Direct Line's Mark Evans on Sprintathon and Stand Up To Cancer

Mark Evans talks Sprintathon

In line with our Marketing for Good collaboration with Pimp my Cause we interviewed Mark Evans, Marketing Director at Direct Line Group, about the Sprintathon event that he has organised in support of Stand Up To Cancer.

What inspired you to create the Sprintathon?
In truth it was borne out of an idle thought "how fast do world class marathon runners actually run?". It obviously went down very well as an idea in the pub but it found its purpose after cancer hit two close family members.

What actually is the Sprintathon?
You can find out more and donate at but essentially, bonkers as it is, 422 people will run 100m legs in a giant sprint relay to cover 26.2 miles around a 400m athletics track. We will need to average 16.62 seconds per 100m in order to run the worlds fastest marathon ever. To do this we have an eclectic mix of runners including recovered and recovering cancer patients, sports celebrities and friends, families and schoolchildren in the local area.

Why did you choose to work with Stand Up To Cancer?
Stand Up To Cancer are a brilliant charity that are committed to beating cancer faster!. They do amazing leading edge research that will massively improve the effectiveness of both diagnosis and treatment in the next 5 years. Moreover their philosophy is one of acceleration which is a perfect fit for what the Sprintathon is
Can you give an example of where they are making a difference?

One of the many clinical trials that they are doing is with a non-toxic drug that makes brain cancer cells fluoresce pink. In many cases surgery to remove a brain tumour is unsuccessful in removing every last trace because obviously you don't want to take out a buffer of tissue for fear of doing necessary damage. With the cancer cells glowing bright pink the surgeon can be more precise and get every last cell.

How did you go about making the Sprintathon a reality?
It has been a genuine team effort involving Stand Up To Cancer, Marlow Town Council, local sports clubs, Direct Line Group and WCRS who are our advertising agency for Churchill. It has been incredibly galvanising to see the generosity of human spirit along the way whereby problems seemed to melt away almost as soon as they presented themselves.

How have you benefited from the experience?
I have learnt a huge amount from doing many things for the first time, having never done anything remotely like this before, although the underlying skills are familiar. Also it has got me hands-on again for the first time in a while which is no bad thing since it's easy to become disconnected, particularly as the media landscape is evolving so rapidly.

What would you say to other marketers considering getting involved?
I would quote the father of my university mate who on the evening of our graduation raised a glass to us and said:

"As I look around I envy you because you can now go and do anything in the world. But at the same time I pity you because you will spend the next 20 years in the pursuit of success only to realise far too late that it is not about success but about significance. Although the really smart people work out how to achieve success and significance simultaneously."

Obviously everyone will define 'success' and 'significance' in very different ways but from my perspective giving back is a pretty sure-fire way to achieve both and feel really good about it.