The Many [Marketing] Lessons of #SFBatkid



PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press


On Friday, November 15 we all watched a great storytelling event unfold. Miles Scott, a five-year-old leukemia patient recently in remission, wanted to be Batkid for the day. So thousands of volunteers morphed San Francisco into Gotham City to deliver his dream. All they got in return were warm hearts, wet cheeks and smiles for days.

There was no contest or monetary reward for engaging, the people of San Francisco just wanted to do the right thing and be part of the magic of making wishes come true.

And the entire thing happened because of social media.

Even Patricia Wilson, the director of the Greater Bay Area Make-a-Wish foundation, has said that the whole thing started with a few emails asking for volunteers to line the street. That email was forwarded repeatedly and made its way to Facebook and Twitter.

We all followed along as over 300K tweets were made leading up to Friday and extending into the weekend. The @SFWish twitter handle went from 4,000 followers on Thursday to 26,000 followers on Saturday.  Google shows over 700K results when searched.

Everyone wanted to talk about this story because it was heartwarming and they wanted to be a part of it. According to Mashable, even people outside of the US were getting in on the conversation with 14% of tweets coming from 117 different countries.

As I watched this unfold, I kept thinking beyond the human story and to the marketing one. If this were nominated for any award, it would win. And there is much for marketers to learn from this very selfless act of a great organization.


First of all, start with the story.

A good story that grips your emotions always wins. The Make-a-Wish foundation had a story about Miles who was finally in remission and wanted to be Batman. But the story evolved into the city government and newspaper diving in to play along and everyone under the sun donating their time and talents (and Lamborghinis).

But the real story started with the call from the Police Chief that morning, to saving the woman on the cable car track and the Giants mascot, to ultimately being awarded the key to the city. We all followed along all day on social media – but it started with the story.


Be simple and consistent.

It was truly a social media explosion (and traditional media, too). The #SFBatkid hashtag allowed everyone in and out of the city (and country) to cheer him on. Celebrities got involved and even the POTUS posted a Vine to thank Miles at the end of the day. The lesson here is simple: stay consistent. Make it easy for people to follow your story.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation created the hashtag but the media caught on and picked it up immediately. Headlines didn’t read “Child’s dreams come true”, they read “Batkid stole our hearts”.


Consider how content helps tell the story.

On Instagram there were thousands of images shared. The cover of the Chronicle that was altered to Gotham Examiner was a hit, as were posters and t-shirts with the Batkid logo. All of these small things made a difference to creating that emotional connection to the story and igniting interest in wanting to be part of it all.

The reminder here is content matters. Custom artwork, a specialized logo for an event, even branded t-shirts that connect you with a movement, an event, or even a brand, matter. They continue the word of mouth online and off and can be the social currency to maintain the conversation.


Friday was a heart-warming day. Let us not forget how powerful being part of a strong emotional story can be. And to Miles and his family, we wish you all the best. Stay strong and thank you for helping our wishes come true, too.