If I Could Do It All Over Again

As I lamented in my last post, Storming of Thunder Ridge, the charitable road cycling event that I have been marketing, is over.

Without a doubt, the event was successful.

In only its second year, 283 riders registered. That’s a big increase from the 112 from 2010 and just shy of our goal of 300.

Through both registration and sponsorship, we raised a lot of money for a good cause.

Plus, there were no injuries. Some mechanical issues. And only one rider got lost.

Still, given my professional mantra of “always be advancing”, ideas for improving the marketing have been pouring into my brain.

The common denominator in these ideas is to align our event with what Seth Godin calls “sneezers” – target individuals or groups who will, in turn, spread the word to their social network.

An example is Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich, blogger at Spin Sucks and avid cyclist. Given her large social network, Gini could help us reach cyclists and expand the Storming of Thunder Ridge community. So, I’ve invited Gini to be our first registered rider for 2012 🙂

Here are some specific things I’d improve if I could do it all over again:

  1. Twitter – Although Twitter didn’t rate high when I interviewed our audience to create buyer personas for the event, I’m hearing from riders, such as Ryan Kephart, that  Twitter does matter to extend our reach.
  2. Cycling-Specific Sponsors – One of our sponsors was a local bike shop which shared Storming of Thunder Ridge with their customers. To grow the event, I would obtain cycling-specific sponsors such as Chamois Butt’r (who provided swag for our event) and Cutaway Clothing (founder Phillip Robb contributed website content and swag) who can share Storming of Thunder Ridge with their community on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
  3. Bike Shops & Clubs – In addition to the local bike shop sponsor, shops including Bonzai and Three Sports spread the work via Twitter and Facebook. Clubs such as Winchester WheelmenCyclists of Danville and others posted Storming of Thunder Ridge to their event calendar and member newsletter. I would  extend our reach by engaging more shops and clubs.
  4. Pro/Am Cyclists – Regionally, we’re a hotbed for professional and amateur cyclists: Ben King (USA Cycling Road Pro Champion, Team Radioshack), Andy Guptill (Team Jamis Sutter Home), Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing), Joe Dombrowski (Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team) and more hail from around here. I would seek to better engage these rising stars and find ways for them to get involved in Storming of Thunder Ridge.
  5. Collegiate & High School Teams – UVA, Virginia Tech, JMU, Richmond, VCU and more field cycling teams. Plus high school teams such as the Miller School’s Endurance Team. We were successful in attracting some some collegiate riders but would engage them further.
  6. Cycling Coaches – Given the number of gifted cyclists in our region, it follows that there is a legion of cycling coaches who can become influential connectors for Storming of Thunder Ridge.
  7. Elected Officials – In nearby Charlottesville, Delegate David Toscano sponsored a 3 foot passing law bill which got torpedoed, ironically, by our local delegate. Similarly, Senator Creigh Deeds is also cycling advocate. I would invite these supporters – and even our local official – to support and participate in Storming of Thunder Ridge.
  8. Advocacy Groups – Bike Charlottesville was a huge help in attracting cyclists from the Charlottesville area. I would seek to develop similar relationships with groups such as the Virginia Bicycling Federation to grow Storming of Thunder Ridge.
  9. Local & Regional Media – I would engage cyclists within the local and regional media such as Jay Warren from WSLS in Roanoke who are a natural fit for Storming of Thunder ridge and positioned to spread the word about the event.
  10. National Cycling Media – Okay, so we invited Peter Flax and Bill Strickland from Bicycling Magazine but didn’t hear a peep. I would reach out to more cycling journalists and bloggers. I recall that some years ago that Mountains of Misery down the road in Blacksburg attracted Bob Roll. It’s doable.
  11. Tourism Boards – The Blue Angles headlined the Lynchburg Regional Airshow this year and that drove a significant number of visitors to our area. I would engage the local tourism group to help spread the word about Storming of Thunder Ridge.

While the above sounds like a tall order, I believe it’s both realistic and attainable.

Clearly, in two years, we have demonstrated that Storming of Thunder Ridge is marketable and growable. Or, as one rider commented, it has the potential to become one of the top rides in the country.

We believe that Central Virginia offers some the best road cycling around – stout climbs, white-knuckle descents, fun rollers and awesome flats on which to hammer. We look forward to improving and extending our reach to draw cyclists to the event in 2012.

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Tell me how you grew your event – who did you engage and what steps did you take?

If you liked reading this or my other posts, I’d appreciate it if you’d subscribe and forward it to your friends. Thanks!

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