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

Why Mass Participation Event Sponsorship is Fast Becoming a Popular Marketing Platform


Today’s marketplace has almost every business fighting to get noticed. Marketing and sales techniques have been evolving with time and those who fail to adapt struggle to stay afloat. Sean Davidson who heads up Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Asia Pacific’s Marketing & Communications division gives us a little insight to a growing trend in marketing that every business, big or small, could leverage: mass participation event sponsorships.

In the last couple of years, TCS has begun synonymizing themselves globally with marathon events. Their extensive portfolio of marathon partnerships includes the famed TCS NYC Marathon which regularly sees over 50,000 finishers annually.

But why sponsor a marathon? Sean shared that these sponsorships were aligned with their business, provided the right platform to promote the TCS brand and their digital technology capabilities. What is more, these partnerships have since had a tremendous impact on both their brand value and internal fitness levels.

Since entering this new realm, TCS has gained global brand recognition and is now commonly associated with their leading-edge digital capabilities to a broad audience. Additionally, running sponsorships have accentuated their internal Fit4Life program amongst their 325,000 employees, making distance running a major part of their staff’s lives, with CEO Chandra leading the way as an avid marathon runner.

Of course, event sponsorships aren’t all rainbows and butterflies. Sean quips that these come with their unique set of obstacles. The numerous small markets and limited resources in Asia Pacific have been a challenge to maximize the branding, account, and internal marketing opportunities required for a major event like the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. Sean reckons that TCS has to do more to activate these, raising awareness for TCS as a partner, and to bring more of their key accounts, staff and even general public to experience these events.

With that said, the results speak for themselves. TCS has reaped fantastic results, both for the business and their employee wellness and will continue to leverage mass participation sporting events as an integrated marketing exercise.

Want to learn more on how you could begin your foray into mass participation event sponsorships? Come along to the upcoming Mass Participation Asia Conference 2015 where Sean Davidson will be sharing a case study on The TCS Story: A Global Marathon Sponsorship Program Grows the Brand and Company Well-Being. Details and tickets available here: