Girls on the Run: how this Charlotte-born brand made an international impact


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It started with a group of 13 girls led by a teacher who wanted to instill confidence and empower boldness in her students. Molly Barker was familiar with the insecurity and apprehension that ran rampant in the minds of young women, as she had struggled to maintain an authentic view of herself at an early age.

With the sole goal of teaching girls to be joyful, healthy and confident, Molly’s lesson has touched the hearts of thousands, from Alaska to New York, proving just how impactful passion paired with action can be.

In 1993, Molly came up with Girls on the Run. The concept that blossomed into life a short three years later as the organization hosted its first program on the grassy fields of Country Day, a private school located in Charlotte. With various age-oriented, 10-week programs, the organization utilizes running as a mechanism through which lessons of empowerment, connection and character are taught, with a 5K event marking the culmination of the season.

As of 2018, Girls on the Run hosts the largest 5K series in the world with more than 350 events annually across all 50 states.

So, how did one teacher with one goal explode into the world-renowned brand of Girls on the Run?

An Audience Became A Community

One of the first things you learn in marketing is the importance of targeting your audience. In any business, there is a specific audience to whom your products and services are geared towards. In order to ensure your marketing is productive and effective, it needs to be seen and heard by the right people. Once you define your audience, you are better equipped to both communicate with and involve them.

Girls on the Run did just this. As the organization grew, Girls on the Run Leadership realized that the community support system needed further development, which meant their audience entailed parents, teachers, volunteers, corporate partners and kids willing to try something new. For Girls on the Run, advertising volunteer opportunities to parents and adults within the area was important, as volunteers ultimately facilitate the brand’s ability to reach an-ever growing audience. However, word-of-mouth covered the other 50% as people began to realize the bigger picture and wanted to be a part of it. For the girls participating in the 5K, a parent turned into a running buddy, a coach turned into a mentor, a stranger turned into a friend and the community began to build on itself.

Engagement Became Encouragement

In the digital age of the 21st-century, social presence is extremely important simply because it’s how organizations like this, communicate with the masses. As the non-profit organization continues to grow, their social following increases simultaneously. With various accounts across different social platforms, the numbers are quite impressive. With a following of 88,000 on Facebook and 28,000 on Instagram, Girls on the Run keeps audience engagement at an all time high, yet it is the encouraging content that drives the views.

Immediately upon opening a social page, the viewer is watching inspirational videos of crossing the finish line, learning news about community involvement, and reading uplifting articles about self-image. There is a freshness and authenticity in their social content that leaves their audience feeling better having seen it. It is this genuine content that isn’t produced from the most expensive equipment, but by the connective experiences caught on camera that hook their following to want to know more, be encouraged and get involved on a national and international level. Girls on the Run clearly communicates that being number one is NOT the goal, but instead, believing that there is only one you. The individual triumphs alongside those of the organization and the community are celebrated as participants are able to watch themselves on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram reach the goals they set for themselves.

A Brand Became A Belief System

How much do you believe in your business? Are you passionate about your product? The most renown, successful brands are those that tap into a larger meaning and truly resonate with the producer and the consumer. To generate brand loyalty, authority and visibility, your business identity must be unique, innovative and have a message that instills trust, communicates care and solidifies great customer service.

“Girls on the Run helped me gain some self confidence in myself so now I tell myself ‘I can do it’ when times get tough.” Hannah, Age 11

What had once affected thirteen girls was now resonating with men, women, boys and girls aiming to learn what self-care and confidence really look like while combating timeless, negative thinking patterns with mantras such as, “Stop, Breathe, Think and Respond.” Families have benefitted from the student-positioned curriculum learning effective tools for community and self-empowerment.

Along with crossing that finish line, the various teams within the program design a community service project that will benefit their particular community. From park clean-ups to creating cards for the children’s hospital, the organization stretches its positive impact to every branch of the market.

It is through the programs, the camps and the curriculum that their international audience is able to witness that Girls on the Run is not about being a girl, or even being a runner, it is about learning to love yourself in order to better love your community. The participants of this program walk away knowing they are capable of doing something bigger and realizing that we are all far more alike than we are different.


At TalenAlexander, we build brands and we build businesses. With Charlotte roots and a global reach, we help clients create authentic engagement, reach new audiences and break through the marketing noise.

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