It’s easy to see where Beth Root’s love of aquatics comes from. Her mother put her in swim lessons at an early age and later encouraged her to swim competitively, and then to become a lifeguard and instructor-trainer.
Indeed, Root’s very first job was as a lifeguard.
She segued into the waterpark business in the mid-1980s, working at Dover Lake Waterpark in Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State University, she shifted gears to focus on marketing. She worked for the town of Branson, Mo., first leading a PR campaign in 1990 and then as director of consumer marketing for the Convention & Visitors Bureau. After that, she put her communication and marketing skills to work on major projects at several advertising and marketing agencies.
By 2008, she was ready for a change and established Buzzonic, a Kansas City, Mo.-based marketing strategy and integration agency, to work with the Blue Man Group and various clients.
Her connection to the waterpark industry remained strong over the years, though. Since 1986, she’s attended every World Waterpark Association convention with her husband, WWA President Rick Root.
When she learned that WWA was looking for an idea to drive media attention in support of National Water Safety Month in late 2009, Root wanted to help. She came up with a doozy of an idea, too: the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson. She proposed that people around the world hold swim lessons on the same day at the same time, to draw attention to the message “Swimming Lessons Save Lives.”
To get WLSL up and running, Root managed all the program elements, from logos and marketing materials to a social media program, how-to guides for participating facilities and more — all on a pro-bono basis. WWA championed WLSL and it took off like wildfire, breaking the Guinness World Record each year since 2010.
There’s a reason WLSL aims to break the Guinness record year after year: It helps generate new and continued media attention for the “Swimming Lessons Save Lives” message. “Striving for a new record also connects all our host locations with a single goal that can only be achieved if we work together,” Root said. “And breaking the single-venue record sparks friendly competition!”
To show how WLSL has grown over the years, she offered some statistics: The year 2010 saw 3,892 individuals participate in five countries and 7 million media impressions, meaning the number of people who view or read a media piece. In 2014, there were 36,564 participants in 22 countries and more than 50 million media impressions.
“We have big plans for 2015,” Root added. “The most exciting and impactful change is that the lesson will take place [June 18] at 10 a.m. in all time zones, rather than simultaneously at 10 a.m. (CT). The time change approval from Guinness will make it possible for hundreds of additional locations to participate.”