By Hank Jandrell, Head of International Account Management
In pursuit of living a more fun, active life, I joined a local running club 12 years ago and shyly wheezed around the running routes, slowly building my endurance and confidence until I was ready to face the public and take part in my very first event. It was through word of mouth at my local club that I even knew what events were happening and when.
I entered a local charity run at Dorney Lake in England to test my mettle. Payment was processed online through a basic but functional checkout system. The event was well organized and some pre-event email communications helped me raise funds for a good cause. A few days later, my official time was published online with the option to purchase a less than flattering photo of myself in mid stride.
I didn’t purchase it.
All told, my race day expectations for an event merely involved safety and organization. Nice scenery was a bonus.
Fast-forward a decade, and all that has certainly changed.
Rich Multimedia Equals Rich Experiences
While the fundamentals of a successful event remain organization and safety, the participants’ expectations have grown exponentially.
Now we want a rich multimedia experience to remember the moments—not just on race day, but for the weeks and months leading up to it. We want the ability to share our experiences with friends and family, and even allow them to follow along while taking part. We no longer want to grab our medals, jump in the car and go home. We want to stay, be entertained and party with friends.
The event has become an extension of my circle of friends and family. And corralling all of those people into it requires the athlete to become the marketer.
One example of this shared experience came during my first half iron distance triathlon in Surrey, just outside of London. It was a hot day and my training had gone well that season. I was pushing the limits and was on the final loop of the run. I saw my children cheering me on with handwritten signs on white boards, giving me the morale boost I needed at the exact moment I needed it most.
I came into the final stretch, stars in my eyes from the effort. As I crossed the line, exhausted, I looked up to see that the organizer had given my finisher’s medal to my son to place around my neck. That look in his eyes as he crowned his dad—that attention to detail, that emotional intelligence—still sends shivers down my spine, even three years later.
That is an experience not just to remember, but also to share.
The Road Map for Racing
Looking beyond the horizon, I expect to see an era where virtual reality, biometrics and cardless payments merge together. Imagine taking part in an event where fingerprints take the place of card payments; where virtual reality contact lenses provide a real time route map, performance data and encouraging messages; the ability to redeem a sponsor’s offer with the blink of an eye—a truly fully immersive experience.
That may be a bit futuristic. So what’s next in the near term?
Well, more aspects of the event planning process will certainly come together, from being served highly relevant information about events I am interested in, to knowing instantly which of my friends are taking part, to receiving exciting pre-event communications that allow me to easily share with others so they can join me on this amazing day.
I also want to know in advance what the event village will look like, how to navigate it, where the stalls and promotions are located and have the ability to follow friends and athletes on my phone so I can cheer them on and join their celebrations. I want to get good deals and buy memorabilia on event day, and I don’t want to carry cash with me to do it. In fact, I don’t even want to carry my credit card to do it.
I expect and have already seen more social media channels used to promote and share the experience, from live broadcasting on Facebook to Snapchat stories by the athletes as they’re participating.
I don’t want to queue for hours to collect my race pack. I don’t want to find the right line for my surname or bib number. I just want to walk up, grab a pack and go—convenience.
I don’t want things to be difficult. After all, I can either choose to do an event, or choose to watch a movie or go to a festival instead.
I dare race organizers: Give me an experience I won’t forget.
Are you prepared for what’s next? Learn how the right technology serves as a foundation for you to focus on creating new and rich experiences.
Hank Jandrell is the head of international account management for The ACTIVE Network based in London. He has spent over 13 years bringing tangible business benefits to organizers, and in his free time trains runners and triathletes to achieve personal bests.