Active helps first-time race director get participants, manage the event, and build a platform for continued success
In December 2010 Marty Epstein decided it would be a good idea to bring a Gran Fondo bike event to New Jersey. He had no idea what he was getting into. Not only was it the first such undertaking this bike shop owner had ever journeyed into, but just days before the August 2011 event was scheduled hurricane Irene hit. Still, with so much blood, sweat and tears invested, Marty wasn’t giving up. He rescheduled, rerouted and put on the event September 18 on a surprisingly gorgeous day that New Jersey residents were more than ready to embrace. The ride ran smoothly, the post-event Fondo Festival with food, music and fun was a blast, and plans are underway for a 2012 event. We caught up with Marty just days later to discover more about what he does and how Active helps him keep things moving.
I’d read about Gran Fondo in an industry trade magazine – it’s really popular in Europe and seemed like it could be the next latest greatest thing in the States. It was almost a whim, though I also thought it would be good for our store’s reputation, Marty’s Reliable Cycle, for the New Jersey bike industry and for New Jersey itself. Looking back, I didn’t realize what a leap of faith it was. It clicked, though. I thought it was a great opportunity.
There’s nothing like a Gran Fondo; it was a way to give bikers something different. Also, I come from a philosophy of sustainability. I wanted to build community, to help the economy and the area, to promote healthy living and the wellbeing of people and the community, all in an environmentally sound way. We had three charities: The Seeing Eye, raising dogs for the blind; Homeless Solutions, providing shelter, transitional housing and other services; and Grow it Green Morristown, promoting sustainability.
As a bike enthusiast, I had used Active.com as participant. Still, I researched options and the more I read the more I knew Active would help us get the event going and get national exposure. Active.com really is the place most people turn to when looking for an event to participate in. Not many registration sites are as large and cooperative as Active, so it’s really the only place to be. Plus Active gives full service: online registration, ActiveGiving for the fundraising aspect, even a volunteer module.
One of the most impressive things was that 20% of our registrations came from out-of-state people – people from 20 different states! That’s amazing.
We worked with our rep on marketing campaigns and saw direct results. We were able to target market specific demographic/geographic areas. A Gran Fondo isn’t like most bike races, so it was pretty important to get that right. We had 43-, 63- and 103-mile courses, with challenging terrain. It’s an endurance event that appeals to a different level of athlete. Our Active rep understood all of this and gave us a lot of good information and helped create good marketing plans. He was very flexible and invested in us like we did for ourselves. It’s a nice relationship we really appreciate.
The reports are really helpful. We applied for a grant from New Jersey’s Division of Travel and Tourism and the marketing report data helped us make our case, reflecting the tourism dollars we got and how we kept tourism dollars in the state. We could see exactly where participants came from, which tells us what we need to know about our target marketing for upcoming events.
We have gotten lots of positive feedback on our Facebook page and I expect we’ll double the event’s size in sponsors and riders for 2012. We originally had 1000 riders registered for 2011; ultimately we had over 600 participate (because of the hurricane). I allowed those who didn’t make it to defer to next year. I was very proactive. Not every bike event manager does this and I know I’ve gotten stuck in the past as a rider, basically losing my registration fee. I didn’t want to do that to our folks.
With one extremely successful event under our belts, we want to target 2000+ participants from around the world for next year’s event. I’m sure we can do it, especially with Active on our side.
The network effect that Active creates helped Marty launch a first-ever event by helping him GET participants from across the country, MANAGE the needs of biking enthusiasts, and BUILD on his success for the coming year.
One of the most impressive results was that by offering registration on Active.com, we were able to reach people from other states. Twenty percent of our registrations came from out-of-state people – from 20 different states! That’s amazing.
A Gran Fondo isn’t like most bike riding events. Our Active rep helped us create good marketing plans, which allowed our event to grow. Plus, the reporting features enabled us to compile data for our grant application to the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, demonstrating how we brought and kept tourism dollars in the state.
Active helped put us on the map. I expect we’ll double the event’s size in sponsors and riders for 2012. We now know where our participants are and can communicate with them about upcoming events and general biking news.