Permit Denied


Approval to stage an event is one of the key assets of any rights holder/event owner and the refusal of a permit creates significant risks for multiple parties including not only the rights holder but also sponsors and of course participants.

From discussions with many event organisers and my personal experience, it seems that generally permits are getting harder to obtain and in many cities, more permits are required than in the past. This seems to be the combination of increased demand on venues from mass participation sports events and other community events together with increasingly stringent regulations from authorities.

Approval processes seem to vary hugely from country to country and often within cities and towns in the same country. Whilst many cities embrace mass participation events and recognise the value that they bring both in terms of economic impact and community engagement, feedback seems to suggest that many still see them as an annoyance and accordingly are in no hurry to facilitate the approval process.

One of the most common industry complaints I hear is the time it takes for formal approval and a lack of clarity with regard to exactly what is required to get final sign off. In many cities, the actual permit is not issued until a few weeks or days before the event. I have personally experienced a number of nerve-wracking occasions in Asia where the formal permit has only been provided the day before the event. An unfortunate by-product of this kind of situation is the unwanted distraction and crucial time wasted in the final event implementation stage.

A fantastic example of a city that has clear guidelines and processes in place and takes a collaborative approach to the permit process is Sydney. A legacy of the hugely successful 2000 Olympics was the continuation of the Central Sydney Operations Group (CSOG) which was initially formed to facilitate inter-agency collaboration. CSOG meets on a monthly basis and events have the opportunity to present their initial plans to all major government agencies and key city stakeholders such as the Opera House in one room. My experience over many years was a spirit of cooperation and collaboration whereby those present would help identify potential issues and work together to find practical solutions to help facilitate the approval process.

Whilst many event focused cities around the world have a similar “one-stop shop” model my sense is that the majority have a more ad-hoc approach meaning that applicants have to “do the rounds” from agency to agency. Sometimes, especially in developing markets, the requirements and guidelines are unclear and seem to vary from event to event.

Sometimes a global, regional or local event may add another layer to the permit process such as the unfortunate impact of a tragic accident at a dance party in Taiwan where coloured dye ignited and 15 people died. The knock-on impact meant that IMG were forced to cancel or postpone a number of their Color Run events in Asia and had to go through a rigorous testing and permit process before resuming.

At the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference in Bangkok on 3 and 4 April we are delighted to have Jack Caress, CEO of Pacific Sports in the USA, joining us to discuss “The Biggest and Least Talked about Secret of the Mass Participation Industry – Permits”.

I recently spoke to Jack and he shared a number of thought provoking questions and observations. Although Jack is a veteran of the industry with a wealth of experience he would be delighted to hear from both rights holders and venues on some of their experiences and challenges via a short survey. Please click here.

Aside from some of the points that I have already made, Jack highlights a potential challenge for even long established events. “Events that have had a long history at a site can be susceptible to new requirements for fees, insurance, and sponsor restrictions which can sometimes have a significant impact on commercial viability”.

With a charity angle to many events and in a world where there seems to be a growing desire for people to create a giving impact, Jack poses an interesting question: “Is there an advantage in your markets for the not-for-profit or charitable cause events over those that are for-profit? Are the permits different?”.

Whilst the focus of permits is often related to those issued by government or city authorities an area that is equally important is that of the host venue. Jack believes that “Increasingly, there are opportunities for creative long-term strategies or approaches to venue permits that help to secure the value of event properties”.

With the pace of industry consolidation seemingly gathering momentum, the importance of permits highlights the key dimension of their intrinsic balance sheet value in addition to the already crucial annual approval.

It would seem that the best outcomes for a more streamlined and cohesive approvals process are likely to be achieved by collaboration between the industry and various government agencies to help facilitate a “one stop approach” wherever possible.

For more details on how to hear Jack Caress and an exciting line up of almost 50 speakers at Mass Participation Asia, visit

What the Participants Told Us


One key to success in any business is the ability to listen to your customers.

Listening to participants was one of the central themes in an interesting article by Diccon Loy titled ‘Participation Innovation’ that I shared last week.

A great example of listening to participants and turning an industry model on its head recently took place in the race photography sector.

For a long time, participants have complained that official photos are too expensive and take too long to be available. To be fair, the industry has evolved tremendously. I remember moonlighting for one of the early players in Australia, who weeks after an event, used to mail out thousands of prints to participants on a sale or return basis. The process was hugely labour intensive and costly – hence the end price to the consumer was not cheap.

With the advent of digital technology and especially digital recognition combined with some fantastic innovation, key suppliers such as Marathon Photos from New Zealand make photos as well as short videos available within a few hours of the race but still at a relatively expensive price point. I have sometimes wondered, albeit with no clear understanding of the business model and the significant costs of software development, if the sector may have perhaps missed a trick in the digital era by not reducing pricing in exchange for volume.

Combining the consumer feedback with the desire for sponsors to engage in meaningful ways with participants and the massive power of social sharing, Pic2Go, an Israeli company that appears to be rapidly spreading across the globe have significantly disrupted the industry by creating an automated race photo sharing technology and a model whereby participants get the photos for free.

I recently spoke to CEO, Eitan Hefetz“Instead of the traditional race photo model, I believe race organizers should offer their participants the level of service they expect to get these days – sharing their race photos, fast and free”. 

“By adding sponsor branding (to the photos) and allowing almost-instant uploads to social media, events can generate hundreds of thousands of organic impressions within 24 hours after the race, and a massive social engagement around the photos. This also provides full visibility on the generated impact and easy ROI measuring which sponsors can look forward to.” 

The traditional business model generally benefits both the supplier and the event with the rights holder being paid either an up-front fee or royalty on each photo sold or sometimes a combination of both. With the Pic2Go model, the opportunity can be sold to sponsors as part of their core investment or potentially allocated to their activation budget. The costs can even be absorbed by the race organiser. Other suppliers have now also developed a similar sponsor integration model.

The Pic2Go example is one of many where mass participation sports have evolved tremendously in today’s digital age. Participants are more aware than ever thanks to the internet, social media and informative wearables, events are embracing technology such as live mapping and major global brands in the technology space such as TCS and HERE Maps are partnering with events.

Innovation continues to happen on a daily basis and I am personally very excited for what the next ten years and beyond could bring – whether it is a new event concept, an app or technology that would turn the industry on its head or something as simple as a design tweak that could save events hundreds of thousands of dollars or man hours.

The Pic2Go technology will be on display as part of the upcoming Mass Participation Asia (MPA) conference and Eitan will also be presenting on the opportunities of combining the participants’ desire to share their race experience with technology for a more effective and engaging sponsorship.

149.7 Metres – The Difference Between Good and Bad Publicity


Last week, a friend in London sent me a recent BBC article “Great Scottish Run half-marathon course found to be short”.

It highlighted the complexities of delivering successful mass participation events, especially in the heart of major cities, as well as the power of social media and wearables to keep organisers accountable.

The organiser of the event, The Great Run Company, is one of the most experienced in the business, having been around for over 30 years and delivered events for over 4 million participants. So if such an industry veteran can experience an issue, there are clearly potential lessons for others.

The event, held back in October, was won in what at first appeared to be a course and Scottish record time by Olympian, Callum Hawkins, and no doubt hundreds of runners also thought they had set personal and season’s bests.

Questions were posed soon after the race by participants who indicated that their Garmins and other devices showed the course to be about 200m short. Chatter soon started on the likes of Facebook and Strava and the organisers committed to re-measure the course – something that would have had to happen anyway due to a record being broken. The re-measure was only able to be done in late January.

The miscalculation of the distance was down to human error, with two problems identified. A small section of the prescribed route was not followed correctly on race day and in addition, when the course measure was conducted, the roads were unclosed due to essential utilities works. It is easier for measurers to take the exact line athletes will run when the roads are closed.

Measurement of road courses for running events is a complex process that has evolved significantly over the past 30 years. With such huge bonuses at stake these days for breaking of records, it is an even more critical component.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the route measure for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Marathon. A police escort helped close roads, often ridden in the wrong direction. One of the highlights was cycling diagonally across Sydney Harbour Bridge devoid of vehicles apart from a long line of stationary traffic on the lane closest to the Opera House. We were greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers and no doubt a good few people were left bewildered. The measure could clearly have not been accomplished without the support of a number of city agencies.

So what are some of the lessons that we can take from the events in Scotland:

  • Collaboration is key: for the safety of the measurers and to ensure accuracy, the support of city agencies to close roads or provide police escorts makes a challenging task far easier
  • Identify every possible way to eradicate the risk of human error: participants going the wrong way is almost always the result of human error. Look at ways to reduce this both during course set-up and whilst the race is on
  • Monitor your social media channels
  • Have a clear crisis communication plan that outlines how you will communicate clearly and in a timely manner with your stakeholders. This is likely to include sponsors, host city and of course participants
  • Try to resolve and clarify the issue/s as fast as possible
  • Accept responsibility and apologise, as happened with the Great Scottish Run.
  • Appoint a certified course measurer and provide them with the appropriate information and environment to conduct the measure
  • Do a thorough debrief and identify how processes and procedures can be improved

Ultimately in this day and age, there is nowhere to hide as problems are aired and scrutinised in real time on social media. Robust and detailed event planning delivers many benefits including the opportunity to minimise the risk of negative publicity.

I believe that there are huge opportunities for our industry to collaborate and share best practices globally. It is one of the reasons why I started the Mass Participation Asia conference – to bring the industry together and learn from each other. If the operational aspects of such events is relevant to your line of work, do come along to the next edition this 3 and 4 April in Bangkok. Details can be found here:

Managing a Postponed or Cancelled Event: A Seven-Step Framework


In over 30 years in the mass participation industry, I have been involved with numerous event postponements and cancellations with many more close calls.

It is often challenging and each time there are key learnings that can be applied to future events. As with success in all aspects of a mass participation event, it essentially boils down to good planning.

My recommendation is that every time you plan an event, your contingency plan should address potential cancellation or postponement. The mistake that people often make is to focus their plan on event day cancellation but the reality is that you may be forced to postpone or cancel an event weeks or even months before it takes place.

Over the years, I have had to deal with actual and near cancellations or postponements for a myriad of reasons including the death of a participant, huge storms, haze, collapse of a major highway and even political demonstrations to name a few.

More recently in October, out of respect for the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I made the decision to postpone the Mass Participation Asia conference originally scheduled for Bangkok in late November.

The conference has now been rescheduled for 3 and 4 of April 2017 at the Centara Grand in Bangkok. Managing the postponement helped reinforce a seven-step framework that I have successfully used many times in similar situations.

1. Pause

In my opinion, the power of pausing cannot be overstated. Under pressure, it can be easy to rush into action and make decisions without all the facts. Ensure that you take a few minutes, hours or even days before making an informed and considered decision.

2. Evaluate

Together with your core or crisis team, gather as much information as possible and evaluate it, ideally against your existing contingency and crisis plan if you have one, before making a provisional decision and action plan.

3. Engage

Engage with key stakeholders, share your proposed course of action with them and seek their feedback. For example, in the case of MPA in Bangkok, this included Thai government officials, our event partner in Bangkok, sponsors, key speakers, staff and the venue.

Confidentiality is crucial at this stage if you are to manage the communication process effectively. Sometimes, you may be in the awkward position of deciding not to consult with a particular partner if you have concerns that they may leak the decision before you officially announce it. On occasion, the process may be more on a basis of ‘for your information’ rather than in consultation. For example, “I wanted to let you know before making the public announcement that as a result of the impending cyclone we have decided, as per the contingency plan, to postpone the event”.

4. Re-Evaluate

Revisit your plan and be prepared to reconsider or tweak your initial decision based on feedback and impact on your key stakeholders or participants that you may not have initially considered.

Be confident in your decision and be conscious of the potential impact of politics from the usually multiple stakeholders.

5. Communicate

Once the final decision has been made, develop a very clear communication plan to be used across multiple channels including social, digital and mainstream media. Ensure that staff and stakeholders are fully briefed and that there are written answers to likely frequently asked questions. It is important to be clear on who will be the key spokesperson in the event of media enquiries.

6. Monitor

Once the decision has been announced, be sure to monitor the reaction from participants and public across all channels and be prepared to respond appropriately where necessary in a timely manner.

7. Review

At an appropriate time, conduct a formal review of the process and document any key learnings and recommended changes. Even though the cause of the next cancellation or postponement may be completely different, you can be certain that the learnings will be invaluable.

If you would like to share some of your personal experiences (whether from an organizer or participant’s perspective), feel free to comment below.

The seven-step framework is also covered in detail in my book Mass Participation Sports Events available at

*Edit 16/1: Mass Participation Asia has now been confirmed for 3 & 4 April. Full details here:

Opportunities for Mass Participation to Look over the Fence


There is no doubt that the pace of consolidation in the mass participation industry is gathering momentum as large global players from both within and outside the sector make investments and acquisitions.

In August 2015 the world’s largest private property developer, Wanda Group from China, paid a massive $650m for Ironman. Late last year, ASO, the owners of the Tour de France, bought UK based Human Race and media company, DC Thomson, invested in another large UK based agency, Limelight Sports.

In the past year Ironman has made several acquisitions including the Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa, Lagardère’s portfolio of mass participation events which included the Velothon cycling series and a number of marathons as well as Spectrum Worldwide which gave it the rights to the Singapore Marathon. A clear indication that it is moving beyond triathlon into the parallel verticals of running and cycling.

Perhaps the most closely watched play has been that of the Virgin Group. Back in May 2015 Sir Richard Branson announced that he had recruited Mary Wittenberg, CEO of the New York Road Runners and New York Marathon, to head up Virgin Sports. Virgin is in fact no stranger to mass participation with their sponsorship of the Virgin Money London Marathon and Virgin Active London Triathlon and Sir Richard is an active participant in mass events such as the Cape Argus.

The industry has waited in anticipation to see what the move would entail and two weeks ago Wittenberg announced that the program for 2017 would feature four “sports festivals” in Greater London and San Francisco with growth in future years to include cycling events and possibly more marathons and even ultra-marathons. The core focus appears to be events that provide platforms for strong engagement and interaction with not only hard-core runners but also their families and friends.


The fact that mass participation has captured the attention of such large global organisations seems to be an exciting endorsement of the potential of an industry that in many parts of the world is still fragmented and does not have a united voice with a common goal of lifting standards and adopting best practice.

When it comes to benchmarking and best practice my sense is that generally comparisons are made against other events in similar categories and geographical proximity. It seems that international standards from top tier events as well as other sports and industries are not often aspired to.

There are also significant challenges facing many sectors of the industry including tenuous business models, availability of venues, cluttered calendars, erosion of traditional events by novelty and short formats, increased compliance and regulatory hurdles and the ever present increased costs of risk management and security.

Working in mass participation events is challenging with staff generally working exceptionally long hours often in stressful situations. As more millennials enter the workforce looking for higher wages and more flexibility, staff turnover may become an issue in an industry where on-the-ground experience is just as important as classroom learning. It also seems that volunteers are getting harder to recruit and retain.


There are clearly also many exciting opportunities. The increasing power and reach of social and digital media, the insights provided by big data, the recognition by global and local brands of the power of mass participation events to engage with consumers as well as that of governments to drive community and tourism outcomes to name a few.

It is likely that some events and organisers may see the arrival of these new global organisations as a threat but at the same time others will see it as filled with upside.

I believe there is a massive opportunity to learn not only from the fresh initiatives that the likes of Virgin and Wanda bring to mass participation but also from other sports and indeed other industries that will help take the industry to a new level.


It is one of the reasons that I chose the theme of “Inspiration from Beyond Mass Participation” for the second edition of the Mass Participation Asia conference that will take place in Bangkok on 3/4 April (postponed from the original November 2016 date due to the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej).

There is already an exciting line-up of confirmed speakers from other sports and industries together with many mass participation experts from the region as well as the United States, Europe and Australia.

We are delighted to have confirmed Victor Cui, Founder and CEO of ONE Championship as a keynote speaker. In the space of just five years the Singapore-based sports media property has gone from start-up to a position where its shareholders include Temasek Holdings (Heliconia), one of Asia’s largest and most prestigious sovereign wealth investment funds, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, plus several other prominent global businessmen and is on track for a US$1 billion valuation in the next 12-18 months.

What many don’t realize is how fragmented the MMA scene in Asia was just five years ago. I see many parallels with the current state of the mass participation sports industry and am confident that the industry can take some key lessons from the success of ONE.

Over a brief conversation with Victor, he was kind enough to share some of his key insights.

“The biggest challenge ONE faced when starting off was to create a world-class level of sport entertainment in Asia that had not previously existed. Figuring out how to take the sport to a whole new level, breaking stadium attendance records and going into countries that had never hosted an event of this scale including a live global broadcast to 118 countries made it such an incredible operational challenge to be doing business in Asia”, Victor shares.

To overcome that obstacle, another presented itself – staffing. To hire the very best, Victor indicates that they sometimes go through at least 200 CVs to fill a role.

Through his collaborative vision, Victor has “united gym owners, event property owners, martial arts federations and athletes who were initially constantly pitting against one another, often cannibalizing and stunting their own growth.

When ONE provided a global platform to showcase their talent, things quickly turned around. Competitors were united by their aspirations to be a part of the Championship and spectators were clamouring for more action”

Perhaps the time has arrived for the mass participation industry in Asia and other parts of the world to “look over the fence” to learn from others and adopt a more collaborative and unified approach.

If you would like to catch Victor’s presentation or to learn more about the Mass Participation Asia conference, details can be found at

The Power of Mass Participation Events as a Fundraising Vehicle

Mass participation events have long been used as a vehicle to raise massive amounts of money and awareness for a multitude of charities across the globe.

Many events such as the hugely successful Mother’s Day Classic in Australia and the Cancer Society’s Walk for a Cure have been specifically created and owned by charities. Some of the most iconic events, such as the London, New York and Chicago Marathons, include a strong charity component.

In the case of London, which is massively oversubscribed, charities pay the organizers a premium for race entries that they then onsell to participants who have missed out. Participants must commit to raising a minimum amount of funds for the charity. This has helped the event raise over 450 million pounds. There are some similar interesting insights into Chicago and New York City Marathons shared in this article.


As the industry continues to evolve, it creates interesting opportunities as well as challenges for fundraising.

I am sure there is hardly a week that passes for most of us without receiving shares and requests for fundraising support from our network across various social media platforms. The amplification of a cause or event can be massive compared to the pre-social media days and statistics seem to indicate that total contributions have increased significantly in recent years.

It’s not only the ability to create engagement and awareness that has changed but also the ease of making a contribution. The industry has spawned the growth of platforms such as Everyday Hero and Give Asia which make is easy for participants to set up their own fundraising pages and for supporters to make a contribution at the click of a mouse.

Long gone are the days of walking around the office or suburb haranguing friends and colleagues to sponsor you or spamming them with emails. In addition, the power of social media spreads the message and pool of potential donors on a global scale.


On the flip side, charities are facing a number of new challenges:

The sheer number of events and varied options for consumers with the growth in triathlons and cycling and new concepts such as Tough Mudder, Spartan, Color Run, Music Run and host of hardcore endurance events mean that competition for the fundraising dollar, participants and event dates is getting more intense. Some of the original charity events, particularly walks, have experienced declining numbers and in some cases disappeared completely.

Increased scrutiny from government regulators also creates challenges both with regard to how events can be structured as well as the time and resources that need to be allocated to compliance. For example, in Singapore, the 30:70 rule means that the cost of fundraising must not exceed 30% of the funds raised.
In Asia, the massive growth in mass participation events has spawned a number of charity events and the inclusion of a giving component into many existing events. The reality is that the dynamics can be quite different to other parts of the world. In some cultures, raising money for charity through events is not universally embraced. For example, a few years ago on the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, we decided to use the ekiden team relay component to drive fundraising.

The 300 teams usually sold out within a matter of days. We required teams of six to make a minimum donation of $500 to a charity of their choice to qualify for an entry. There was significant backlash on social media and we ultimately only sold 230 teams.

Accountability is also a key question that is asked by both individual and corporate contributors as well as events that are looking to partner with a charity. Is the cause we are supporting worthwhile? Do they do good work? How will contributions be utilised? How do we communicate the impact that each participant will be making? With a number of high profile cases of misappropriated funds, donors in some countries are now more cautious.


An interesting, relatively new entrant to the giving space, is an amazing organization called Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1). The core concept being that for every transaction, businesses or events can create a “Giving Impact”. So it’s not about the amount of money raised but the number of impacts created. For example, an event may decide that for every participant that enters they will give drinking water to a family in Ethiopia or the gift of sight to a person in Bali or a school uniform to a child in India.

All charities are meticulously screened and the process of selecting a beneficiary from hundreds of charities across the globe is as simple as a few clicks of a mouse. B1G1 is a matter of weeks away from making its one hundred millionth giving impact.

At the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference, we have decided to partner with B1G1 to create giving impacts from each registration to benefit villagers in Tigray, Ethiopia to access clean, disease-free water. The impact of such an essential human necessity will reduce their average daily water collection time, reduce child mortality rates and allows children to receive a proper education instead of spending their time collecting water.

Why Ethiopia? Working with B1G1, we have identified WellWishers Trust as the beneficiary because water is such an important element in any mass participation event and the fact that Ethiopia has produced so many top athletes made it an obvious choice.

If you have a story about fundraising and mass participation events, or why and how you picked a charity of choice, I would love to start a conversation by commenting below.

We are in the final stages of assembling an exceptional panel of speakers, which will also include those in the fundraising space, for the second edition of the conference in Bangkok on 29/30 November. Information and super early bird tickets available at

If you can’t make it to the conference but would still like to contribute towards the cause we are supporting, you are welcome to make a donation here:

Second Mass Participation Asia Conference confirmed for Bangkok


It has been almost two months since I sold Spectrum Worldwide to Ironman and I am excited to have started the next chapter of my Mass Participation journey.

Planning is well underway for the second edition of the Mass Participation Asia (MPA) conference which will take place in Bangkok on 29 and 30 November later this year.

Building on the huge success of the inaugural event last year in Singapore, I am delighted to have the opportunity to take the event to Thailand which is undoubtedly a fast emerging market in the Mass Participation space.

Whilst the core objective remains to provide an opportunity to encourage collaboration and foster best practice within the industry, I also believe there are many opportunities to learn from other sport sectors and indeed other industries.

Accordingly, the theme for this year is “Inspiration from beyond Mass Participation”.

I am delighted to have already confirmed Victor Cui (CEO, ONE Championship) as one of the keynote speakers. Victor will share his vast experience of helping develop the mixed martial arts industry over the past six years through ONE. There is no doubt that Victor and ONE have played a significant role in transforming a fragmented, disparate industry into a much more collaborative and aligned group and I feel certain that there will be some valuable take-outs for the mass participation industry.

We are also in discussions with a number of high profile teams including BPL clubs to share their strategies around fan engagement especially in the off-season. I believe there are potential learnings and huge opportunities across mass participation to treat our customers as fans on a year round basis rather than participants that we only engage with for a few months around event time. Whilst there are certainly a number of events and organisations that already have excellent year-round participant engagement, I believe our industry as a whole still has much to learn.

A great example of learning from outside the industry is the Music Run. We are delighted to have Sam Middlehurst and Tim Johnston who will be sharing their journey as “industry outsiders” from startup to running events in 10 countries in just three years.

The speaker panel will still include a number of industry experts and day two will be broken into two core streams – commercial and operations.

We are committed to bringing an inspiring range of new speakers each year and will also bring back some of the top rated speakers from last year. We will be making further announcements over the coming weeks and are excited to have confirmed Josh Black (CEO, GroupM Content APAC) and Neil Stewart (Head of Agency, APAC, Facebook).

I am honoured to have the support of a number of experts on the Advisory Board. Special thanks to Josh BlackWilfred Uytengsu (Sunrise Events Chairman and CEO), Shoto Zhu (Founder and CEO of Ocean Marketing), Craig Dews (CEO of Limelight Sports Group) and Sam Renouf (General Manager, Sports and Consumer at ACTIVE Network).

We are planning to add two exciting new initiatives to the event this year. Firstly, we are in discussions with a number of leading industry members to use Mass Participation Asia as a launchpad for their version of annual industry reports.

Secondly, we are committed to using the event as a platform to drive innovation in the industry. We are working on an Innovation Incubator whereby interested groups or individuals can submit their innovation ideas across all aspects of the industry from technology to new event concepts with finalists having the opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors at the conference.

Reinforcing the key objective of promoting collaboration within the industry I would welcome any feedback either directly on this post or via

I look forward to welcoming you to this year’s event.

More details will be released soon at the MPA website:

Registration opens in September and if you register your interest here, you will receive a special discount code:

For speaking and partnership opportunities, please contact

The Power of Social Media to Impact Mass Participation Sports Events

Technological advancement has significantly changed the way businesses market their products and services. In the realm of mass participation sports events, the impact has been significant in how marketing campaigns have been redesigned to implement the latest trends in tech.

In the following write-up, social guru Simon Kemp who heads up both We Are Social Asia and Kepios shares his knowledge on making the best of social media in your campaigns.

There is a great deal of competition amongst mass participation events, causing many to try various methods to differentiate themselves from the crowd. While uniqueness is desired, when planning your event’s campaign, you should not be trying to emphasize how to be different, but how to make a difference. If you looked at the current market, most events use social media for advertising – as just a promotion channel to push their events to the masses.

Instead, think how to weave social media into the event itself. Ask yourself how you can use social media before, during and after the event to increase the ‘value’or ‘meaning’ for participants, supporters, and everybody else. Take for example the growth of wearable technology – is there a way to pair each runner’s chip with their social account so that it auto-posts to their own social networks when they pass a certain milestone? Would it be something their network would get excited about?

Apart from that, you need to plan your campaign around shared media – it is the quickest way to tenfold your exposure overnight. Think of producing quality content that your audience would be raring to share. The Color Run is a great example that does this really well. A lot of their social content (especially videos and photos) revolves around opportunities for its demographic to share and engage with them. Try applying the same method with an endurance and speed enthused triathlon event and it might fall flat.

The trick to success with shared media is to understand what the participants and audiences themselves are sharing (or have shared at previous events), and then work out how to trigger that sharing and engagement before, during and after the event.

The key opportunity that social media brings to modern mass participation events is the ability for participants and crowds to share their own content immediately with a wide audience. This sharing helps to raise awareness and interest in the event and helps to tell more of a natural story that connects with others on a more authentic level.

With that said, the future looks especially exciting for the industry. We are already seeing livestreaming devices like GoPros in use at a wide variety of sporting events so there’s a good chance we’ll see this kind of tech converging with social media developments like Periscope, so that people can livestream their own activities in real-time to their friends and family, or their fans (if they are a bit more famous).

Simon Kemp will be speaking at the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference as part of a panel discussion: An Integrated Marketing Campaign – Getting the Balance Right Utilising Paid, Owned, Earned and Shared Media alongside other industry experts including Andy Radovic (Maxus), Ian McKee (Vocanic), Jakeena Malli (Mindshare) and Josh Black (GroupM Content). Details and tickets available here:

Unlock the secrets to this complex and exciting industry. Get a copy of ‘Mass Participation Sports Events‘, an essential tool for every mass participation event stakeholder:

How Do You Keep 50,000 Participants Engaged?


Selling out a mass participation event is always a challenge for any event organiser.

All too often, on limited budgets, many events find that some sections of their target market are not being engaged with. Even if an event is full, how do you continue to keep participants engaged so that they come back year after year?

With the continued huge growth of the mass participation sports event sector, it becomes even more challenging. For example if we look at the number of just running events in Singapore, the figures are astounding. The city averages 3-4 events per week and they are mostly combinations and amalgamations of one another. How does one stand out from another and why do some struggle to fill while others sell out in the early bird phase?

CEO of GroupM’s Content Division across the Asia Pacific region, Josh Black, sheds some light of his experiences on the pain that many mass participation event organisers share on participant engagement.

Josh believes that the most common mistake events make when creating content is that most of their content revolves around selling the event or promoting the sponsors. As a result, most content generated falls into interruption based media that most consumers are trying to avoid these days. Black feels strongly that brands and events need to find smarter ways to integrate their product or message meaningfully into the narrative.

“You need to become part of the story, not the advertisement continually interrupting it”, he iterates.

In addition, Josh believes that the biggest opportunity that mass participation events miss is their post-event content. The minute most competitors walk off-site, they never hear from the event again. These people are the biggest potential repeat customers so events need to figure out ways to nurture, build and grow that relationship on a year round basis.

However, when done right, your target community will be invested in your story. Some of Josh’s favorites include Nike’s campaign around their “Women” and “Run the Town” events that build a hyped up community. Also Gatorade’s subtle advertising pieces such as Inside Endurance surrounding their Marathon and Ironman properties, and even how Pizza Hut worked around The Walking Dead TV format where they focused on enriching the audience experience by producing and showing additional back-story content on a webisode platform instead of integrating their product into the show.

Today, the average content a typical person is exposed to is ever increasing. Mass participation events need to start looking at ways they can get in front of their target audience without making them feel that they are being advertised to.

Josh Black will be presenting his piece on Keeping Participants Engaged Through Content at the upcoming Mass Participation Asia Conference 2015. Tickets and details can be found at

How the Smallest of Detail on Route Design and Management Can Make or Break Your Mass Participation Event


I woke up on Monday morning to news of runners at the recent Bangkok Half Marathon clocking in an extra 6 kilometres after a small mistake on the organisers part.

This highlighted the importance of attention to detail and how something as simple as a wrong turn can cause such a profound impact. So I reached out to Dave Cundy, one of Australia’s most experienced race directors for some of his opinions on race routes.

As Vice President and Technical Director of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Racing (AIMS), Dave is no stranger to designing routes for mass participation events, big and small including the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He believes that there are three key elements to consider when designing a route:

  1. Be clear on the objectives of the race – this is a no brainer but many a time, organisers fail to tie the race course back to the objective of the race. You don’t want boring routes for a fun run and neither do you want erratic roads with lots of twists and turns for competitive ones. Recognise that the more complex the route is the more risk there is of runners taking a wrong turn.
  2. Work closely with authorities – involve them from the beginning. Know what’s possible, what their concerns are and plan around that. Treat the authorities as partners and with respect and they will be a great asset.
  3. Seek iconic start, finishes and/or other components of the course– play your cards right and these iconic locations or sights can spur your participants on and provide a great way to showcase your city on TV and on the multitude of social media platforms that are now so accessible in real time during events.

Event organisers would know that designing a route has to come in hand-in-hand with measuring it and that produces another set of challenges. Many people are not aware that measuring a marathon course is a detailed and complex process that can take days. In his 30 years of experience, Dave lists his top three challenges:

  1. Educating authorities on what’s required to measure a course – it is not their job to know everything about mass participation events. It is essential to keep communication with the authorities simple and clear – be upfront with your intentions.
  2. Factoring in traffic – not every road can be completely closed to traffic for the duration of the race. Always factor in how traffic could impact your race course and distance and what can be done to maintain the participant’s experience.
  3. If a course has a fixed start and end point, such as the Singapore Marathon which starts in Orchard Road and finishes at the iconic Padang, there needs to be somewhere that the length can be adjusted to get the exact distance. Sometimes this is overlooked in the initial design process.

Why is it so important to accurately measure a route for a sanctioned running event? Dave cites that:

  1. Paying customers deserve two key elements essential to any race over a standard distance such as a marathon or half marathons – an accurate time on an accurate course.
  2. If you are paying a timing company to time your race but you don’t accurately measure the distance, you are wasting your money because the times are irrelevant.

Dave Cundy will be addressing these questions and a lot more in his 30 minute presentation on Designing and Measuring the Best Course for Your Event at the upcoming Mass Participation Asia Conference 2015. Details and tickets available at