The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (SCHKM) is the biggest race event in Asia and is organised by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association. Offering a marathon, half marathon, 10K, and wheelchair race, the event attracts approximately 73,000 participants both locally and from overseas. Its history began in 1997, when 1,073 participants ran the first Hong Kong Marathon from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. Now it has become a signature international sporting event, recognised as a Silver Label Road Race by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and was recognised as a “Brand Hong Kong Event” by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.
Q&A with Mr. Dennis Ng, Executive Director of HKAAA
SCHKM HAS GROWN FROM 1,000 PARTICIPANTS IN 1997 TO 73,000 IN 2014. WHAT FACTORS DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO SUCH INCREDIBLE GROWTH?
When the race was first introduced in Hong Kong, most participants were running it competitively and trying to set PBs. Then in the early 2000s, people became more concerned about their health and running for fitness became a priority. I think that was a big part of helping the race grow— we nearly tripled in size in 2003. On the other hand, Standard Chartered became our title sponsor since 1997 and their brand helped us promote. Within five or six years, SCHKM became very well known locally and then started to attract a lot of overseas runners. We really focus on improving the event every year and making sure it’s a great experience for participants.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS YOU ENSURE THAT PARTICIPANT EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST POSSIBLE?
We put a lot of thought into the logistics of the race and make changes based on runner feedback. We want the day to go as smoothly as possible for participants. For example, we have a very efficient race bag service, which is offered for the marathon, half marathon, and even 10K (the races start and finish in different points). We make sure the process is extremely organised so the bags are waiting for runners when they arrive and can collect them quickly. We don’t want them to wait, especially if it’s bad weather. Another improvement we’ve made is to change the course so the last 3K is spectator friendly, whereas it used to be limited to official race staff only. Now the runners can finish while being cheered on by their friends, family, and community. I think this is a big contributor to having a great race experience.
HOW HAS ACTIVE’S TECHNOLOGY HELPED YOU IMPROVE THE ONLINE REGISTRATION PROCESS?
The overwhelming response from local and overseas runners was a major burden on our previous registration system. We used a local Hong Kong IT vendor and consistently had problems with registration and payments. Our secretariat had to do a lot of follow-up work to verify the payments of every participant and deal with inquiries from runners about the status of their registration. We did some research and learned that ACTIVE Network had a more advanced system and resources. ACTIVE’s system combined online registration and payments, which is what we were looking for. Runners now know immediately if they have registered successfully and we didn’t receive any complaints this year. It was a big improvement in the registration experience.
SCHKM IS A RUSH SELL-OUT EVENT. HOW DID THE REGISTRATION SYSTEM MANAGE THE DEMAND?
We metered the online traffic by opening up registration for SCHKM in 4 phases—people registered for the marathon at a different time than people registering for the half marathon, and so forth. This helped us keep the system from being overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people trying to sign up at once.
WHAT BENEFIT DID YOU SEE BY PARTNERING WITH AN INTERNATIONAL REGISTRATION PROVIDER?
ACTIVE has worked with other major marathons from around the world and was able to share with us their experience and best practices. Our previous vendor was a local IT provider whereas ACTIVE offers a mix of sports management and IT solutions. We really experienced a big difference in the level of partnership.
WHAT SUPPORT DID ACTIVE NETWORK’S TEAM PROVIDE YOU BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE EVENT?
Overall ACTIVE was very helpful and always tried their best to solve our problems.
WHAT FEATURES OF THE TECHNOLOGY WOULD YOU LIKE TO INCORPORATE MORE IN NEXT YEAR’S EVENT?
Next year we’d like to explore the online merchandising feature and see what we can do to get our official partners and sponsors involved, which could be really beneficial. We wanted to do it for 2014, but time was running out. We’d also like to increase online interaction by running a Facebook campaign and testing some email marketing to our 2014 database.
"We work with ACTIVE like a partner, whereas our previous vendor we were the customer and they were the provider. ACTIVE can advise us on how to promote or improve our events, as well as support us with the registration technology." Dennis Ng, Executive Director of HKAAA