On Publicity and Successful Goldsprints Events

In some ways, I realize I've put the cart before the horse:

At the moment, I don't actually own a goldsprints racing setup. (I have made a deposit on a used rig and I will own it by the beginning of the summer.)  I've insinuated myself into the local race series here in Burlington (Mad Dashes), and tomorrow night, we'll hold the fourth Mad Dashes event in what has been a very successful series. 

And here I am with a website. A twitter account. A Facebook page. Here I am saying I want to run goldsprints events in other places, with the rig I don't own yet. Here I am trying to figure out how to grow and promote an event that many people outside of the cycling community have no idea exists.  

It's going to be a learning experience:

What is success for a goldsprints event? Like many things, there are levels. I'll admit that I went into this year with guns blazing: I pictured growing Mad Dashes into a signature event that would attract cyclists and non-cyclists alike, young and old, avid and casual. I imagined people who hadn't been on a bike since they were a kid throwing a leg over one of the race bikes and suddenly, in the midst of an eye-bleeding sprint, tapping into just a little taste of all the fun and awesomeness bicycles have to offer. I imagined getting people hooked. 

Instead, from what I can tell, our events have been attended by a medium-sized crowd of core racers and their friends. The faces are pretty familiar at this point and many of them go way back to the beginning of the series years ago. They are avid. They would come if we put on Dashes in an abandoned building with no heat. They would race even if we didn't have a live DJ, fancy lights, and beer. They would probably pay to race (many did in the past). 

That's great, but I want it to be more than that, and when I get it off the ground later this summer, my guess is that if I partner up with a shop or a group or club who wants to put on a race, they are going to want more than that as well. They may not have the luxury of an embedded user base or a recognized race series to go on.

So, publicity:

I've had a few ideas boiling away about how to publicize goldsprints. Of course, I have the various social media accounts established and ready to go. I have local media contact sheets for the Burlington area. I have the Green Mountain Bicycle Club listserv. What I don't have is a whole lot of confidence that any of those things are really going to generate new ridership.

What do I think will work?  Showing up and making contacts, one person at a time. Leveraging fans of the venues where races will be held, leveraging fans of DJ's or musical acts that will be there for the event, etc.  

My commitment to any potential partners I work with to organize goldsprints events is that I'll do everything I can to help you get people to your event, That's what this website and those social media accounts are all about. However, if we end up working together somewhere outside of Chittenden County, I'm probably going to lean on you pretty hard to get out there and talk up your event. Get local personalities to show up. Get radio coverage. Get posters up around town. Hit up other local places for prizes to give away and see what they can do to help promote your event. You might want to offer some sort of prize or raffle for your hardcore riders who show up with a new racer.  It isn't rocket science, but I expect that in the end it's good old-fashioned shoe leather that's going to get the job done.  I believe that especially to be the case when you reach outside of the existing bicycle community.

Planning for a successful event:

Here's where I come in. I know the equipment. I know how long it takes to set up, how far the various cords and cables will reach. I know how bright my projector is and about how long it takes to cycle a given number of racers through a typical event. I also know to check everything three times and how to have backups in the case of flat tires, mechanical gremlins, odd computer issues, and the like. When we talk about your venue, I can put that knowledge to use and make sure I exceed your expectations.  I imagine we'll probably talk or email a couple of times ahead of your event, and I won't commit to an event unless I can be on-site at the venue at least two hours before race signups start to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch.

Measuring Success:

Putting on goldsprints as one of many events at a bike festival or concert may have a totally different metric for success than I have set for Mad Dashes, where the number of riders and crowd size is the most important thing (after safety and fun, of course). If it's part of a larger event, or a sideshow at a Farmer's Market or a race: Did the rollers sit idle, or were people lining up to race?  At a more private event, it might be more about camaraderie than competition. At a school event it might be more about enthusiasm for bicycling, or awareness that bicycle racing exists (last I checked there aren't a lot of high school cycling teams out there). Fundraisers are easy- did you meet your fundraising goal? 

Hoping for overall success:

My goals for the first year of this project are simple. Mad Dashes happens in Burlington next year, as good or better in 2014-15 as it has been in 2013-14.  More people race. more people come to cheer the racers on. More people try goldsprints for the first time and more positive energy for bicycling exists in the universe.  Beyond Mad Dashes, I want to see more goldsprints in the rest of Vermont and beyond. I want to put this unique setup to work more days out of the year and I want to use it to do good things for Vermonters, good things for bicycling, and good things for organizations and clubs that are doing other good things. It's really pretty simple.

Hit me up on the "Contact" page of this site, and let's make it happen.   

Matt BoulangerComment