• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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My experience working on Nigeria’s only digital spelling bee competition

My experience working on Nigeria’s only digital spelling bee competition

Spelling Bees are fascinating. At least, I think they are. My inability to flawlessly spell complex and difficult words may be the source of my awe but watching children spell sesquipedalian words without missing a beat has a way of leaving you on the edge of your seat, eyes glued to the speller and ears transfixed, picking every letter uttered. And that is exactly how I was at MTN Nigeria’s headquarters on November 27, 2021, watching 20 young geniuses spell their way to a grand prize worth over N7 million at the mPulse Spelling Bee grand finale.

Let’s rewind a little bit, say, three months before this fascinating experience. MTN Nigeria was getting ready to send out an invitation to all primary & secondary school students between the ages of 9 and 15 to participate in the MTN mPulse Spelling Bee competition. This competition is designed to help students improve their English spelling and vocabulary, as well as reward outstanding performances.

As a PR consultant working for MTN Nigeria, my teammates and I were presented with a brief on how to announce the competition, generate awareness, interest, and participation in the Spelling Bee competition. My colleagues and I immediately got to work. We first identified our target audience who were mainly students within the age group of 9 and 15 as well as their circle of influence like their parents, extended family and friends, teachers, and school administrators. After analysing these groups of people’s communication habits, we eventually had a carefully laid out plan to reach each of these audience categories with our message: the second edition of MTN’s mPulse Spelling Bee competition is here, register for the competition and become the next spelling bee champion and winner of prizes over N7m.

During the first few weeks of the campaign, our main objective was to let people know about and register for the competition. Instead of just focusing on writing news releases and blog posts, we took it a notch further. We got the top-10 mPulse spelling bee contestants from the previous year’s competition to do a countdown on social media. These young chaps recorded and shared videos of themselves spelling a word, saying the meaning of the word, and then counting down to the first round of the competition. You could say we killed two birds with one stone as the past competitors were excited to talk about their experience during their own competition and encourage other young kids like themselves to participate. When you read a news article inviting you to participate in a competition, you might ignore but when you see a relatable message from someone like yourself, it’s difficult to scroll through without taking action. We knew this and we used it to our advantage.

Another PR tactic we deployed was filming an exciting and hilarious vox pop where we went into the streets, asked children to spell words, and then asked adults to spell the same words that the children had aced their spellings. It was amazing to see how many adults got the spellings wrong! We deployed this video on social media platforms and it generated over 220,000 views in less than 24 hours! Nigerian Actress and Filmmaker, Omoni Oboli also recorded a video calling on mothers to help their kids showcase their geniuses through the spelling bee competition. This video had about 65,000 views and close to 5,000 likes on Instagram.

At the end of the call to entry phase, we had reached over 12 million Nigerians through offline and digital activities, had 100 news mentions on print and digital platforms, and had about 13,000 participants register for the first round of the spelling bee competition.

Read also: MTN leverages Google, Dotgo to serve over 82m subscribers

After the first stage of the competition which was held digitally on the mPulse website, 1000 participants made it into the second round after which 20 participants were selected to continue to the third and final round. Throughout the different stages of the competition, we carried our audiences along, keeping them updated with details around the competition. We even put up a quiz on Zikoko, asking people to spell words that the mPulse Spelling Bee participants aced. Believe me when I say it was no easy task and if you don’t believe me, you can still take the quiz here and see for yourself!

In preparation for the final round, we held a number of dry runs for participants to familiarise themselves with the processes and rules of the competition since the final round would also be held digitally through a web conferencing platform, Zoom, and then broadcast live on YouTube. This might be the perfect time to brag about my clairvoyance. After watching the 20 participants during their dry run, I immediately had an incline that the 12-year-old child prodigy Akinyele Ademoyegun from Kaydel Group of Schools, Ikorodu, Lagos would go home with the grand prize and he did!

After spelling words like Claustrophobic, Antiquarian, Herbaceous, Incunabulum, Ignoble, and Kernite, Akinyele Ademoyegun emerged winner of the second edition of the mPulse Spelling Bee competition. This brings me to where my tale began. At the finale, I remember holding the hands of my colleague in excitement and anticipation as I watched the last three contestants: Jahwin James from Bright Stars Model Secondary School, Akwa Ibom; Ekene DonDavis from Classic Comprehensive College, Lagos and Akinyele Ademoyegun from Kaydel Group of Schools, Ikorodu, battle for the mPulse Spelling Bee trophy. The entire team at the MTN Headquarters erupted in jubilation after Akinyele correctly spelt the word, Kernite, making him the winner of the mouth-watering prizes. It is important for me to note that all 20 participants brought their A-game, as the finale lasted for about three hours before a final winner emerged.

A unique feature of the mPulse Spelling Bee competition is the fact that the top 20 participants all went home with amazing prizes. The top 10 however, did not only win scholarship grants and goody bags for themselves but their English teachers also received mobile phones and cash prizes. The icing on the cake is that the teachers of the top three winners received cash prizes as well as brand new laptops!

During the prize presentation at Akinyele Ademoyegun’s school, he couldn’t stop talking about how the win made him excited not just because he got to feel like the best speller in the world but also because he was able to ease some stress off his trader mother with the N2m scholarship grant and put smiles on the faces of his teacher as well as his school. You see, as a result of his win, his teacher received a N350,000 cash prize and one laptop, while his school also received 10 brand new laptops as well as 10 MTN Hynetflex Routers!

When the Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria, Adia Sowho was speaking to the finalists at the mPulse Spelling Bee grand finale, she said something that I couldn’t agree more with. She said, “A great start to building young Nigerians is through education and opportunity. One way to do both is with competitions like the mPulse Spelling Bee. We hope that this event gives our young ones a chance to get comfortable with learning in the digital space as we consistently work to deliver a bold new digital world.”

MTN designed the mPulse service to equip students between the ages of 9 and 15 with the resources they need to maximize their potential and be all they want to be. The mPulse Spelling Bee competition is a great way to promote literacy, broaden vocabulary, sharpen comprehension as well as recollection skills while providing participants with a positive goal to work towards. I have seen first-hand how this competition is shaping the future of brilliant kids and I am humbled to have participated in the process.

Deji-Folutile is a PR Consultant in Lagos