Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Rise of the Experiential Consumer

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As any race director who’s been in the business for awhile will tell you, what participants expect from events and races has changed quite a bit in the past few years. The good news is that there are more people who are participating—the number of U.S. race finishers has increased by 80% since the year 2000*–but keeping them happy is getting harder. In other words, participation is on the rise but so are the demands of participants.

colorThese participant expectations all revolve around gaining a quality and unique experience—we are dealing with experiential consumers.  Experience is the new luxury and people are Instagramming pictures and strapping Go Pro cameras to their heads to capture and share their experiences.  ACTIVE Network and RaceHQ decided to partner up because we recognize the impact this trend will have on event directors.  Both of our companies provide technology to make the lives of event directors easier—we handle the details, automating and organizing them—because you have more pressure than ever to create those filter-worthy, camera-ready experiences.

So how do you build a quality experience for your participants, whether they’re newbies or veterans?  Here are three event elements that will make the experiential consumer happy:

1. Be Social
There has been a huge increase in team and group participation, largely due to the popularity of

“fun” events (non-competitive, Mob™-style events), which encourage teams. But now this phenomenon has permeated more traditional and competitive events and it’s more important than ever for your event to promote a collective experience. People want to try something new with their friends and post about it on Facebook, using the event as an extension of their social life. Offering team, group, charity, and relay options when registering will help you increase your numbers and reach people who wouldn’t normally participate in races.

3. Go Mobile
Approximately  58% of smartphone users don’t go one hour without checking their phones!** If people are staring at this gadget for hours upon hours a day, then your event needs to be on that screen in some form or another. Here are a few ideas how:

  • Optimize your results page to be mobile enabled. Participants want results asap, and odds are they’ll have their phones or tablets with them as soon as they finish the race. Deliver results to the palms of their hands versus making them track down results printouts on boards at the finish line.
  • Offer training apps like the Couch-to-5K or 5K-to-10K app to keep participants engaged and excited about your event.
  • Use QR codes on marketing materials. With just a quick scan of that black-and-white box using their smartphone, people can access your registration page, results, and more.
  • Encourage mobile sharing on social media channels, which brings us to #3…

3. Encourage Facebragging

Facebragging, more formally known as “wanting social proof,” is something we’re all prone to. It’s no longer enough to have completed something—it needs to be shared on social media for the experience to reach its full potential. For events, this means you need to think about more than just the finish line hero pose. Encourage participants to capture and share every step of the event lifecycle, from registering to training to the course to the post-race celebration.  Hold social media contents for best photo or video, make event day as visually vivid as possible, sell creative merchandise, etc.  Engaging participants online and getting them to Facebrag will ultimately increase your event’s exposure and help it go viral.

However you decide to do it, the most important thing is to make your event an experience to remember because that is what participants are expecting.


ACTIVE Network’s event management technology makes it easier for event directors to create experiences participants will love to Facebrag about. Learn more




Shannon Fiack is the Senior Writer for ACTIVE Network, Endurance and also manages and writes for ACTIVE’s Event Director Blog, a free resource for industry news, best practices, and new ideas.



*Running USA, State of the Sport – U.S. Race Trends

**Mobile Mindset Study by Harris Interactive, June 2012

Creating Something Out of Nothing

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There’s nothing I love more than a walk through the finish line long after the race is over. Physically and mentally exhausted from the fifteen-hour day that started at 3AM, I can still hear the voice of the announcer in my head as I watch cars begin to flow where thousands of people crossed the finish line earlier in the day. There’s still a few pieces of debris floating in the wind, but other than that, life is back to normal.

Earlier in my career, I often doubted the significance of the work I did as an event professional. While I was in graduate school in Boston, I was surrounded by people doing something ‘significant’ with their lives. They were doctors, lawyers, financial analysts, you name it – and I here I was, just trying to start a little event management company. I wondered how I could make a positive impact as well.

It wasn’t until I befriended Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray that I began to learn the importance of the work that we do. He taught me that race directors are all “in the business of raising the self-confidence and self-esteem of millions of people”. All one must do is stand at the finish line of any race to witness the greatness of the human spirit.

People don’t just roll out of bed one morning and think, Today I’m going to run a marathon, or, Today I’m going to do a century ride. There seems to be a higher calling that motivates someone to do something that crazy – a mother or sister stricken with breast cancer, a fallen family member in Iraq, or even just a commitment to oneself to make a transformation to a healthier lifestyle. Whatever the motivation, hundreds of thousands of participants run, bike, swim, and leap over obstacles for a greater purpose each year.

As I stand there after a race is cleaned up, I think to myself, Wow, we did it! We pulled it off! It is mind-blowing to see all the planning, all the decisions, and all the people that came together at the same place for the same reason to create this thing we call an event. The past twelve months of hard work has finally paid off. It’s in this very moment that I realize my passion for the work we do: I absolutely love the process of creating something from nothing that truly changes people’s lives forever.

Even though our races start and finish, the impact we make lives on forever. Earlier in my career, a friend of mine emailed me a link to a YouTube video of someone that had run my marathon in Denver, Colorado. I had worked tirelessly on this event for over a year and was questioning whether it had all been worth it. I was going through the dreadful post-event emails when I came across this one: “Isn’t this your race Anton?” it asked. It included a link to the following video:


Take a few minutes to watch the video. How does it inspire you? Pause to think of the impact you make as a race director, then let us know how our team at RaceHQ can support your efforts to create spectacular events that change people’s lives forever.

-Anton Villatoro, President & Co-Founder, RaceHQ