The heritage railway was up against fierce competition from all over the UK, but took the award following its transformation in branding and online presence in 2021.
The railway’s digital make-over was undertaken last year and saw its strategy take a new approach in marketing with its audience-focused branding and saw a substantial investment made into a new mobile-optimised website. The investment will make sure that East Lancs Railway is set for marketing campaigns into the future creating awareness of the wonderful days out it holds for all from dedicated rail enthusiasts to families and young people looking for a new experience.
The integrated marketing campaign saw great success through the latter half of 2021 which lead to record highs in sales for the heritage railway and saw double the number of visitors using its site, seeing more than half a million new users in just six months!
The Heritage Railway Association Annual Awards aim to highlight achievements from all areas of the sector and sees categories recognising everything from locomotive restoration, young volunteer contribution and successful communications projects and is open to heritage railways of all sizes.
Mark Pearce, Policy & Communications Manager at the Heritage Railway Association, said:
“Encouraging more visitors from a variety of backgrounds is key to the success of heritage railways, and that’s why we focus so strongly on marketing and communications work at the Heritage Railway Association Annual Awards.
“The judges were really impressed by the digital work being done at the East Lancashire Railway. It’s really easy to be focused on the aesthetic side of marketing work, but the East Lancs were able to demonstrate tangible results from their new marketing strategy and upgraded website. It’s very clear that they successfully reached new audiences and turned that into passengers on trains.”
Mike Kelly, East Lancashire Railway Chairman, said:
“We are delighted and proud to receive this award; it’s the cherry on the cake after seeing the success of our digital efforts in bringing more people in to enjoy our fantastic heritage railway in the second half of last year.
“We went through a very challenging time during the pandemic but while our doors were closed our incredible team of dedicated staff and volunteers, and our valued agency partners Democracy got to work on ensuring the railway was fit for the future, ready to make an impact with our enthusiasts and regular visitors, as well as attract new audiences – vital to the railway’s survival once the doors opened again.
“By transforming the digital presence of the ELR, we have provided the perfect hybrid between the most joyful nostalgic elements of riding on the railway’s steam trains with the fast, slick and modern experience expected by today’s consumers.
‘We are looking forward to a bright future, with thousands of new customers enjoying many unmissable days out in 2022 at our award-winning railway.”