Social Media Billboards during Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco

Digital Signage

F3G delivered personalized, motivational messages in real-time to individual runners on a digital billboard during the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.

Using its patent-pending EngageLIVE platform, F3G harnessed Facebook, Nike Plus, Nike’s new ‘Share My Run’ app, and RFID marathon bib data to bring next-level technology to over 30,000 runners in the race.


Creating an innovative, new use of RFID marathon bib technology, when each runner crossed a specially-placed timing belt in front of a digital billboard, F3G provided a unique, custom motivational message to that runner, using their first name, such as “Never Give Up, Sarah” or “Finish Strong, Diana”.

What is more, if the runner had granted permission for Nike to access their Facebook account, F3G took the experience even further, showing the profile photo of the runner on the billboard, as well as the profile photos of any Friends who had Liked or Commented on the runner’s marathon status since the beginning of the race, when it was posted to the “Share My Run” app via Nike Plus.

When runners saw this experience, they took to social media to share their stories. For example, when @runinmamasrunway posted a photo of her personalized billboard message on Instagram, which said, “Clear Your Mind Of Can’t, Melissa”, she wrote, “When I saw this…it made me cry. TOTALLY appropriate.”



There were two billboards: one for half-marathon runners, the other for full-marathon runners. For the half-marathon runners, the billboard was located within a few miles of the finish line to push the runners to the end; for the full-marathon runners, the billboard was near the half-way point, helping motivate runners for the distance ahead.

Each billboard provided unique situations to solve, including different screen resolutions and thus different font and images sizes; different volumes of runners per minute and thus different durations of messaging and social media activations; different message handling depending on name length and viewing distance; etc.

In addition, different experiences were provided to VIP Brand Ambassadors, which were handled by the F3G EngageLIVE platform in real-time. These experiences were optimized to pull the latest data from Facebook in fractions of a second, between the time each runner crossed the timing belt and the time their name appeared on the screen.



F3G coordinated with outside vendors to provide a stress-free experience for the event owner:

1) timing vendor: to fetch race data during the event and run accurate simulations and load tests prior to the event;
2) connectivity vendor: to access the internet to fetch timing belt and social media data in real-time during event;
3) registration vendor: to provide names and bib numbers to message each runner accurately
4) event vendor: to coordinate logistics, power, internet, security
5) app vendor: to integrate effectively with Nike’s new ‘Share My Run’ app and Nike Plus app



To the runner, it all looks easy. On the backend, F3G handled dozens of technologies and wrote custom software to create a seamless experience for each runner:

1) MySQL Database to store Facebook authorization tokens, posts, updates, API requests; registration data; settings; message durations; runner types; Java timing server messages; logs; etc.
2) Java Timing Server to interface with timing belt data.
3) Command Line Scripts to import, verify, fetch, and update data for all systems.
4) Web Scripts to manage the experience in real-time; run test scenarios; display data; generate credentials; receive notifications; etc.


Unlike events at established venues such as stadiums, where infrastructure can be planned, managed, and troubleshot over time, outside events in public places, from marathons to surfing events, create unique problems with their temporary infrastructures and large crowds. Electricity from generators can waver and surge. Temporary internet access can grind to a halt. Tens of thousands of participants—and their cell phones—can inundate areas and overwhelm existing systems, such as cell phone towers.

F3G provides expert staff in-the-field to troubleshoot issues and respond to real-time conditions and events. There is no time to wait during an event; change must happen immediately.


With only weeks before the event, F3G was commissioned to make the experience happen, fast. This meant coordinating with outside vendors, writing software, crafting an experience, and adapting to changing requirements. F3G delivered.