Monday, October 22, 2012

Marketing, dignity and all things EPIC

A few weeks ago I decided to throw my hat in the ring for another ridiculously fun racing adventure called EPIC Racing Arena. Epic is an event that will take place in December 2013 that will put competitors in a large stadium and have them face off in front of a large audience. The obstacles will be huge and will require strength, agility, speed and problem solving and the winner’s purse will be enormous. There will be bands. There will be festivities. The competition will no doubt include the best obstacle racers in the world rendering the event unlike any other that has yet to be organized. I have met many of the founders and coordinators of this event and I genuinely believe it will be EPIC like no other.

After submitting my application, I received notice that applicants were encouraged to have a facebook athlete page as well as a blog to help market themselves for sponsorship. Working with Simple Brandz already, I understood how important it is for sponsors to gain visibility through their athletes’ blogs and athlete pages. They are, after all, businesses willing to give us athletes product and funding in exchange for some additional exposure. I enjoy sharing my racing experiences with fellow racers post-mortem as well as giving my family and non-racing friends a glimpse into my motivation for being part of a culture that they might otherwise think is crazy. This made creating the blog easy. I might even go so far as to say that the blog has given me an outlet I have been looking for.

The facebook “athlete” page, on the other hand, has been a little more painful for me. Promoting myself as an “athlete” hardly seems right. I am not a professional athlete: I am a mom and high school teacher. I do not ooze talent, strength or other athleticism that can justify such a title. I am determined, a little stubborn, OK at lots of different things, and I have found a niche out there for people who just simply aren’t good at quitting. Hardly worthy of a facebook “athlete” page, if you ask me. I did, however, set one up last week with the idea that this would be a way that I could separate my regular life from my obstacle/adventure running life. I hate blog-spamming my friends and family trying to determine who is genuinely interested in this crap and who isn’t. So I set up the page, invited my friends and from here on out I will phase out the inundation of all things muddy on my regular facebook page (unless it is really awesome, that is).

So this leads me back to EPIC. Shortly after starting my blog, I received my first challenge. The challenge was in the form of a short workout which was to be posted and shared on the EPIC website. The winner of this challenge will be the first athlete selected for the EPIC racing area event. The catch: you have to promote your own video to gain votes to win the challenge through shameless self-promotion.

Since the challenge was released, my inbox, notifications and facebook newsfeed have been slammed with “vote for me” pleas from my friends also aiming to be part of EPIC history. From a marketing perspective, this is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Aspiring competitors are providing free advertising for an event that they haven’t even been selected for. I get it. Business is business and these guys have found their way into the obstacle racing private groups, onto the personal pages of well-decorated athletes, and in places they have never imagined. Unfortunately, for me, this is where I have to draw the line. Self-promotion is something I have never been fond of and allowing a marketing plan to dominate my personal facebook page, my “athlete” page, or even a casual conversation with a friend for a vote is unimaginable. I want to gain entry to an elite event based on my abilities, my race resume and my accomplishments, not my ability to promote and plead for votes. To me, applying for entry to a race should not make me feel like I am running for prom queen.

So, I sit this one out. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to do this event. I know I can be a fierce competitor, and I have no doubts that this will be EPIC. However, I don’t feel that it should be up to me to convince anyone of that. If you see me at this event, it is because I am qualified to participate. Period. If I don’t make it, then I never deserved to be there in the first place.

I mean no disrespect to the founders of this new event. In truth, your marketing plan is genius. I also want my friends who are going head to head in this challenge (and future ones) the best of luck. You are all brave to put yourselves out there and I respect every one of you for taking the risks that you have. Please understand that I couldn’t choose between you, as I have never met another athlete at one of these races who wasn’t EPIC in their own way.