Since formation in 2002, the Denton County Transportation Authority has focused on an aggressive service implementation strategy to address the mobility needs of Denton County residents. The central element of the agency’s service plan is the 21-mile A-train commuter rail, which connects with Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Green Line in Carrollton, Texas, and provides service to five stations within Denton County. In addition to the A-train, DCTA provides bus service in the cities of Lewisville, Denton and Highland Village.
In early December 2013, the University of North Texas (UNT) accepted a bid to participate in the Heart of Dallas Bowl game on New Year’s Day. With UNT’s Mean Green football team participating in the Bowl game, many fans were looking for alternative transportation to avoid game-day traffic. DCTA normally doesn’t operate services on New Year's Day, but the agency decided to run special event A-train service to support UNT and accommodate Mean Green fans going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl game.
In addition to A-train game-day service, DCTA partnered with UNT Athletics to provide 750 free regional transit passes valid on DART and DCTA. Fans and local residents would need to pick up these free passes in advance of the bowl game. DCTA, UNT Athletics and the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) worked together to promote the special event A-train service and free regional pass giveaway.
Developing a Strategy
UNT accepted the Heart of Dallas Bowl game bid in early December 2013, which left DCTA, UNT Athletics and the Denton CVB with only a few weeks to develop and implement a promotional campaign to encourage A-train ridership, promote the free regional transit pass giveaway and encourage attendance to the Heart of Dallas Bowl game.
Another challenge included reaching the campaign target audience during the busy holiday season. With many UNT students, alumni and Denton community residents wrapped up in the holiday spirit, all three partners needed to find a way to entice community members to take time from their holiday plans and support the Mean Green football team by picking up a free regional transit pass and riding the A-train to the game.
DCTA worked with UNT Athletics and the Denton CVB to develop a marketing communications campaign mainly comprised of Web, social media and traditional public relations efforts. The campaign kicked off December 19, 2013 and highlighted DCTA’s special event A-train service for Mean Green fans and the free regional transit pass giveaway in advance of the game.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl campaign would also rely heavily on word of mouth from key social media influencers connected with the UNT community, Denton CVB and DCTA to encourage other local residents and fans to pick up a free regional transit pass and attend the game during the busy holiday season.
The main goals and objectives of the Heart of Dallas Bowl campaign included:
- Full distribution of all 750 promotional regional transit passes in advance of the game
- Social media mentions, shares and retweets from local residents and Mean Green fans utilizing promotional campaign hashtags
- Two local editorial stories covering the campaign promotion
The plan included:
- Website Campaign Promotion: DCTA, UNT Athletics and the Denton CVB created a Heart of Dallas Bowl game page on their websites which included the following:
- DCTA’s A-train game-day travel schedule and transfer information to DART
- Free regional transit pass giveaway pick up timeframe and locations
- Overview of game details and location
- Detailed schedule of celebratory events occurring in downtown Denton before and after the game
In addition to website content, DCTA, UNT Athletics and the Denton CVB partnered up to create specific social media hashtags to promote the free regional transit pass giveaway and to encourage the community to ride the A-train and attend the Heart of Dallas Bowl game to support the Mean Green football team.
All three partners used #PackDallas and #GoMeanGreen hashtags in a variety of tweets and Facebook posts to help create a unified message throughout the campaign.
DCTA also developed a joint news release announcing special event A-train service and the free regional transit pass promotion for the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which was sent to key local media contacts.
Due to the success of the campaign, all 750 promotional regional transit passes were distributed in advance of the game. DCTA also sold an additional 126 regional transit passes for New Year’s Day.
A-train ridership exceeded expectations for the Heart of Dallas Bowl game with 1,295 passengers boarding the train.
The #GoMeanGreen hashtag had 8,511 accounts reached with 10,616 impressions and the #PackDallas hashtag had 8,846 accounts reached with 17,628 impressions.
DCTA secured three editorial features in the DFW community, including the “Denton Record-Chronicle,” “CultureMap Dallas” and the “Lewisville Leader.”
With the success of the Heart of Dallas Bowl campaign, DCTA will continue to partner with UNT and the Denton CVB for upcoming athletic events when the Mean Green football season kicks off in September 2014.