fenway Park. Um, and you and your daughter, who we should be thanking, also took it upon. You guys went to Fenway and and just kind of randomly pulled people aside and interviewed them. I didn’t really think about that as a podcast. I think of that is like an interview, which I know is the same thing. But for me, a podcast. You know, going into this process is very, um, not scripted, but outlined, You know where you want to get to. And I didn’t realize there was so much like a woman on the street type interviewing for podcasting, and I love that component because we are very event driven, and we have lots of opportunities to talk to people.
Kristin Brandt: 11:14
And it brings I mean, my thought. You know, there’s a couple of thoughts to it – Yeah, the man on the street woman on the street. You’ve got all these people together that, you know, to your point about the guests super hard to get people together. So, um, I like to say that I accosted them in the middle of like, Hello sweaty person. Would you like to speak on the podcast that has not launched it? Um, and also being quite honest with them that, like, I didn’t know what we were going to do with it. It may or may not ever be up, or it may not. You know, um, So once you get past that look of fear that they’re like, Okay, you know, I could, you know, like don’t run. It’s fine. But yeah, taking the opportunity, all these opportunities to gather content and then look back and say, Oh, I think we have I think we’ve an episode. Sure. Which is what we’re gonna do with one of our shows.
Bill Alfano: 12:02
Sure. I mean, the other parts for me, which, you know, the barrier of entry is simple for broadcasting. I didn’t know that. You know, I thought when we start talking about equipment and needs, you know, I really thought it was a much bigger investment. It’s not, um,
Kristin Brandt: 12:18
We have a Tascam recorder and a couple of mics.
Bill Alfano: 12:22
And it it’s great. I mean, you know, it’s it’s great. And then you know all you need to do, I guess, if you want to start a podcast is find someone who was a top five top 10 iTunes podcaster from 14 years ago and somehow convince her to co host it with you. And it really makes things easy.
Kristin Brandt: 12:39
Its much easier. We should find one of those. Just kidding. So as we wrap this up and as you we we barrel towards march, Um, you know, you don’t really know. We don’t know how this is gonna be received – what are you looking forward to with the podcast?
Bill Alfano: 12:57
You know, for me, it’s, um it’s always about the proof back, you know, hearing from our riders or volunteer just from the community that they picked up on this. And they’re listening. They’re interested. They have ideas and even criticism. If there’s some that comes, I doubt there’ll be any. But if there is, you know I love it like I really love it. And then the thing that’ll, you know, it happened with why I had happened with the video is the first time a rider tells me Wow, I sent this podcast to potential donor and I got a donation from someone. I never got a donation from before. That’s the proof. That’s the one that’ll get me so excited about it. Because at the end of the day, we have one mission at the PMC its to raise as much money for Dana Farber as we can. And if we can do that by also letting people tell their stories. Sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes just fun. But, you know, to get all these voices and all these people involved in this mission is incredible.
Kristin Brandt: 13:55
Well, and a little bit to that, bottom line, right? You need to be getting people donating. You also need to be looking for new ways the sponsors can support because the way you can make 100% of donations go to Dana Farber means that you have to cover your expenses a different way. So, um, are you looking at the podcast to Is a potential channel for future sponsorship?
Bill Alfano: 14:19
I’ve already included it in a few sponsorship proposals.
Kristin Brandt: 14:23
How do you sell a podcast that has not come out yet?
Bill Alfano: 14:41
I included it in a few already. And, you know, it is interesting until we get the 1st 1 done. It’s not that people don’t believe it’s gonna be great, but they have to go, you know, play it for their bos or their board before they can put funding behind it.
Kristin Brandt: 14:41
You want to see the artwork. You want to hear a couple of episodes.
Bill Alfano: 14:44
Wait, we need artwork?
Kristin Brandt: 14:44
Yeah, you’re gonna need it. Did you look at my checklist? Okay.
Kristin Brandt: 14:49
Well, thank you again for coming on my show. As I aid we’re gonna have you on lots more. I think I’m gonna victimize you every time I come to do our podcast.
Bill Alfano: 0:00
Kristin Brandt: 15:00
The Sundin Sports Marketing podcast is produced by Sundin Sports Marketing. For show notes and links from this episode or to learn more, you can visit SundinSports.com
Kristin Brandt: 15:09
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