Inside Capstone Agency’s 24-Hour Pro Bono Marketing Marathon

  • Written by Hudson Nuckolls

CreateAthon, according to its website, is “the pro bono marketing marathon that harnesses skills-based superpowers for social good.” Capstone Agency, the student-run communications firm at The University of Alabama, was approved by the Public Relations Student Society of America to participate for the third year in a row. Through CreateAthon, Capstone Agency has donated more than $87,000 of billable communications work for nonprofits over the last two years. From noon on Friday to noon on Saturday, the agency sought to add to that number.

As firm director of Capstone Agency, I served as an adviser for this event, approving client deliverables and helping teams with campaign strategy. Here’s what it looked like from behind the scenes:

1 p.m.
I had three, 6-inch Subway sandwiches for lunch. I tried to stop at two, but I thought the third would become a future energy boost.

2 p.m.
Not to be dramatic, but I’m already getting tired. I’ve gone around to help a few teams, and it’s really hard to narrow down a direction with so many ideas. The beginning is the hardest part.

3 p.m.
I’ve decided to begin measuring time in Coke Zero. We’re three hours in, and I’ve finished three cans.

4 p.m.
I got to pet a dog! Our friends from Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter brought their dog, Libby, to give everyone a brain break.

5 p.m.
Reinforcements have arrived. We are lucky enough to have some advertising and PR professors assist as guest advisers.

6 p.m.
I’m learning how hard it is to help the teams when they’re stuck. You have to catch up with where they are as soon as you walk into the room, and then immediately try to present new ideas.

7 p.m.
It’s finally time for dinner! Moe’s Southwest was kind enough to donate coupons to us for free burritos. We all made the trek down University Boulevard to get food.

8 p.m.
I’m blown away by the participation of our new members. They were accepted into our agency a few weeks ago, and they’re already contributing to their teams! I’ve also started to approve a few deliverables, and they’re looking great so far.

9 p.m.
I sat in on the first creative critique of the night. Our incredible art directors have already started producing logos and deliverables, and they look amazing. I threw around some creative terms — like jpeg — to try to fit in.

11 p.m.
The stairs of Reese Phifer Hall are getting the best of me as I try to keep up with the teams on the third floor that need me.

12 a.m.
It’s officially Groundhog Day! I have met some new friends who share my appreciation for Punxsutawney Phil.

1 a.m.
I’ve spent almost an entire hour distracting my new friends. I figured they needed a break.

2 a.m.
I’ve had a lot of Coke Zeros. The good news is, they have zero sugar, so they’re healthy.

3 a.m.
I’ve been powering through content calendars that some teams created. My eyes are starting to burn from staring at my computer screen.

5 a.m.
The last two hours were a blur. The fatigue is really setting in. Not to be dramatic again, but I could die.

6 a.m.
Client presentations are beginning in three hours! I’m noticing the stress level in the building rising as I walk around to do more approvals.

7 a.m.
It’s time for breakfast! Waffle House has set up its mobile waffle station in our kitchen. I got mine with chocolate chips and whipped cream, and you guessed it, another Coke Zero. This is just what I needed to finish the last five hours strong.

8 a.m.
Someone’s computer just crashed and wiped out a project they were working on. I’m going to stay far away from that room.

9 a.m.
Presentations are beginning. I can’t wait to see the teams unveil their hard work to the nonprofits over the next three hours.

12 p.m.
The last team has presented. There is nothing like seeing the clients’ joyful reactions. It’s a privilege using our skills to help them so they can focus on serving others. Time to go to sleep!

The art directors participating in a creative critique to get fresh eyes on their work. It was probably close to midnight at this point.
Olivia, the director of the event. She was chugging the last bit of her coffee!