Windows IT Pro Goes for the Gold with IT Prolympics

Success happens when everybody wins. In the case of Windows IT Pro’s IT Prolympics campaign for Microsoft, the advertiser got to know its customers more deeply while giving recognition to customer excellence, the customers got to demonstrate their skills while having fun, and the publisher created community and value for both the reader and advertiser. Specifically, this comprehensive program produced nearly 4000 customer profiles for Microsoft in three months, as systems and network administrators took advantage of an exciting opportunity to compete in a technical challenge and demonstrate their expertise in a core Windows technology. Windows IT Pro magazine showcased the winners in its January issue, giving the IT Prolympians notoriety among their peers and highlighting a learning resource.



How did this innovative program come about? It all started with the customer’s goals.

In an Olympics year, the idea of international community building was at the top of everyone’s mind. Microsoft was looking for a way to rally its customers around a common cause and create a sense of pride, while also profiling customers to learn how to serve them better. What better partner for such an endeavor than Windows IT Pro, whose mission is “Connecting the IT Community”?

Windows IT Pro put its recognized creativity and agility to work, developing a contest that helped Microsoft acquire targeted customer leads while revitalizing its customer community. The IT Prolympics competition would begin by recruiting contestants from Windows IT Pro’s audience, tapping into more than 9 million promotional impressions. Potential contestants would be referred to an IT Prolympics landing page, where they could register to access an online reference guide about Active Directory and Group Policy.


Participants would download the free eBook official study guide entitled, “ITProlympics: The IT Pro’s Reference to Active Directory and Group Policy,” which would be the “curriculum” to prepare competitors for the IT Prolympics. The reference guide covered three aspects of Active Directory—AD Administration and Migration, AD Security and Group Policy, and AD and Messaging.

When contestants were ready for the next stage, they would complete a 20-question online multiple-choice test. After passing the exam, participants advanced to the virtual Active Directory lab. With the clock ticking, contestants would face the challenge of fixing real-world problems in an Active Directory deployment scenario within a matter of minutes. The top three competitors with the best overall combined score would win the IT Prolympics, receiving prizes and recognition within the Windows IT Pro and Microsoft community.


The contest opened November 8, 2004 and closed November 28, 2004. Three IT Prolympics champions were chosen.

The campaign was a resounding success, accomplishing the main objectives of the program:

  • Customer Profiling: Increased collection of customer profiles.
  • Knowledge Transfer: IT pros gained technical knowledge from this program increasing customer satisfaction and fewer product support calls.
  • Increased Customer Satisfaction: Revitalized the IT community and increase customer satisfaction among Microsoft’s best customers.
  • Deeper Engagement with IT Community: Allowed Microsoft to have deeper touches with the IT community.


Windows IT Pro’s Associate Publisher Peg Miller said, “The IT Prolympics were a huge success with our IT audience, who love to test their skills against each other. Our Web designer Terry Crane did an outstanding job of capturing the fun and competitive feeling of this effort in the page design. Participants coming to the site immediately got into the IT Prolympic spirit.”

Another crucial aspect of the program’s success, according to Miller, was the in-depth and independent technical content that allowed contestants to study for the competition. “The content in the eBook and the real-world nature of the virtual lab exercise enabled participants to gain knowledge they could apply in their daily job, while at the same time enjoying a chance to show off their technical proficiency.”









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