The commercialization of sports like running, triathlon and cycling has made event directing a bigger—and more competitive—business.
It's great for the athlete—more options and more competition is a wonderful thing for the customers. But what do race directors need to do to stay ahead of the curve, especially if they're just starting out in a business against established events and veteran directors?
Jim Curl is a longtime event director in the San Diego area who has organized both triathlon and cycling races over 20-plus years. His latest babies are the San Diego Century Bike Tour and Bike the Coast, both scenic events being held in North San Diego County.
We asked Curl for some insight into the business and how exactly to put on an event that people will react positively to. Here are some basic tips he had:
A Good Staff
Curl is lucky. He says he's always been surrounded by a great staff. But he didn't realize how important it was until he'd been at it for several years.
"The staff makes all the difference," Curl said. "You can't do it all yourself. You need people that are motivated and intelligent."
Case in point: When Facebook became a hugely important means to market events, Curl had a guy on staff ready to take it on.
"I don't do a lot of that. I understand it but I can't do it," Curl said. "I rely on younger people and use the knowledge that I have to do the things that I do, which is print, banners, things like that. It's not that I don't understand Facebook, I just don't feel it."
If any part of organizing event is a weakness of yours, hire someone who considers it a strength.
Spend Money to Make Money
There are some events, like Ironman, that can set a price and sell out almost immediately.
"Ironman is not a very good example of anything to anybody," Curl said. "It is its own monster, like the New York City Marathon. They are iconic events that can charge anything they want and open and close immediately.
"The rest of us have to scratch and be creative and spend money to get money. If you want 2,000 people, be prepared to spend X percent of your budget to get it."
That includes special offers and discounts—nothing will attract participants faster.
"The old way is sending out 30,000 postcards, but that's tough if you're competing with someone in your region that's three weeks before your event and they're sending out 4 million impressions through Facebook and Schwaggle and doing a lot of discounting," Curl said. "I didn't want to do discounts. My computer guy came to me and said 'When you go online, do you ever buy anything that's not for sale?' and I said 'No.'"