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SIMA hosted an event planning and marketing Boot Camp Wednesday at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
The event was divided into three sessions. First, James Leitz, Senior VP and Director of Action Sports for IMG discussed his involvement in “the trenches” of event planning.
Next there was a panel with Graham Stapelberg, VP of Marketing at Billabong, Paul Gomez, the SVP of Global Events for Hurley, and Tim McFerran who runs the Maloof Money Cup, on how to host a world class contest.
Lastly, Bill Fold, the Director of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival, shared his experiences producing one of the biggest music festivals to date.
James Leitz said last year IMG had its biggest year ever. That’s good news for people wanting to do events, and proves that in a down economy people still want to party, especially when it is free.
Within action sports, he said there are more non-endemic sponsors wanting to come into the space.
On the surf event panel, there was a bit of discussion on the challenges of leveraging mainstream media at surf contests.
Webcasts are becoming the norm, but Graham Stapelberg pointed out that smart phones are changing how consumers take in media.
“Kids are not watching a whole webcast for eight hours; they want to watch quick pieces of Dane Reynolds and Taj Burrow,” he said.
There was also some discussion on the fact that sports like surfing and skateboarding are still hard for mainstream viewers to understand.
One panelists mentioned that some fans at the US Open are most excited when a surfer shoots through the pier, while at skate events, some fans are most enthralled by how much air a skater can launch out of a ramp rather than how skilled of a trick they can execute on a street course.
Big wave contests like “The Eddie,” which is iconic and involves a situation where participants can literally die, were pointed out as being an exceptional surf event, as was the Pipeline Masters. Both events involve big waves, which makes for more mainstream media friendly content.
Until there is a perfect wave pool, panelists agreed that gaining mainstream media will continue to pose a challenge for surf events.
Besides ideal waves, good sponsors, working with the city where they are hosting the event, and prize money are all important factors contributing to successful large-scale events in alluring both the top athletes as well as media.
Lastly, Bill Fold talked about Coachella. The music festival currently uses 7,500 staff members that manage 75,000 attendees. They have sold over 1.5 million tickets to date, with 41% of sales going to people outside the western U.S.
The entity is truly a destination event and one of the biggest keys to its success has been keeping fans in mind first.
Bill said from a business standpoint, they keep sponsorship minimal, and do their best to only include relevant brands while keeping their participation at the event minimal, authentic and very subtle.
“We don’t wants fans to feel like they walked into a hockey stadium to see a Taco Bell sign switch to another advertiser,” he said.
Since fans spent on average $475 per person per ticket at Coachella, Bill said his team does everything they can to ensure fans have a good time. Everything is built with safety in mind first.
Any mistakes Coachella has made in the past from booking the wrong band to including the wrong sponsor, has all stemmed from not keeping their fans and consumers in mind first.