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How #SFBatKid Saved the Day, Melted Our Hearts and Won the Internet

Last week, five-year old Miles got his wish and saved the day as the intrepid SF Bat Kid. If you don’t know the story, prepare to have your heart melted. Miles has leukemia. The Bay Area Make a Wish Foundation (MAWF) interviewed Miles for his wish and to everyone’s surprise, Miles wanted to be Batkid. The call for our hero was sent out on October 10 for a memorable day on November 15, when the city of San Francisco would temporarily be transformed into Gotham City. On Miles’ special day, an estimated 11,000 volunteers and spectators were on hand to wish Miles #SFBatKid good luck as we he saved a damsel in distress, stopped the Riddler from a heinous bank heist, rescued SF Giants mascot Lou Seal from the plotting Penguin and finally received a key to the city from Mayor Ed Lee.

How did all this happen? The romantic in me says it’s a reflection of the human spirit. The practical side of me says that the human spirit got a lot of help from great planning and organization. It turns out Batman isn’t the only superhero with a powerful tool belt. The Bay Area Make a Wish Foundation deployed some key marketing tactics that made #SFBatKid such a success for Miles and for us.

BatKid Begins

October 10 was the first official announcement about Miles. Between October 10 and October 28, I could not find a single announcement about this great event. Then on October 29, the very first piece of news I could find came out of a Reddit post to /r/sanfrancisco. This got picked up by aggregator sites like SFist and EliteDaily with 38K likes and 36K likes respectively. After that, the event went viral and spread across the Internet to different pockets. Miles’ story is a universal story and resonated with the mainstream media like Good Morning Americamovie buffsbatman fans, among others.

I don’t have particular insight on the behind-the-scenes of the Bay Area MAWF so I can’t tell you if their marketing strategy was deliberate. I can say that by targeting the right network to seed the grassroots support for Miles, #SFBatKid was able to quickly reach critical mass within its target audience. This is why the sub-Reddit for San Francisco is particularly appropriate.


Reddit is extremely popular for news amongst young people and unlike some of the other city sub-Reddits, /r/SanFrancisco has an outsized audience with 26.8K subscribers (Reddit is headquartered here). This Reddit post reached out to a highly targeted audience: very internet-savvy, young and working/living in SF. In fact, the Reddit post was the source for the SFist article, which was the source for the EliteDaily article.


For a great tutorial on how to build links to local events and where to promote your event, see The Complete Guide to Link Building with Local Events from Moz

Hashtag Bat Signal

Twitter is arguably the greatest tool used by the Bay Area Make a Wish Foundation. The very first tweet from @SFWish on #SFBatKid received 10 retweets and 5 favorites. By the day of the event, President Obama’s tweet about #SFBatKid reached 40 million followers and was retweeted more than 8K times.


What was it about their Twitter strategy that worked so well for #SFBatKid?

The Bay Area MAWF smartly incorporated Twitter and other social media directly into their event promotion. Rather than trying to tightly control the event, the organization welcomed volunteers and spectators to participate with the whole family and to cooperate with them in promoting their tweets, vines and instagrams. They also wisely used a unique hashtag, #SFBatKid. BatKid sounds like an obvious choice (and is certainly less confusing than batboy, which has dual meanings). Adding SF in front of BatKid was an incredibly clever move. By incorporating SF into the theme of the day, the Bay Area MAWF made Miles’ special day not just about inspiring a sick child, but also about the empathy of a city. I can’t tell you how many “So proud to be from San Francisco” posts I’ve seen on Twitter or Facebook from this great event. 

For more information on how to optimize your hashtags, HubSpot has a great primer for marketers.

The Justice League

Batman may have a reputation of working alone, but even the caped crusader joined the Justice League to fight for the forces of good. The Bay Area MAWF was smart to create a coalition of do-gooders early on, including this impressive list of organizations:

I talked about this in a previous blog post about advocacy as content marketing. It’s important to note that advocacy in itself is worthwhile. If it also happens to deliver marketing ROI, then that’s a win-win situation. By building a league of heroes early on, the Bay Area MAWF knew it would be promoted widely across their networks, particularly with organizations with mainstream reach (the SF Giants) or a strong media presence (the SF Chronicle). Take a look at @Sidecar’s promotion during #SFBatKid:


For more information on how to get sponsorships to your non-profit event, you can check out the National Council of Nonprofit’s Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit. Be sure to check out their additional resources. 

My Favorite Tweets

#SFBatKid made me feel good as a person and I’m not the only one. Here are a couple of my favorite tweets and shares about #SFBatKid: 


For more information on how to help the Bay Area Make a Wish Foundation, go here.

Edit: Stefania Pomponi from Clever Girls Collective let me know their agency helped make #SFBatKid happen. Give them a follow on Twitter here.

Join The Conversation

  • davidcheng's picture
    Nov 20 Posted 3 years ago davidcheng

    I just made the edit in the post and also edited it on my original post at our blog:

    Great job!

  • Nov 20 Posted 3 years ago Stefania Pomponi

    Hi David, Thanks for the article. Our award-winning social media agency, Clever Girls Collective, planned the social media strategy for #SFBatkid. It would have been amazing to have gotten credit in your article because the virality and global response didn't happen by accident--we planned for it! Yes, putting the "SF" in front of "Batkid" was "clever"--we came up with the hashtag and knew it had to be both unique and reflect the community. I saw the reddit link to a local blog post which is what prompted me to reach out to SF Make-A-Wish and offer our help. We were delighted and honored to play a role in making Miles' wish come true and would do it all over again. (And again!) Happy to chat with you directly if you'd like to know more about the plan and how be executed it.

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