Marathon runner’s gene, Oltenia’s Marathon 2018

Silver Award for Excellence 2018

Sport & Entertainment

Grupul CEZ & Rogalski Damaschin Public Relations



The story of the Marathon of Oltenia began in 2012, as a social responsibility initiative of CEZ Group in Romania (one of the leading energy companies in the country) focusing on the needs of the local community where the company operates, and as an encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle. Each year, the money collected through registration fees is doubled by CEZ Group in Romania and donated to a social cause in Oltenia.

In 2018, the Marathon of Oltenia reached maturity, so the organizers decided to develop two new characteristics for the event: to add a full marathon trail (42k) to the existing 4 races (2 x MTB and 2 x Trail Run), and to support three social causes instead of one. 

The Research

Multiple studies conducted worldwide have probed the extent to which one’s genetic makeup enhances personal performance. Leaving aside high intensity training, the researchers say that certain physical traits impact athletic performance, such as muscle fiber structure, stamina, height, or area of origin (The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, David Epstein, 2014).

Research run after the previous edition of the Marathon from 2017 showed that participants expected a new and full marathon race to be added

The Planning

Starting from the assumption that one’s genetic makeup can influence athletic performance, we have initiated a debate on the traits and the “genes” that define a marathon runner.

OM’s communication campaign had the following goals: to increase the visibility of the event and CEZ, as organizer and main supporter; to consolidate the community of athletes and volunteers traditionally involved in Oltenia’s Marathon and attract new participants; to maintain and strengthen the relationships with the partners of the event (sponsors, local authorities, the local community, supporters of the Marathon); increasing the notoriety of the social causes supported by OM 2018; increasing the notoriety of the new marathon race (42.5 km) and drawing at least 30 entries for this race.

The Implementation

The sixth edition of the Marathon of Oltenia has taken place under the overarching concept of the “Marathon runner’s gene”, aiming to debate to which extent genetic traits, the character or abilities gained contribute to better athletic performance.

The testing of the “marathon runner’s gene” was debated during the actual exploration of the routes, whose protagonists were Martin Zmelik, then CEO of CEZ Group in Romania and the host of the event, Diana Dumitrescu, actress and new bike friend, Carmen Albișteanu, a well-known trail runner and blogger, and one employee of CEZ Group in Romania. They followed the marathon routes (video) while creating a discussion about the athletic performance, tenacity and genetics. The DNAFit test, an actual genetic test that reveals relevant traits related to the athletic profile of a person later validated the real contribution of genetics.

To mark the approaching event, as well as the period of most intense training, every day for the whole month of August the Marathon of Oltenia employed a special trainer of the gene, the first ever virtual training partner, the Facebook chat MObot, which sent daily personalized “tips and tricks” to those interested in training their “gene”.

In addition to the “marathon runner’s gene”, the athletes had the opportunity to prove they also have the “activist gene”. The Marathon of Oltenia supported in 2018 the needs of three organizations that operate in the region of Oltenia, where CEZ Group in Romania operates: the World Vision Romania foundation, the “Little People” Association and the Valcea County Emergency Hospital. The competitors were able to choose the social cause they wished to support. The money collected in participation fees was matched by CEZ Group in Romania and split proportionally to the beneficiaries indicated by participants.

The Evaluation

  • About 1 million viewers had the opportunity to see through 16 TV news reports; more than 80 stories published online, 12 stories published in print
  • Facebook was assessed as the most powerful communication channel. Results: a reach of 2,117,864, more than 106,000 engaged users and close to 70,000 interactions on the Marathon’s Facebook page
  • 143 athletes trained by MObot, the first virtual trainer
  • 654 participants (+14% vs 2017), with the available spots fully booked a week before the event
  • 61% participants in the trail running races, 45 entries only to the new marathon race (42.5 km)
  • 92 participants from the employees of CEZ Group in Romania (+10% vs 2017)
  • 100 volunteers from the employees of CEZ Group in Romania
  • 000 euros donated to the three social causes (participation fees plus matching funds from CEZ Group in Romania) (+26% vs 2017)


Oltenia’s Marathon is an event that each year creates new communication instruments to involve the community of our long-term friends but also to attract new participants. The “marathon runner’s gene” concept opened a new perspective, sparked a debate about stamina and the influence of genetics, brought together established athletes and people who had entered a sports race for the first time. Each of them found an answer, a route that would be a fit for them, a cause to support and especially an event where they would meet people from the larger family of amateur athletes.

The Innovation

Initiatives like determining the existence of a marathon runner’s gene – through DNAFit, an actual genetic test – and the following discussion about genetics, the MObot, the first virtual trainer, and also a communication focused around simple video formats have turned Oltenia’s Marathon 2018 into one of the country’s most original sporting events, and CEZ Romania into one of the leading companies involved in sports – 2nd place in the oil, natural gas, and energy category, according to the Top companies in Romania involved in sports (April 2018), conducted by Adrenallina Sports PR & more.

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