By Marcia Bradford
Thinking about increasing the number of events you produce? Considering branching out into new types of competitions, or adding new elements to existing events? If so, there are four primary considerations before expanding your portfolio, according to planners who discussed their experiences with SportsEvents.
- Determine How You Want To Expand
Expanding an event portfolio generally means reaching out to a new group of participants. Here’s a look at two approaches.
Tough Mudder Inc., based in Brooklyn, N.Y, had grown steadily since it was founded in 2010, hosting more than 100 endurance challenge events in the United States and several other countries. But in 2013, the company launched a separate event called Mudderella.
The main reason for the expansion, according to Senior Marketing Manager Antonia Clark, was to reach out to more women.
“The event was started by three women to create a challenge by women for women. Mudderella focuses on bringing women together to take on a new challenge, have fun and empower each other,” she explained. “We felt we were responding to a need within the community, and the decision to develop a fully new event that could stand on its own resonated with a large, new community of participants.
In contrast to Tough Mudder’s 10- to 12-mile obstacle course, Mudderella events involve a five- to seven-mile course designed especially for women, Clark said. Also, Tough Mudder raises funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, while Mudderella helps raise money to end the plight of domestic violence.
During the 55 years since it was established, New York Road Runners (NYRR) has evolved from a local running group into a global champion of running events and has added many races for children. The latest addition to the organization’s portfolio came in 2014, when the NYRR Youth Running Series was launched. Former NYRR Director Dale Shumanski said the new initiative was designed to get middle school kids (grades six through eight) active in cross-country, indoor track and road running.
She explained that many of the kids who participate in races for younger children stop running once they get to middle school. “For kids of all fitness levels who love to run, the Youth Series is a way for them to get their mileage in during the school year, stay fit and participate in fun races with kid-friendly distances.”
- Understand How Expanding Will Affect Your Resources
Whatever type of portfolio expansion you are considering, it’s essential to take a look at how it will affect your current resources, Shumanski said. “This is the biggest question you need to address. Do you have the venues, the staff and the finances to manage an expansion without any negative impact on your existing events?”
By adding ancillary events to existing races, she explained, NYRR reduced the need for additional staff and advance spending, while also often drawing in parents as new adult race participants.
Clark pointed out that experienced events companies have the benefit of being able to leverage operations teams and deliver high quality events from the very beginning. “Our challenge, as is the case with any new brand, is to generate brand awareness unique to the new event, without confusing the experience within the legion of women who were already running and conquering Tough Mudder events.”
- Don’t Expect Immediate ROI
While Mudderella reached a new demographic and quickly expanded Tough Mudder’s global community, the “first incredible turnout” did not occur until the second year of the new event, Clark said, adding that, “we continue to be surprised by the remarkable support and commitment to the event.”
Shumanski said that it often takes a year or two to achieve a positive return on investment and recommended that ROI be closely examined after two or three years to make sure the new event is achieving its goals.
- Know Where New Participants Will Come From
Although it’s great to reach out to new groups and hold events in more areas, Shumanski cautioned against expanding too quickly. “Do the research on where participants are coming from before you expand,” she said. “Make sure your new events aren’t competing with your existing events.”
She explained that one organization she previously worked for decided to double the number of events in a region, only to find that they were simply moving money around rather than increasing the amount of donations generated for their cause. “It required three times the amount of work and we found we were pulling from the same pool of participants, which reduced the number of people at each event.”
Portfolio Expansion Pointers
Know Your Mission: Whether they are new or ancillary, added events should fit in with the organization’s overall philosophy.
Be Flexible: Each event brings its own challenges, complications and successes, so the ability to remain flexible while pursuing excellence is essential. For example, you may need to change the course to make it more fun or make your pitch more suitable to a certain age group.
Respect Sponsors: When adding a new event, try to package it with your other events before approaching any sponsors you work with. Remember that they usually set annual budgets and can get tired of being approached over and over as new events are added.
Know When To Drop It: Once a new event has been promoted, held, and gained sponsorship and participants, it can be difficult to drop even if it’s unsuccessful. The best way to avoid this is to do the research before launching the event, but it’s usually better to improve or redesign it than phase it out.