Monday, November 1, 2010

Part 1 done..

Part one of this blog is done. This is of course the part that was due for my class (creative strategies). These first twelve post explored quite a bit about our sport, Track and Field. By talking to these industry leaders ( a meet director, website owner, agent and three elite athletes) so very valuable information was shared. We know that our sport needs to change to bring it into the mainstream and everyone I talked to had some really great ideas. I think that frank honest discussion can only help our sport.

But, I am not done with this blog. There is still more to look into with our sport. There are still plenty of questions to be answered. I will continue to update this blog as much as possible. So spread the word! Lets keep this going.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fast time vs. being marketable; Interview with Nathan White

Many people within the sport of Track and Field think sponsorship should take the model of cycling or triathlons where one person has many sponsors. To examine this better, I interviewed current triathlete Nathan White. Nathan is a new pro and recently finished  25th-place finish in a time of  2:09:21 at USAT Elite National Championships. He comes from a Track and Field background having run at Northern Iowa. 

OTRT: Turning Pro as a Triathlete seems to be a bit of a different process compared to other sports-can you explain the how your process went?

Nathan White:  USAT, the governing body of triathlon, determines at the beginning of each year which races will be the "pro" qualifiers. For different race distances, there are different standards the athlete must meet. In my case, I compete in olympic distance races so I will stick to that qualifying standard. USAT nationals in 2008 was the race in which I qualified to receive my pro card. Instead of taking it that year, I decided to stay amateur and race another year to gain experience. In 2009, I won the Hy Vee triathlon(one of the races they deemed a pro qualifier at the beginning of the year). After the season, I decided to sign up as a pro and compete as a pro in 2010. The qualifying procedure in triathlon is VERY difficult to understand. Most triathletes don't even understand it.

 OTRT:Triathlete has more than sponsor, can you explain how you gain sponsorship and how that works?

NW: Most of the time, beginning pro triathletes have product sponsorship only. They usually have a bike shop that allows them to use a bike for the season or have a running shop they can get free shoes at for the year.  As a triathlete progresses in their career, they can get corporate sponsorship. Most of the time, athletes will get appearance fees, just to show up to a race. To get sponsorship in triathlon, you have to get your name out on the national level. Doing well at races, talking to the right people, things like this will get you more known in the triathlon community. 

OTRT: How has social media / technology changed how you market yourself inside the sport? Perhaps the sport as a whole?

NW: Social media has helped in getting my name out to more people in more markets. Having a website, a twitter and facebook account has reached more people than just racing. I can post my workouts, tell people what products I use, show potential sponsors how I can get their company name out there. Triathlon is a rich sport. A lot of the people that compete in triathlons, even just for fun, have an average income of over $100,000/year. Technology plays a huge part in triathlon. The bikes are expensive, the running shoes are expensive. As an athlete, you have to be willing to try new technology and embrace it.

OTRT: What do you do to make yourself for marketable?
NW:To make myself more marketable, I have to do well at races. Its about as simple as that. If sponsors see you do consistently well at races, they're more willing to link you to their product or company. Another big marketing tool is how many people can you reach? If you can only talk to triathletes, companies are more likely to look you over to the athletes that can reach the average person. The more people you reach as an athlete, the better.

I try and meet new people everyday. You never know when that next person you meet is the CEO of some big company looking for a new outlet to promote their business. Living and training in Tucson, a healthy and active city, there's new people with like interests to meet everyday. Another way is thinking of new ideas or ways to promote a business. Thinking outside the box is a good place to start. If you're that athlete that can go up to a business and pitch them an idea they haven't already heard a hundred times can go a long way.

OTRT: You have moved across the country, what are some of the challenges you face as pro triathlete? 
NW: Its very hard to support yourself as a professional triathlete at the beginning of a career. Luckily, my wife has a full time teaching job, so she pulls in the majority of the money for our family. That allows me to train basically as a full time job. BIG help! I do have a very part time job at Carmichael Training Systems, a coaching company that my older brother and coach, works for. Its still a struggle to try and find money to travel to races in other countries on your own bill. It was and still is a big risk we took to move halfway across the country so I could TRY and see how far I can take triathlon. My wife left a great paying teaching job in Waukee, IA and I left a job at a running shoe store with a pretty good salary for Tuscon, AZ to train at a higher level.

OTRT: What are some actions that you think could be taken to gain a wider fanbase in the sport?
NW: Creating a bigger fanbase, I believe relies on race results and being able to communicate with the "average" athlete. I tend to think about it in terms of if I was a person that competed in triathlons for fun. I would want an elite athlete to come up to me and talk about regular stuff, not just about triathlons but normal, everyday life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Micro Marketing at a Marathon Expo

Micro level marketing is an important part of the track and field world. There is no better place to connect one on one with a target market then at a major marathon or any other running event. I recently ran the Chicago marathon (that is another blog that most likely won’t go on here).  I had spent the morning interviewing elite athletes and spent the afternoon at the expo generally exploring but was intrigued on what the function of the expo exactly was, the following are some pictures with the responses on how the marathon expo works. 

I’ll start first with the Chicago Area Runners Association- “It is good to get our name out to the community and show that we support our local runners. We might not sign up a lot of members due to participants being out state but it is really to show that we support the sport of running”

All the major shoe companies were there including Brooks (pictured above), Saucony, Mizuno, Asics and Nike. Nike having the largest presence but it is known that Nike has the most money to spin. The booths offered custom fitting and apparel that is not sold in stores.  The workers at the booth were more than friendly and I talked for quite a while with an Asics rep that was a regional apparel rep. He explained that the relationships built on a ground level such as a marathon expo bring in sales ( though he would not state numbers), introduce new product  and  more importantly “begin to make customers loyal to a brand”. 
Another interesting aspect was the use of elite athletes.  Brooks circulated their elite club of Brooks-Hansons athletes, Nike brought in middle distance stars not running and Asics brought in their biggest star that actually dropped out of the marathon-Ryan Hall.  The line was very long.

What I was most surprised about was the non-running brands that were there.  VW was the most noticeable one with a neat installation piece of a doodle bug. Verizon had a booth, along with many charities.

One could not only buy or try a lot of products at the expo but you were give a lot of products in your Marathon expo bag. This of course give advertisers instant connection to an audience (I will admit I did use quite a few of the free products and pretty much ate my way through the expo)  Below is just a sample of the stuff I was able to take home with with me. 

Women and Track: Interview with Ann Gaffigan part 2

Ann Gaffigan is the cofounder of the website Womentalksports. In the first section, we talked about advertising women and to women, it can be found in the post below this one. In the rest of the interview, we talk more specifically about the sport of Track and Field and she leaves us with some words of wisdom from Young Jeezy.

OntherightTrack:When looking specifically at Track and Field, there has been a huge upswing in women’s performances in the past few years, do you think there has been an added popularity because of this for the women’s side of the sport?

Ann Gaffigan: Absolutely. Our female track & field athletes have been making huge strides as of late. I was particularly excited in 2009 when we had 3 women run under 4:00 in the 1500 plus Shannon Rowbury getting the bronze medal at World Champs. For years, every time someone ran a 4:05 and won USA's, the reaction was always "US women suck and could never make it on the world stage." Then in 2009, 4 women from 4 different training groups either ran sub 4 or won a medal at World Champs. That was a healthy thing for the rest of the distance runners - it showed everyone what they could do if they kept at it. This wasn't one group having this success - it was a variety of situations working out for the respective athletes.

Similar things have been happening in the other events - we had Chaunte Lowe go head to head with Blanka Vlasic week after week and give her a run for her money. Kara Patterson beat the world record holder in the javelin. Lolo Jones won indoor worlds. Molly Huddle set the American Record in the 5K.

When I say "healthy" I am referring to the positive effect certain advancements can have on other athletes. It is healthy for track & field to have a variety of athletes succeeding in a variety of events and coming from a variety of training groups. It proves that there is no one magic formula, there is the right formula for YOU and you just have to find it to reach your potential. It makes things seem very doable and less "pie in the sky."

The variety also encourages mainstream media as well as sponsors to push more than just one star athlete or one marquee event. This makes track & field more appealing to a wider range of people. It also means less risk - when there is a single point of failure (the men's 100m for example), then what happens if Usain Bolt can't run that day? If he is all anyone promoted leading up to the meet, why is the casual fan going to watch once he cancels?
OTRT: You are the former American record holder in the steeplechase, since the time you were competing what are some of the largest changes within the sport?

AG:Well for starters, they added the steeplechase to the Olympics! When I won the trials in 2004 and set the American Record, it was the best day of my life, but I couldn't go to the Olympics! It was the first time in my life I couldn't do something because of my gender. I had never faced that barrier before. It felt so silly and ridiculous. That was when I realized that the women's movement was not finished.

Besides the belated inclusion of the steeplechase, I am in general very proud of track & field for being gender neutral. Since men and women compete at the same competitions, they are always shown together. Our biggest mistake may be favoring certain events over others, not gender.

I was happy to see the field events get more attention this year. Amber Campbell won the indoor VISA Championships Series, so they were forced to cover the throws. Kara Patterson set the American Record in the javelin at USA's, and they made sure to cover that on TV. We always got to see Chaunte Lowe jump. I want to see more of the decathlon and heptathlon. I don't think we emphasize those athletes enough. They are arguably the best athletes on the track and we totally ignore them.

A big change in track & field has been the implementation of the Diamond League. From a fan's perspective, I think it is a very positive thing because we can look at a website listing all of the Diamond League meets and know who is going to compete where and when. We have something to look forward to. It seemed to encourage big name athletes to show up, even if it meant going head to head with their biggest competitor. The meets were shown live at, so we knew where to go to find them. They were also shown on Universal Sports' TV channel later in the day. This is a step in the right direction but not many people get that channel yet. Also, it was usually a watered-down version that didn't compare to the live broadcast, which was usually a BBC feed (or so I've been told).

Not everyone likes the Diamond League, including some athletes. I can't speak on that because I haven't competed since it came about.

Another positive for track & field since 2004 has been the growth in the number of quality training groups for athletes around the country. We have seen more pop up and the numbers rise at each individual "camp." This means (1) people are having success in these training situations and (2) sponsors are putting money into these camps, both of which are positive things.

Finally, the Track & Field Athletes Association has been formed. This is something that the athletes have been in need of for quite some time, especially with the cuts to sponsorships of individual athletes in recent years. The TFAA is in its infancy stage but will soon offer group health insurance, disability insurance, fund-raising efforts and more to its members.

OTRT: If you could set some action items for the sport of Track and field to make it more popular what would they be?

We need to get track & field on TV on a channel (or channels) that value it and want to cover it like the Outdoor Channel covers the Tour de France and Spike covers MMA - in FULL and LIVE. I want to turn on the TV and watch the track meet live just like I can at with a more reliable, clearer feed. Putting one meet every once in awhile on NBC and promoting one name, such as Usain Bolt, doesn't cut it. The average Joe might tune in, realize he'll have to wait until the end to see Bolt run, come back later to watch and then be disappointed if Bolt doesn't set a world record. It's not a good formula.

It needs to be on TV regularly and we need to emphasize every event that has a good competition going on, which is usually most of them! Just watch a feed from overseas, they have it down. We can just copy them, see it's easy!

We have some great personalities in US Track & Field. The athletes' personalities sell themselves. But we have to put the camera on them on a regular basis! 

Finally, what are some lessons you have learned from Women Talk Sports that can be applied to the sport as a whole? 
AG: If you build it, they will come. We've been told our whole lives that no one cares about women's sports. They never have and never will. Guess, what? They're wrong. We are constantly outgrowing our server because of increasing traffic and increasing additions of member sites to our network. Now they've announced espnW - I think the world is starting to wake up.

Another thing I've learned - if you don't like it, do something. That's how things get done. I think it was Young Jeezy who said, "where I'm from, if we don't like it we do something," but I should be more philosophical and reference Ghandi's quote, "be the change you wish to see in the world." Same idea, no?

Women and Track: Interview with Ann Gaffigan part 1

Ann Gaffigan is a co-founder of a the website Womentalksports. The goal of the website is to promote and empower female athleticism. is an online network that connects the best blogs relating to women's sports. The site aims to raise the level of awareness of women in sport by providing comprehensive sport coverage, spotlighting outstanding achievements, and working with sporting associations on advocacy issues and empowering programs. She is also the former American record holder in the woman's steeplechase and participated when the event was not included in the Olympics. Ann had much to say so this interview will be broken into two part.

On the Right Track: You are a cofounder of the website Women talk sports, which fills a niche with women and sports, can you explain how this founding came to be?

Ann Gaffigan: Shortly after the 2008 Trials, I happened upon a blog called "...Because I Played Sports" written by Megan Hueter. One of her posts talked about Sports Illustrated for Women, which lived a short life in the late 90's/early 00's and how disappointing it was when it stopped coming to her house. I felt the same way. We connected and casually said that one day we would make our own version of a women's sports magazine online.

I became a regular visitor of her blog. One day she posted an interview with Jane Schonberger who started Pretty Tough, a brand and media company aimed at empowering girls and supporting their athletic endeavors. Jane's two daughters were the inspiration for starting the company. There is a fantastic website, book series, and now a video series is in production based on the books.

I was fascinated with what Jane had to say. She talked about that pivotal point in a young girls' life where they are forced to choose between what everyone else is pressuring to do and what you want to do. She wanted to make it cool to be tough so that girls didn't have to make that choice. I related on so many levels - not just from my own experiences but from being a mentor to younger girls as well. I contacted Jane and asked to be a contributor to her site, covering the latest happenings in track & field.

When I moved to California a few months later (October 2008), Jane and I met for lunch and talked about Megan and the three of us working together on a women's sports website. It was Jane's idea to bring all of the sites together that already cover a women's sport or women's issues related to sports. That way we didn't have to start from scratch content-wise. And there were so many fantastic writers out there doing things on their own - what if we brought everyone together in one place, amplifying everyone's voice?

Jane, Megan and I held conference calls (Megan was in DC) and then worked on our pieces of the puzzle and launched on February 1, 2009.2.

OTRT:Oftentimes people complain that women’s sports are not as exciting as men’s sports, how does your website counter that argument?

AG: We counter the argument by covering women's sports. People don't think it's exciting because no one thinks it's worthy of putting on TV. But they don't put it on TV because they think no one cares. And the cycle continues.

We decided to take matters into our own hands. I am more of a women's sports fan every day because of this site. It's no different than men's sports except there's a lot less ego and scandal. In terms of the level of play - does it matter? Can't a high school basketball game be exciting even though NBA players are lightyears ahead of them? You're not watching them play the NBA players, they're playing other high school kids, so it can be a good game regardless of the number of dunks. A "good game" is about the competition more than anything.

Plus, with women's sports, there are so many other factors that come into play - the barriers they faced growing up and trying to find opportunities to play and practice. Taking time off to have a baby and the uphill comeback afterwards. The pressure to pose for men's magazines in order to make yourself known - and along those same lines, the pressure to prove you are "still a woman" even though you're an accomplished athlete. And the list goes on. Women's sports are complicated. The athletes are all different - there's something for everyone it seems.
OTRT: When I talk to other women, it is surprising that many do not support women’s sports and find men’s sports more entertaining, how do you specifically market towards women?

AG: Women don't see other women play sports very often. You have to dig to find it. It's easier to just watch what's in front of you instead of searching for something different.

Personally, what I do is talk about it. I've converted many a friend just by talking about it. "Hey, did you know women's ski jumping is the only sport left to only be in the Olympics for men and not women? The IOC has refused to add it for the women, even though they have a World Championships for it and the international federation has recommended it be added for years." They say "Really? Why? Tell me more." Women don't realize that our work is not done here. Until you come up against a barrier because of gender face-to-face, you don't get it because it hasn't affected you.

On our site, we market to women by working at building a community they can be a part of. If they're already women's sports fans, this is where they can go to get their fill of women's sports. If they don't really care about women's sports yet, we want them to find our site and be intrigued. Our Facebook ads target women ages 18 to 55 who are interested in sports and/or active and healthy lifestyles. A woman who doesn't watch sports but trains for and enters triathlons is going to identify with female athletes. She just might not know it yet! If she finds our site, she will find motivation, inspiration, training information and more.

More importantly, she will find a place where other women like her go. She will find support as well as a place to debate the issues around women in sport. Message boards and the comments sections in mainstream sites, especially sports ones, are notoriously hostile territories for women. They get told by the anonymous male posters to "go back to the kitchen" or something similarly condescending. It's not worth their time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fast time vs. being marketable; Interview with NYAC Lesley Higgins

Lesley Higgins is currently a member of the NYAC team and an elite runner. She was a two-time NCAA DI track All-American at the University of Colorado and was  the Big XII champion in the 3000 meter steeplechase in 2002, and was a 2002 USA track and field championships qualifier in the 3000 meter steeplechase. She finished 13th in the final of the 3000meter steeplechase at the 2008 Olympic Trials. She has a unique perspective on the event for she is also a  political consultant for both Governor David Patterson and Governor Eliot Spitzer.   

OTRT: So first of all, how did you become a member of NYAC? How does that relationship with Brooks work?
LH:I became an NYAC runner because I was friends with Julia Stamps. The Track & Field chairman wanted Julia representing the club, and I got swept in as a package deal. That was back in 2003. In 2008, Brooks approached me at the Olympic Trials about sponsoring our team. The NYAC has great resources, but it does not make clothes. So the relationship has been very good for us. I hope it has been good for Brooks as well.

Within NYC and the surrounding area, we have a designated Local Elite team. The standards are very objective and we usually have about 8 men and 8 women with this designation. These athletes are expected to participate heavily in the NYRR year-long team points competition and in return they receive Brooks/NYAC gear and shoes. There are a total of roughly 25 men and 25 women on our team in the city. The rest of the team does not go empty-handed by any means, but we find it's good to have time and place goals to keep everyone motivated and to reward those who keep running a priority in their work/life balance.

Additionally, several of our athletes are part of the Brooks ID program, which is such a great program for the running community. I am pretty sure Brooks is the only company that has a program that offers varying levels of sponsorship to all kind of runners, based off of their ability to inspire other runners, rather than just performances.
OTRT: How has social media / technology changed how you market yourself inside the sport?
LH: Social media has actually been very good for me within New York City.  I have a tendency to come off a little, let's say, "cold," to many the large numbers of runners in NYC.  Twitter has given me the opportunity to connect with other runners in the city that I probably would otherwise have not met. I am hoping they start spreading rumors that I don't bite.

I do have one friend who hates that my twitter feed is mostly running-related, but I am also aware that most of my non-spam followers are runners. So, I consciously talk about running because I think we can all learn from what we each do on a daily basis. I also try not to be boring because there are a few professional runners that I have followed who have sort lost me as a fan because they are painfully boring on twitter. On the flip side, there are a few athletes who have lost me as a fan because their egos are practically exploding out of their 140 characters. I may sometimes be at fault of being both boring and/or egotistical, but I try my hardest not to be.

OTRT: You are also a political consultant, when it comes to branding (or advertising) how do these two compare?
LH: I actually have about 6-10 twitter feeds / facebook pages going at any given time and I handle them on a scale of tact. For example, when I am myself, I have a pretty relaxed level of tact, though I try not to be overly offensive. I also avoid talking about my clients or my political opinions because I don't want to go down on record has having said anything that could affect my current or future employment.

When I am speaking on behalf of the NYAC or the Governor or someone else who has a lot more to lose than I do, I choose every word very carefully and often with the consultation of others who I can pass off any blame. I also live in constant fear of accidentally tweeting from the wrong account. It would be awkward if the Governor was tweeting about hill sprints.

When I am doing stuff for, I can be a little more liberal, because we are trying to make a splash in the world of women's sports, and you can't be too politically correct all the time if you're going to get people's attention.

OTRT: What are some actions that you think could be taken to gain a wider fanbase in the sport of running?
LH: I actually wrote a blog about this after I spent a week with Team USA in France going into the DecaNation meet:

This meet was so much fun because it was a team effort. It wasn't as overwhelming as college track, with multiple runners and multiple heats. Each country had 10 men and 10 women competing in 20 total events, and the only prize money was the team prize money that was scored on an accumulation of both men and women's events. In my opinion, the way to create a fan base in running would be to treat it like all the major sports - baseball, football, etc. There needs to be teams and there needs to be betting. Fans need to become emotionally or financially invested in their teams. Then they will care.

OTRT:  You live in one of the largest most passionate running communities in the nation, what does New York do that other cities could do to make running more of an industry for them?
LH:New York is very lucky that it is small in size but large in population and there is a huge park right in the middle. And this large population has a lot of disposable income. I am not sure if other cities could really replicate this. I suppose the one thing they can learn from NYRR is to never think small. NYRR has very big goals. They want to be the biggest and best at everything and they make a lot of money holding expensive races every weekend, so they have the resources to do all these big things they want to accomplish.

 OTRT: What have you learned as an Elite runner that you think can be applied to the whole sport to improve it?
LH: I have two answers for this. The first lesson I learned by accident. I could not call myself an elite runner for several years in my early 20s because I chose to work instead. I learned that working was not all it was cracked up to be, but I also got really lucky and worked my way into a position of being able to run again. The greater majority of elite runners keep competing straight out of college, and usually retire by 30 to begin their "real" lives. I think if all elite runners could find a fulfilling and lucrative endeavor in conjunction with their running, they would have longer careers. And this is not necessarily about money. Often athletes just start to feel unfulfilled. For example, it was a huge loss for the running community when Chris Lukezic, one of the most talented runners in the country, decided that he was ready to explore a different passion at 26. It's a shame that he didn't feel like he could do both, and so USA running lost a huge talent. There are other runners who manage to work a real part-time job while they run - for example, former American record holders Ann Gaffigan and Lisa Aguilera. 

The other thing I have learned is that most runners are probably deficient in some important nutrient. Maybe not at the highest levels, where athletes have free access to great doctors, but at the sub-Olympic and lower levels. There are a lot of athletes out there who are not reaching their potential because they are extremely low in iron or vitamin D or Amino Acids or something else. It is very hard to find a doctor that understands the levels that runners need to be at and it is very expensive to get advice from a doctor that is an expert in the field. I was lucky to get fully tested by this summer before they doubled their prices. I learned a lot from the experience, but I cannot afford to take these tests again. Our governing body could do a lot more to both educate athletes and provide the resources to test them. USATF has good funding for the top-tier athletes, but on the non-Olympian level, you are largely on your own.

Putting on a show: An interview with meet director Scott Bush-Part 2

The rest of the interview with Scott Bush, in this segment we go on to talk about what is wrong with USATF

OTRT: Track and Field is the largest participation sport in the US for high school and marathon running is growing ever larger-yet it does not have as many fans as basketball or football, how do you try to create fans at your event? What do you think that Track and Field in general can do to garner more fans?

SB: To be honest, if this sport (track and field & road racing) is ever going to grow in popularity, it is going to have to happen because the event organizers get together and make it happen.  The governing bodies that “manage” the sport due a horrible job.  They don’t do much of anything to promote the sport to junior high or high school participants, and they certainly don’t do anything to try and attract in road runners.  It’s something I’ve come to realize over the past five years, and truly feel the only way the sport will grow, is if event directors come together and actually do something about it.

It’s all about reaching the potential fan base.  Once you reach them, which really isn’t that hard, you have to show them why they should care.  For example, a high school kid who does cross country and track should love their sport, follow it at the prep, collegiate and professional level, and simply consume information on the sport.  Go to a local high school football team and ask every kid on the team if they know who Drew Breese is.  I bet 100% of them, even the fourth string, freshman offensive lineman knows.  Go to a local high school cross country practice and ask every kid if they know who Dathan Ritzenhein is and I bet less than 30% know who he is, and even less know what event(s) he runs and what accomplishments he’s earned.

To be clear, it’s not the kids’ fault for not knowing about the sport or caring about it, it’s the fault of the organizing bodies, it’s the fault of the event directors, it’s the fault of the system and the respect it earns from the rest of the sporting community.  The New York Road Runners dominate the scene in the busiest sporting community in the world.  They stage world-class events, educate through their various programs and races, and make sure the media pays attention to them.  They give people reasons to care.  More of this needs to happen.  There are a hundred different ways to do this, but it has to start happening, and it is squarely on the shoulders of those in charge to make it happen.

OTRT: I know you have a quite a bit of knowledge when it comes to field of communications and you keep a blog on the website, how do you think this helps your meet?

SB:  I’ve been interested in communications since I was a freshman in college, back in 2000.  I started a website called IllinoisRunner, which covered the sport at the high school level.  I saw tremendous things happen coming from the information I reported and others shared, and ever since then I’ve had a rather obsessive interest regarding communications.

I think my knowledge in this area helps the Gala tremendously.  The more stories you can share, the more you grow your community, the greater your event can become.  You have to give your fan base, and potential fan base, a reason to care, and so much of how our world works is being able to entertain and inform.  We try to do both, on a regular basis, whether it be from our blog, our website, our e-newsletter, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, or the event itself.  The most successful companies and events do both, and we try to do the same.

OTRT: How does social media and twitter help the meet?
SB: Social media allows us to interact with the high school distance running community.  We can ask questions, answer questions, share information and so much more, all of which is becoming easier and easier to do with social media.  Instead of going through their coach, they can communicate with us directly, which makes it easier for everyone at the end of the day.

OTRT: What have you learned by putting on the Midwest Distance Gala that could be applied to the sport on the whole?

SB: I’ve learned that you have to produce something original and entertaining if you want people to care.  It’s not enough to simply ride on your history, or assemble races with thousands of people, there has to be something else there, something that sparks people’s interest.  Once you find that spark, you have to remind people about it year-round.  

I’ve also learned that while it’s fine to have passion, if you want something to truly succeed, you have to treat it like a business.  If you can combine passion for the sport, with the excitement of building a brand, the sky is the limit.  Too few of the people in the sport have one or the other, not both.  If you are only passionate, you look unprofessional, and while that works sometimes, it isn’t lasting.  If you are only business-like, you are boring, look selfish and can’t create enough buzz to have a growing event.  It’s all about finding that middle ground.