SARTA earns two first place APTA AdWheel Awards, national competition recognizes “best of the best” in public transit marketing and communications

October 11, 2021

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) earned two first place honors in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2021 AdWheel competition. SARTA’s Rider/Driver Thank You Campaign received the top prize in the “Best Social Media to Support Ridership” category and the agency’s joint promotion of Ohio Loves Transit Day with the Canton Charge basketball team was recognized as the “Best Partnership to Highlight Transit Needs and Funding.” SARTA’s winning entries were selected from among 343 submitted by transit agencies across the United States.

SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad said he is incredibly proud of the system’s communications and marketing team which includes Marketing Administrator Timothy Montgomery, Digital Media Coordinator Ebony Fontes, and Director of Customer Relations Latrice Virola who supervises the department. “Along with being well-deserved, the Adwheel awards highlight the outstanding work done by each and every member of our staff during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “I am very pleased that our Rider/Driver campaign won because it shined a bright light on the way we, our riders, and the public worked together to safely and successfully cope with the crisis.”

“The Rider/Driver campaign was especially important because along with saying “thank you” to our courageous drivers and the riders who put their faith and trust in SARTA throughout the pandemic we used it to convey messages about everything we were doing to keep everyone safe,” Mr. Conrad said. “The campaign enabled us to reassure and attract riders who may have been hesitant to use our service and build wide-spread support for public transit in the community. As a result, our decision to say ‘thank you’ will pay dividends well into the future.”

Mr. Conrad was equally enthusiastic about the week-long Ohio Loves Transit campaign the system conducted in partnership with the Canton Charge basketball team, a G-League affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The campaign, which took place in February of 2020 before the COVID outbreak, used live events, prize giveaways, social media, website takeovers, and digital ads to promote Ohio Loves Transit Day which is celebrated annually in the state on February 14.

“The promotion enabled us to utilize a unique resource, the Charge, to speak to the public about the need to fully fund public transit, educate and influence the team’s fan base which is a new audience for us, and build a lasting relationship with a valued community asset,” Mr. Conrad noted “It was, in essence, a marketing triple-double.”

Mr. Conrad also thanked Innis-Maggiore, the Canton-based advertising firm that assisted in the Rider/Driver campaign and the Canton Charge for their contributions to SARTA’s marketing efforts. “Both Innis and the Charge share and should take great pride in our AdWheel awards.”

“Our winning campaigns are indicative of the time, energy, talent and resources we devote to marketing and communications,” Mr. Conrad said. “Because we are committed to openness, transparency, and accountability, we utilize every communications channel available to keep the public informed about everything we do. And because we are just as committed to promoting the use of public transit we engage in aggressive marketing designed to increase ridership and enlist public support for SARTA and our initiatives. The AdWheel Awards clearly demonstrate that our efforts are effective and successful.”

​About the AdWheel Awards

The American Public Transit Association’s AdWheel Awards recognize the marketing and communications efforts of APTA’s members. Additionally, the annual awards competition creates a structure to share best practices and to raise the awareness of the value of public transportation marketing professionals within the industry.

Each entry in AdWheel’s 27 categories is judged on the following measures:

For more information please contact SARTA Customer Service at 330-477-2782, Option #2.