SARTA’s “Community Partner” campaign earns first place APTA Adheel award, prestigious national competition recognizes “best of the best” in public transit marketing and commuinications.

March 13, 2024

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) earned first place honors in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2024 AdWheel competition. The transit agency’s “Community Partner” campaign was selected to receive the top prize in the “Best Print Media Educational Initiative” category from among hundreds of entries. The award marks an Adwheel “threepeat” for SARTA. The system’s “Rider/Driver Thank You” campaign and joint promotion of Ohio Loves Transit Day with the Canton Charge basketball team won top prizes in the 2021 contest.

SARTA’s marketing and communications team which includes Marketing Administrator Timothy Montgomery, Digital Media Coordinator Ebony Fontes, and Director of Customer Relations Latrice Virola who supervises the department, conceived and developed the Community Partner campaign with support from Canton-based ad agency Innis Maggiore. The promotion was conducted during the second quarter of 2023 as part of the transit system’s 25th “SARTAversary” celebration.

The multi-faceted campaign, which consisted of video spots and static ads posted on the system’s social media platforms, broadcast radio commercials, and newspaper ads, featured the following community partners who discussed SARTA’s impact on and importance to their clients/customers and the community as a whole:

Stark State College. SARTA is incredibly important to our community and especially important to Stark State College. Our students, faculty, and staff rely on SARTA to come to and from college. I just talked with a student who without SARTA would not be graduating this May.

Dr. Para Jones, President

Lifecare Family Health and Dental Center. SARTA is very important to the patients that we serve at Lifecare Family Health & Dental Center. Without SARTA, Lifecare patients would be unable to utilize the services that Lifecare’s providing.

Stephanie Pugh, Coordinator of Development & External Relations/Rachel Haight, LPN Site Supervisor

Stark Economic Development Board. SARTA is a big help to Stark Economic Development and what we do in trying to attract new business…a transportation system that can bring workforce to their front door is a competitive advantage that a lot of communities don’t have.

Ray Hexamer, CEO

JRC Learning Center. SARTA granted JRC a bus and we use it for field trips. It’s a wheelchair accessible bus, so all of our seniors can go and it’s a way to keep them involved in the community, which is very vital for their everyday life and keeps them sharp.

Susan Snyder, Chief Development Officer

ICAN Housing Solutions. “SARTA is important to the workforce development team at ICAN Housing not only to get those individuals coming from homelessness to getting them back in the workforce — but also to stabilize their housing, to assist with childcare, and utilize community resources.”

Keith Bialota, Workforce Development Manager and Dionna Stokes-Ellis, Workforce Development Coordinator

SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad applauded his team’s ingenuity and creativity and said the campaign provided important insight into the essential role SARTA plays in the community. “As we’ve said for years, SARTA travels to thousands of destinations in Stark County and beyond,” he commented. “The Community Partner campaign clearly and powerfully illustrates how arriving at those destinations enhances the lives of the people who trust us to provide the safe, affordable, convenient public transit service they want, need, and deserve. Tim, Ebony, Latrice, and our friends at Innis Maggiore absolutely earned both the award and the thanks of the entire SARTA family.”

Mr. Conrad noted that the AdWheel awards serve as a reminder that marketing and communications, like vehicles, tires, and fuel, are essential to the operation of transit systems. “We use every available channel to educate the public about what we do, why we do it, and how they can benefit from it because information is the key to increasing ridership and building support for public transportation in general and SARTA in particular,” he said. That is why we will continue to devote considerable time, talent and resources to telling the SARTA story.

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:

Effectiveness/Success in Achieving Purpose/Goals

Overall Impact and Impression

Clarity of Message and Information

Production Quality