Wednesday 8 July 2020

Not the Race to the Stones or Bewl 15 2020

The Field of Dreams in 2019 at Race to the Stones. 2020 hasn't been the same. 

Hi, How's it going for you ?

I've been asked a few times how things are going (job wise), and I ask them to consider the company's job description of "Mass Participation Sport Photography" as each of those words is pretty much 2019. So yes, once you've considered that, you'll have worked out just like the number of races you're running in - we're also not working at them. To coin a phrase from Start Trek - "It's Dead Jim". Proper Dead, until 2021 sort of dead. If any of you are familiar with Swear Trek on twitter - it's actually a bit more like that for us.

On the upside I'm back down to a 32" waist and running three times a week with a spring in my step and have touched sub 6 minute miles a few times on some flat bits on my shorter runs... I didn't think I'd have that chance to do that much training ever again, so here's to a healthy life past 50... I've not started to contemplate my golf handicap that has also been ignored for over 20 years. Who knows what opportunities are going to open up next !

You're the person you wanted to be ?

So what for work and the world of running ?
We're now in the virtual world of virtual races. People running one 10k during the week can submit that into multiple virtual 10k races (if they have the necessary funds) and obtain multiple results. Hey, I've even worked out how to manipulate a GPS track and pace times to fit any GPS track you might want to give me - so it really could mean nothing or everything. Some people are putting in massive ultra run efforts over the trails at the weekends - its very impressive, but personally I'm not that in need of my virtual medal. Having said that, I'm not that in need of a pint in a pub, so - each to their own.

So, with no work now though until possibly November, or at a stretch, the end of October if we are really lucky (and that's the end of our normal season pre-winter anyway) but the reality is that we really will not have any work of substance until March. A whole year without work. One reason is of course that people can't even gather together to plan the races in the first place !

Keep 2 meters away, even outside on any virtual runs
Making a race work with Coronavirus and safe distancing
So with that in mind we might be too far away to see much planning going on to make races work in the future with coronavirus around - because I think people are hoping it will all have gone away  when their race is in 2021.  And in the meantime we've still not come across any races with any sort of plan that seems to cope with the kettling of people together at the start, nor at the finish in anything like "normal". The running bit in the middle - that's fine (except for refreshments probably).

So for an event what was "normal" sort of an event that we would cover ? Broadly - 1) an event that normally takes 2-3 hours end-to-end still takes 2-3 hours and 2) has the numbers of participants attending to make it viable.

Our efficiencies come from two things - lots of people going past the cameras in quite short periods of time. And we know you prefer lots of photos rather than just one or two, from lots of different places. If race times take longer to accommodate safe distancing, and entries are reduced - then both those factors make it more expensive to cover a race and less customers to buy the images.

So in summary - the current coronavirus-safe plans being put in place for some races - simply don't work for our kind of business model. Even for races with free downloads that sometimes comes from the sponsors, but with headcount lower - where are the sponsors and what are their efficiencies and benefits of reaching fewer people? bottom line is we can see it's going to be difficult for everyone, but we are not going to be able to attend events on the "purchase only" business model in the future.

Do you feel the frustration of virtual races and being kept in the dark about races restarting ?

The move to free downloads for all races
We have seen a 70% shift in our work to photo downloads being included as part of the event in the past 5 years and we have also seen about a 50% drop in revenue for the remaining "purchase" galleries - making them barely economic to cover. Simply put - the number of events with free downloads now means it's expected as part of their race package (downloading remains strong as a percentage of participants), and because of that - they are much less likely to buy their photos at the races where purchasing remains the only option.

So returning back into events for the future - how could an event organiser use race photos from their event to market and promote their event as a preference to other events next year ?
There's several key engagement strategies that can be undertaken to market an event. We have seen time and time again - events that have had a year out (due to snow, wind, or other situations) and fail to market their races properly for their return year - always suffer from significantly reduced take up.

Reduced take up for returning events because:
1. there's always new events about that compete for runners
2. people forget about the previous years race
3. some race organisers don't know how to do an effective marketing campaign for their race
4. they rely on local running clubs and word of mouth of one key contact
5. they all put them into listings or rely on third party listing agencies (and sell your data)
6. they provide basic race necessities but don't provide real value for money compared to other (new/progressive) races.

Have a clear plan for a healthy race future and stick to it !
Have a Plan
So - here's a plan for any race or event organisers planning on getting entries solidly in 2021:

1. do your own marketing - don't sell out to a data collection agency, and maintain your GDPR integrity
2. engage and appeal to your past runners - use personal and individual images of someone running your race previously to remind them of why they should enter the race again.  Remind them of their individual race results - use something like Mailchimp to personalise the message to them. Visual reminders are more powerful than just text !
3. Run direct email campaigns to all previous entrants that you have ever had
4. Add value to your digital goody bag for sponsors and pass that onto your participants
5. Add race photos into your race entry fee - and get your race logo and sponsors on there
6. Run entry competitons leading up to the race
7. Make regular social media posts - a drip drip reminder that your event exists
8. Make sure your event is known locally as *the* local event. People only drive about an hour to get to a half marathon
9. Work all your running clubs - get it to be the local club championship
10. Give out flyers at your parkrun when it happens - help and volunteer
11. Be part of your community - get schools and local gymsn and fitness instructors involved

but above all - tell people every day, in every way about your race, and at least three times. Minimum, in three different ways - to each of your target groups (who'd work in marketing eh?)

Get in Touch
So, if you're a race organiser and you're thinking of getting your race entry marketing into gear for 2021, and you want to use the legacy images that we have of participants effectively to boost entries and engagement from people who have run in your race - then get in touch ! (If you've got your past results data - it should be quite easy actually!)

In the future, all runners must wear Hi-viz and carry decontamination flares

Keep it real on your runs
So, in the meantime - what to wear when you're going out on your runs ? If your local community facebook group is anything like mine it seems to be a constant battle between the dogwalkers claiming dominion on all rights of way, and runners apparently breathing and sweating over everyone like apocalypse zombies on every pavement making it impossible to go to the shops. The truth I'm sure is somewhere in between - although it used to be easier to run along the empty roads before Dominic Cummings got in his car to give everyone a wide berth. But what to wear to make it seem sensible for everyone ? Club vests seem a little "OTT" for a gentle run out.

I've been made aware of two "must have" fashion T-shirts for the aspiring runner during lockdown - check these out
Our new Avoid Everyone shirts and vests
Avoid everyone - a clear message to all pedestrians
1. Avoid Everyone - initially a play on the website's name - a typical world where a joke turns into reality - and then someone only goes and does it - but now all pre-orders are closed.

2. Alternatively - there's the Great British Pub Run -
From the organisers of the Southampton Marathon ready for when your life returns to normal - get your training in by running down to your nearest Pub and back and then pull yourself a pint at home - and wear some suitable attire in the meantime !
I don't think he's yet taking virtual races to the nearest pub as medal opportunities, but you never know how people are going to use strava these days...

How's the end of lockdown going for you ? Joy, or the return of FOMO and anxiety ?

Anyway, I don't know how you're all doing too ? Some of us are working, some of us are furloughed, some of us are in zoom meetings a million times a day, and some of us are staring unemployment and poverty very squarely in the eye. Remember this - running isn't the answer, but it's a pretty good way of coping in the meantime.

And if you are stuck in zoom meetings - try to brighten things up for your colleagues and play some mind tricks on them with these virtual backgrounds

Now, having just sat in for an hour on a Sport England webinar on the return of running races and possible new procedures - the current situation is nobody knows, you can't get insurance at the moment for your event anyway, and the Government isn't going to be granting any permission soon, and also - quite frankly - there's not a large appetite out there for mass participation races any time soon... so there's plenty of time for race organisers to reconfigure their event finances and make their events better value for money, more engaging and more sponsor-able.
Spare a thought for people like us, waiting to get back to work
So with that in mind, keep up the great training, and look after yourself, if you're a race sponsor, or work at a company that could sponsor a race - then please do get in touch with us or the nearest race you know in order to help out keeping the running world running,

until next time,

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