The initial target was to take the Scottish Cup to 114 different venues, each representing one year of Hibs’ seemingly never ending quest to lift that elusive trophy.
But the Easter Road club’s “Persevered Tour” has proved “an absolute roaring success” with chief executive Leeann Dempster revealing it could now be extended well into the new year. Six months on from that day at Hampden, the Edinburgh outfit continue to find themselves bombarded on a daily basis with requests for visits of the cup from far and wide – tonight it will even be on show at a destination on the other side of the country.
The excitement which drew some 150,000 people on to the streets of the Capital to see it being paraded through the east side of the city remains undiminished, the tour is now in it’s 14th week with an astonishing 154 different visits having been made, not counting those personal moments within hospitals and hospices.
While insisting the club wanted to share their joy, Dempster freely admits they also wanted to capitalise on an event which has undoubtedly had a bearing on the fact average crowds at Easter Road are up by some 6000 on last season with almost 11,000 season tickets sold, the second highest on record.
However, although the hope is that some of the 32,000 who have participated so far who aren’t Hibs fans might yet become so, Dempster insisted the message behind the project hasn’t been lost, particularly with the younger audience.
“It resonates,” she said. “We don’t talk just about Hibs but the message of perseverance. We’ve linked it with how we tried and tried many times but were unable to win the Scottish Cup.
“But we kept trying, doing our very best and ultimately we won it. Speaking to teachers they like it as a message of real encouragement, it’s inspirational and aspirational.”
The tour began barely a corner kick away from Easter Road at Hermitage Park Primary School and since then it has simply mushroomed. Dempster said: “Within the education system teachers’ network, they speak to each other.
“The children enjoy an hour or two and are left with some good memories. We leave behind photographs of the occasion for the schools and the kids and created a website which maps the journey and tells you where the cup is going to be next.”
Dempster admitted the tour had been a “significant operation”, backed financially by the Hibs Supporters Association, but one which the club were determined to embark on rather than have the cup kept at a distance from ordinary supporters.
She said: “We wanted to share the joy of winning the Scottish Cup and to capitalise on it. When we saw the response it got from our supporters we quickly decided we wanted to make it available to as many as possible.
“This sort of thing has been done and been successful all over the world so we thought ‘why can’t we replicate it and make it work for us’?
“We decided we needed to get it out on the road, to utilise it not only to let our supporters enjoy it, to get up close and personal, but to perhaps encourage some who might not yet be Hibs fans to become so.
“It’s been an absolute roaring success. It’s been well received everywhere and even for people who are not Hibs supporters, the Scottish Cup is a real attraction.
“We’ve had it to schools, universities, colleges, businesses, community organisations and so on but we’ve also visited people in one-on-one situations at home or in environments such as hospitals or hospices which has been a fantastically rewarding experience.
“I was always confident we’d reach our target of visiting 114 different venues but we’ve smashed that total.
“But the emails continue to come in thick and fast. There’s been plenty of parents asking when we are going to be taking it to their kids’ schools. The plan was to run up until Christmas but there’s every possibility we’ll continue beyond then.”
If most fans might be happy to get one close-up look at the cup, Dempster revealed one supporter is adamant once is not enough.
She said: “He told me his aim is to have 114 different photographs of the cup and he’s not joking. He’s made it his personal mission.”