Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
10th Jun 2019


The Cape Town Carnival, held annually in March, is a street parade that showcases and celebrates the diversity of Cape Town and South Africa. For several hours on a late-summer evening, more than 50 energetic and talented community performance groups, spectacular floats, giant puppets and extravagant costumes bring the Green Point Fan Walk alive, while 54 000+ spectators from all over the world converge along the 1,2km parade route.

Transform has been the Carnival’s PR and social-media partner for the last three years, undertaking a six-month pre-event PR and social-media campaign in the build-up to the event. This case study focuses on the social-media aspect.

Carnival’s social-media activity from October 2018 to March 2019 amounted to just over R6,6 million in value, reaching 26 000+ Facebook followers, 6 900+ Twitter followers and 2 200+ Instagram followers. Our Facebook ‘post click’ engagement rates were higher than the industry benchmark, with ‘video’ far outperforming ‘photo’, achieving 23% and 7% respectively on all posts, over a 2% benchmark (we used the 2019 Social Media Benchmark Report by Rival IQ as a gauge for benchmarks). Similarly, on Twitter, our engagement rate for a 91-day period in the build-up to and over the March event was 0,9% on all tweets, considered to be very high . On Instagram, we achieved an engagement rate of 5,51% on all posts, over the crucial month of March, considered very high for the platform’s standards. Twitter was by far the platform of choice, followed by Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Research and insights

  • On Facebook, 67% of our followers are women, with most (25%) being 25-34 years old. On Twitter, 71% are female; “music festivals and concerts” are in the top four interests across both male and female demographics.
  • The quality of our photography and videography determines how successful our posting reach and engagement is; and our postings are always colourful, fun, light-hearted and conversational.
  • Our best posting times were 8-11am in the morning for Facebook and Twitter, and mid-afternoon for Instagram, with posting frequency increasingly substantially in the six-week build-up to the event.

Aims and objectives

Working on a six-month campaign rollout, Transform’s targets included:

  • To increase brand awareness by at least 20% in traditional media on 2018.
  • To excite followers around the theme, “VUKA UKHANYE: Arise and Shine!”.

To leverage social credibility in the theme by positioning it through the opinions of key influencers.

To elicit better engagement on social media through delivering meaningful, creative and colourfully impressionable content to carefully defined audiences; and to balance casual, light-hearted posts with some serious issues such as employment and the environment.

  • To draw attention to the Carnival’s year-long programme, educating the public on what the brand does in skills development, artistry, entertainment and social cohesion.


Transform developed monthly content calendars of vibrant colourful posts, videos, reposts and retweets, on a topic or theme that the master PR plan was unpacking for a particular month in order to ensure uniformity of message across all communication platforms. This included introducing the 2019 theme, focusing on the Carnival’s “heart” (creativity, processes and people), looking at various community outreach programmes, and a behind-the-scenes look at the costume and float workshop.

As part of our setting-up process in October, we identified key influencers (eg, radio DJs and celebrities) with whom we could strike informal barter agreements in exchange for the use of our content on their platforms.

We sourced wonderful high-quality photo and video content.

We scheduled Facebook and Twitter postings each weekday between 9 and 11am, and Instagram twice a week mid-afternoon, with the frequency increasing in the three weeks leading up to and over the event in March. Key components of engagement were the style and tone of our written posts, and how swiftly and efficiently we responded to questions, comments and shares. Each post tagged high-profile sponsors and partners such as DStv, Kfm, Tsogo Sun, Kyknet and the City of Cape Town.

We used three build-up media and influencer events to really trigger reach and engagement in the three months leading up to the March event, posting live using a combination of photo, video and live broadcast across all three platforms.

We ran competitions on Instagram and Facebook, offering ticket giveaways.

Return and impact

Despite a rapidly shrinking print-media pool, we were able to achieve 17% increase in brand awareness, at least a third of which was online news coverage. Total exposure amounted to R21 668 013, at least a third of which was social media.

Carnival’s public support held steady on the years before, attracting just over 54 000 spectators to the free-to-watch public event.