Thursday, March 21, 2013

Running USA Conference Review

Start of the Vancouver Sun Run with 50,000 runners!

In a blog I wrote last year I talked about the current richness of the endurance sports event choices that participants have. Several weeks ago I went to the annual Running USA conference in Savannah, GA. This is an event focused on running events, but the large broad issues and themes discussed in detail at the conference could be applicable to any endurance sports Race/Event Director.

Some key themes:


In many ways, it's all about your events brand. With so much choice, participants have become consumers. So all the same rules apply here that apply in the regular consumer world. You are not just putting on a race, or staging an event. Your event's brand has to shine through. It means a lot about what your event is all about. I was ounce told that, a really great brand walks into the room before you do! Hint it's not just about a logo - but having a great logo helps! One of my favorites in this area is The Blue Nose Marathon!

Think carefully about every touch-point that your participants, your consumers, have with your event. Think of every little impact point from when they first hear/see your brand, through registration,  the event itself, on-site, after the event etc . . . What will be the impression they have of the event, and your brand? What does your brand say about you and your event? Did you have enough porta-potties? Don't laugh . . this is HUGE!

In the endurance sports world, perhaps the pinnacle of this branding is Ironman. After all, when people are getting your logo tattooed on their bodies after they finish it, you know you've done something good with your event branding.

How's your event's brand doing?

Get A Hook

Continuing with the consumer theme - good marketing has a good hook to draw you in? What's drawing people into your event? It could be the course - the scenery, the challenge. It could be the theme. It could be the qualifying spots you have for another race. The weather? It could literally be anything, but whatever it is, it needs to pull people in, get them excited and then get them to sign up to participate.

Keep in mind, what one sub-group of people finds attractive (a super hard, and technical race course), others will not have much affinity for.  So, the parallel exercise here is knowing who your people are.  Those concerning themselves with qualifying for the Boston Marathon, will likely not be the same folks considering the Color Run.

However, bigger events are still diverse and attract a range. Centurion Cycling does a good job of sketching this out right in their motto, "Racers race and riders ride" - at the front it's a race! However, further back people are just happy to ride a scenic, challenging route on a well supported course.

The so-called MOB events( Mud Obstacle Beer), have really staked out the ground with having a hook. They go out of their way to let you know they are very different events, and each of the various ones, has a hook to get you to think about their events. If you don't believe me, just check out the web sites for The Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Mud Hero and some other similar events. It's clear, they are different.

Hooks can also be subtle - perhaps it's as benign as the charity you choose to work with. This will resonate with people, who are concerned and want to help that specific charity. The largest running event in Canada, is The Run For The Cure - with over 140,000 participants at various events across the country on a single day!

Harry's Spring Run-Off, sponsored by clothier Harry Rosen, is a fund-raiser for prostate cancer, and encourages people to race/run in a suit! It's OK to have fun with this.

What's your hook?


When you have great branding and a great hook working for you, momentum takes over. The older more traditional and bigger events, that have been around for a while, The New York City Marathon, The Peach Tree Road Race, The Vancouver Sun Run and so on. These older, well established, events that have been around for a while, have momentum. They often sell out, and there is a rush and frenzy to enter, or an over-demand for a limited number of places in these races. They have the luxury of positive momentum. But they can't get too complacent - as I mentioned, it's a competitive event landscape. This momentum will only last so long. Ounce that momentum starts to wain, they will need to look into ways of building up their brand, perhaps creating a new hook, to get that momentum back.

What's your event's momentum doing?


Yes you are running a race or organizing an event, but these events now are social gatherings. They are small or massive get-togethers of people who are all part of a tribe. They all think in a similar way. They are for the most part from a demographic that lumps them all together as being somewhat similar. This is why social media has been so effect for some events in terms of spreading the word - many endurance sports athletes were early adopters of social media, and started using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media early on in the game, to communicate and connect.

The Color Run  has 1 million Facebook likes! Tough Mudder - 3.2 million!!

Social media has been hugely impactful with some of the newer events going from nothing to tens of thousands participants in a very short period of time. Events of all kinds would be wise to bone up quickly on social media and start using it in the right way.

Also, people want to do these events together with other people - having their own group, within the larger group. They want to be involved with something smaller, in the context of a bigger event! Teams, clubs, corporate/company groups, fund-raising groups, . . .etc. Whatever you can do to foster this, within your race or event is key. (Make sure your online entry registration is easy for teams/clubs/groups to sign-up) They want to be social with their group within the whole event. Hang with their people, before and afterwards. Events like the Ragnar Relays have really taken off. Road running relays like this have been around for a long time, but Ragnar has really upped the ante and created a bit of a sensation with their team relay events.

How social are you?

If you are a race or event director, hopefully you found this helpful.

 If you like what you see here, please feel free to share this blog with your preferred sharing app from the buttons below:

3 comments: said...

Thanks, Steve. Great points and food for thought.

Steve Fleck said...

Thanks, Geordie. Glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Beaming article.each line by line was adorable have given a nice content and it shows your work..i bookmarked your blog.Need some more posts in Pinnacle sports..