Today’s technologies have virtually created a whole new world for biking, running, and triathlon events. Really — virtual races and indoor events are growing in popularity every day, and traditional endurance events can get a virtual piece of the pie with a little research and preparation.
Virtual races and indoor competitions can expand the audience of your established brand to competitors all over the world by removing physical barriers to participation, including location, weather, and even time itself. And best of all, you can save money and resources in the process.
HOW VIRTUAL RACES WORK
Virtual races allow endurance competitors to sweat away from the crowds and on their own time.
Zwift, a leading virtual training program for cyclists, is a popular virtual racing tool. As of early 2018, participants on Zwift average a million miles per day. Zwift functions as both a training program for individual growth and a proper racing platform. Here’s how it works:
- Users sign up for a monthly subscription to the Zwift virtual platform, downloaded to their TV, computer, or mobile device.
- They then purchase and attach Zwift trainers to their road bikes at home to cycle indoors. These trainers take input from the bike to build an avatar based on the rider’s data.
- Zwift participants are ready to race. They can join virtual group rides with friends and pedal through exotic locations around the world — even a made-up virtual course named Watopia.
There’s fantastic prize money for virtual races, but you’ll be glad to note race organizations aren’t footing the full bill. At the CVR World Cup this year — where 10 women gathered to hop on their trainers and virtually race through Watopia — competitors were awarded a whopping $100,000 in combined cash and prizes.
This number is so high because the CVR World Cup Finals allowed competitors’ friends, followers, and sponsors to contribute to the cash prize. A nice opportunity to sweeten the incentive to win — at no extra cost to your organization.
The fundamental things needed to host a virtual race are similar to a traditional race: proper event marketing, your race management software (you’ll need to decide whether you want to track finish times), and medals and race swag (depending on how you run your virtual race, keep in mind you may have to mail out these items). But the main difference is there’s much less to coordinate than a traditional race.
BENEFITS TO HOSTING VIRTUAL RACES
Your brand can see benefits from hosting virtual races of your own. These include:
- Less coordination. This means no medical staff, permitting, or route configuration to worry about.
- A global pool of participants. You can attract participants who may otherwise be unable to join, such as those who live in remote areas, work late-night shifts, or have children or other commitments at home.
- Low labor and equipment costs for races. No speakers, tracking equipment, water stations, or cleanup crew needed.
- No weather-related complications. Participants can race in a temperature-controlled space.
Another way to see many of these benefits in your race is through indoor events.
DON’T OVERLOOK INDOOR EVENTS
Hosting indoor endurance events, such as marathons and triathlons, broadens the pool of participants for organizers as well, especially on far ends of the spectrum: newcomers and elites.
For new participants, indoor events are a less intimidating alternative to road races. For elites, they offer fewer unknown variables, which can throw off a potential personal record. For instance, Minnesota’s Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon is held in January when much of the state is covered in snow.
Looking for more inspiration or ideas? Check out active.com for other indoor races around the world.
BENEFITS TO HOSTING INDOOR EVENTS
Like outdoor events, coordinating an indoor race means finding a space to swim (pool), run (track or treadmills), and pedal (stationary bikes or trainers).
Though this makes them more expensive than virtual races, indoor races can still help with costs and conveniences, such as:
- Road closures and permits.
- Weather cancellation.
- Coordination with photographers and spectators.
- Water stations and restroom rentals.
- Mapping a route.
Indoor races also expand your audience to a range of participants. These include:
- Elites recovering from injuries and searching for a course without potholes.
- Older participants who are more comfortable committing to 26.2 miles with immediate access to medical attention and nearby restrooms.
- New participants thankful for the opportunity to hydrate more frequently than at a traditional race.
- Participants with sunlight or temperature sensitivities.
Many triathletes especially appreciate indoor races for the swimming section. Participants swim in individually roped-off lanes, as opposed to an open lake or pool, where they may unintentionally collide with others.
Another advantage to indoor racing is electronic scoreboards, which can help keep marathoners abreast of their splits lap to lap and encourage cheering from spectators.
Plus, spectators get to enjoy the entire event from the stands. Indoor events give friends, family, and fans one place to gather and watch the entire competition, as opposed to catching glimpses along outdoor courses from lawn chairs and folding tables.
ADD INDOOR AND VIRTUAL RACES TO YOUR CALENDAR
But first, test it out. Add a virtual or indoor event in the off-season of your traditional outdoor event to keep your brand top of mind throughout the year. You might just gain a new demographic of participants and engage your core audience in a new way. Virtual and indoor races can help you stay current and expand your revenue streams — a virtual win-win.
Want more info on expanding your brand? Download the free white paper “Should I Expand My Race?” for tips on when and how to add a new event to your lineup.