What We Learned About Promoting Our First Strongman Event
If you have been following our content at all, you probably noticed by now that we recently held a strongman event. And if you follow us too closely you've probably also noticed that we have some occasional digestion issues, and we don't actually scrub anything below our knees when we are in the shower... But that's not really essential to what we are talking about today. So more about the "2016 Massenomics Strongman Showdown", and what we learned.
Our competition consisted of five events with thirteen competitors. There were no weight or age classes, just one open division. We did not affiliate ourselves with any federation or organization for the contests, and it was promoted as an entertainment event for spectators. Basically, we wanted this thing to be fun for the competitors and be an attention grabbing spectacle for the audience. Listen to our post-event podcast here!
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four bench pressing.
We tried to get as much done and out of the way BEFORE the day of the event. Our hope was to make the day of the competition run like a well oiled cable crossover machine. Thinking about everything that would go on during the day, step-by-step, allowed us to plan for a majority of the small details. Undoubtedly there was, and always will be, issues that arise that nobody can predict, but keeping those snafus limited kept us from wanting to bash everyone over the head with the nearest 45 pound plate.
Pick your events, and total number of events carefully. Our goal was 4-6 events with a good variety of strongman disciplines. We did not want to go above six events because of the physical toll that would place on the competitors in one day. The timeline also had to be a consideration. We knew we were going to cap the event at 10-15 competitors, and we had a 2-3 hour maximum target for total run time. Making the event enjoyable for spectators was a primary concern, so we didn't want to make it any longer than a typical sporting event.
We also had to choose events based on the equipment we had at our disposal. Some implements were built specifically for the event, but they will be utilized long into the future. There are six or seven main strongman event categories, so we aimed for hitting as many of those as possible without being repetitive. Here is what we decided to go with:
- Farmers carry for distance (carrying category)
- Log press for max weight (cleaning and pressing category)
- Tire flip for distance/time (flipping or pulling category)
- Car deadlift for max reps (deadlifting category)
- Atlas stone load (loading category)
Larry Legend practicing his car deadlift. Getting ready for the Massenomics Strongman competition at the Brown County Fair on August 20th. @thebrowncountyfair The Ford has 280 HP, but Larry has well over 1,000. @larry_schuck Thanks for the plan on how to build the platform to @startingstrongman #massenomics #browncountyfair #bcf #cardeadlift #strongman #strongmangym #beastmode #horsepower #agriswinealliance #asa #gymmotivation #dadlife #dadbod #manbun #sunsoutgunsout #strengthathlete #hatchback #ford #fordfocus #turbocharged #redhattotheback #strongmanmotivation
Our advice from a promoter's perspective is to make sure to get some people practicing with all the implements prior to the day of the event. This will allow you to gauge what weights will be appropriate, as well as make sure that the equipment is going to withstand some heavy use. You don't want things breaking in the middle of the event, and you don't want all the competitors to bomb out of events, or be able to do them effortlessly. You need to have a contingency plan in place for each event incase the equipment breaks in the middle of the competitions. Have replacement implements ready to use, or plan on throwing out the specific event. Either way, it is important to explain to the competitors prior to the competition what will be happening. It won't be an ideal situation, but at least everyone will be on the same page before it starts. Check out a video of some of our event practice here.
Good sponsorship made a significant difference for us. The money allowed us to cover necessities, as well as add some elements to take it to the next level that would not have been possible without their help. Our sponsorship cash went towards:
- Liability insurance
- Event shirts
- Prize money
We made sure to get our sponsors as much exposure as possible, so that they hopefully got some actual value out of it, rather than basically just a donation. That included logos being prominent on the shirts, the programs, signs and banners placed at the event, and several mentions by the emcee. We had a primary sponsor of the entire competition, along with five smaller sponsors (one for each event). If you need some pigs, printing, concrete, construction, or the world's best BBQ sauce then check out our sponsors.
This includes the head judge, time keepers, score keepers, and helpers to move equipment between events. You have to get competent and assertive people in these positions. Indecisive and inconsistent judging will really bite you in the ass. If competitors feel cheated, they are usually quick to bring negativity to people around them, and that can be contagious.
We really knocked it out of the park with this one. We had all the right people in all the right places. All our helpers on the field were experienced lifters, and our head judge was the largest human being we could find. That's a good take-home tip that keeps the competitors from complaining about any calls. We found out you can not have too many people helping. We had nine people doing these jobs, and I think that ended up being the perfect number.
- 1 head judge
- 2 judge's assistants running the stopwatch and recording scores on the field
- 1 person in charge of the flight order and keeping competitors ready to go
- 3 helpers moving equipment between events
- 2 scorekeepers at the scorers table compiling event results
You will need some sort of portable PA system set up for this. Make sure you are going to be able to run power to where your event is located. You will want it to be set up so you can have the announcer easily switching between speaking and playing music. Good music is cool for the competitors, but it really makes a difference for the spectators. It will keep people more engaged, and it prevents that awkward silence in downtimes. We went with a good mix of Miley Cyrus' greatest hits, and that Friday song by Rebecca Black.
We had a pro from the local radio station doing the announcing for us. He did not have a lot of knowledge on the sport of strongman, but that definitely was not a detriment. In fact, it probably made it an even more relatable experience for the fans. The biggest attribute the announcer needs to bring to the table is creating energy. Tell our emcee how bad ass of a job he did here.
I think everyone knows by now that Facebook has overtaken a lot of the more old fashioned forms for local advertising. Make sure you use it. Create an event. Post some cool pictures and videos. Depending on your goals you may want to consider paid Facebook advertising. Don't forget about the other forms of social media too. Instagram, Twitter, and FarmersOnly.com can all be valuable as well. Try to get the local newspapers or radio stations to talk about it also. Newspapers usually need material. What could be better than an awesome event like this?
Keep promoting at the event. Make sure your info and logo as well as sponsors can be seen in several places.
If you think our competition shirt is the cat's meow, then you might be interested in checking out our apparel in our online shop.
If you build it, they might come
All of this being said, there is still no guarantee of the turnout you are hoping for. There are variables out there that are beyond anyone's control. We learned that first hand when the weather decided to drop some unexpected torrential down pours on us sporadically throughout our event. We were fortunate to have the option to move our event under the shelter of a large circus style tent. So keep your eye on that radar, and expect the unexpected. Mother nature and Murphy, from Murphy's law, can kind of be a bitch and an asshole respectively.
Promoting an event like this will be stressful at times. But at the end of the day the most important thing is that the competitors and fans had fun. That and getting filthy, filthy rich.
It's all about the Benjamins.