7 Questions for Amy Latourette of Vineman, Inc. (Case Study)

Vineman, Inc. manages two major events each year. The first, Ironman 70.3, is the go-to race for folks looking to qualify for the Ironman World Championship 70.3 at Lake Las Vegas. This race usually sells out in three hours, and in 2011 saw 2300 top-caliber athletes compete.

Vineman’s second event (two weeks later) is actually four events: an Ironman distance triathlon, called Full Vineman; an all-women’s Half Ironman distance triathlon, called Barb’s Race; and two Aquabike events – a full and a 1⁄2 Vineman that consist of a swim and bike portion only. About 2200 athletes compete on that day. These two weekends keep Vineman, Inc. busy year round, according to Amy Latourette, the organization’s registration coordinator, who was kind enough to spend some time with us recently to discuss their work.

How many people does it take to organize all of your events?
We have four full-time employees. I handle registration, work with the pros, manage the website, organize onsite packet pickup, etc. Shelly Lydon handles volunteer coordination and follow-up for the next year’s races, while Tracy Pugh focuses on sponsorships, the expo, and more. We also have about 20 seasonal employees who come in to help in the office, set up the transition areas, race course and finish line area, clean equipment, etc. Our owner oversees it all.

How do you incorporate fundraising?
Our primary fundraising is with Barb’s Race. It all started when Barb Recchia was diagnosed with cancer and to make a long story short, Barb’s Race was born out of this and from this we would raise funds for local cancer related groups. We’re in our 12th year of Barb’s Race and we’ve raised over $500,000 to date. Barb chooses the local organizations who will be the recipients of this money. By keeping it in the local community we get to see the results of the money we (and the athletes) have raised. Half of all entry fees for Barb’s Race go to the charity grants along with participant fundraising and donations.

Have you seen an increase in online registration over the years?
We have definitely seen online registration increase, especially for the 70.3 because it sells out so fast—in three hours. There’s no option for offline with that kind of a time crunch. But overall, more and more are signing up online compared to mail-in entries. In 2006 there’d be stacks of envelopes on my desk with checks. Now I get maybe a quarter of that.

Your races sell out consistently. How do you manage wait lists?
Previously, participants would mail in paper registration forms with checks to add their names to our wait list (the last year we did this was 2009 and we had 600 paper entries!) Now the ActiveWorks registration system lets potential participants register online for the wait list and when their name clears the wait list we simply contact them via email and they register online. This makes it less time consuming on both ends.

How do you communicate with participants, volunteers and donors to keep them coming back to your events?
We send a thank you after every race to our volunteers and athletes and provide them with next year’s dates. We also send an email prior to registration opening. We download everyone who has participated from the last three years so we reach as many people as possible.

How does social sharing help your event?
It’s really cool that when people sign up for a race and click the ‘Like’ button, it tells their friends they’ve signed up.
It’s a great way to get the word out. Going forward we’d like to increase our social media visibility. We’re starting a new event—a mud run—and we’d like to experiment with this.