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Discussion: Increasing O awareness in 2017

in: Orienteering; News

Apr 17, 2017 8:45 PM # 
A perennial (chronic?) topic among orienteers is the need for more people to know about our sport. But word of mouth only gets us so far. At some point of scalability, we're talking about implementing real marketing strategy.

We have some dollars available from the 50-year anniversary fund to make this happen in 2017. Success will require that we (1) have some level of agreement over the direction, (2) connect the dots between central planning and local club benefits, and (3) act quickly, before 2017 opportunities pass us by--because growth takes time.

Attached is a marketing plan that provides insights into several strategies for centrally-planned local growth:
1. Influencing search with Adwords assistance (existing $5K proposal, lasts 6 months)
2. Increasing social media presence with Facebook, etc. (setup plus assistance)
3. Increasing PR (paid and volunteer) around specific news - For example, World Orienteering Day in Antarctica, and near you in the US
4. Improving club website effectiveness (template plus assistance)
5. Improving awareness through organized, low-cost basic promotion.

If you could invest $8K of OUSA dollars to grow awareness, what of do you feel are the two strongest candidates? (Extra credit for those opinions reached after reading the attached document...):

Bob Forgrave,
COC, OUSA board member
Apr 17, 2017 9:40 PM # 
Just to be clear: We want to increase O awareness, not necessarily starts? In either/both cases I thinks it is important to measure the effect (cost/benefit) of implemented strategies.
Apr 17, 2017 10:10 PM # 
A few comments...

I'm glad that the document mentions some fairly easy, but fairly easily missed, opportunities like listing events in the calendar ("what's happening") pages of newspapers, but also radio stations, and other calendars. My local chamber of commerce hosts an events calendar for the city, and will list city-run events, non-profit events and member business events. Other cities have different arrangements, but often there's something. A newspaper calendar listing is how my (very active at the time) family got involved.

Is there evidence that two months advance notice of events is best (as opposed to three days, two weeks, one month, three months, six months) for newcomers? Just curious. It might be interesting to see what the effect is of various degrees of advance notice. Promoting the event at all may be far more important than the amount of advance notice (though I know that it matters a lot for some, especially many existing orienteers). If a club misses the two month date, it's still well worth doing something I suspect (though newspapers and radio often have a strict two week notice deadline).

The website improvement didn't mention mobile (or I missed it). This is pretty important. Access to sites is increasingly by mobile device, and especially if someone double-checks the site on the way to the event, it's nice if the site is readable on someone's cell phone.
Apr 18, 2017 9:40 AM # 
Agree with JimBaker that we need to try a range of advance notice.

If I hear about something two months in advance, I think "that sounds cool" and forget about it. If I hear about something a day or two before, and have a free day, that's when I'm most likely to try something new.

My first O' event was one I read about in a Friday newspaper weekend activity section, and the next morning I got up and drove 3 hours to give it a try. If I'd seen it a week or more ahead, I'd likely have forgotten about it.

That may not be a typical experience, but its certainly one possibility. Many of the people we want to attract are already heavily into other outdoor activities: hiking, biking, running, etc., and may have that last minute open day just waiting to be filled. Others, for example scout troops and youth groups, need much more advance notice to plan an activity.

Good point about mobile access too, and important not to be loaded with so many high tech bells, whistles, and graphics that it takes forever to load or doesn't work with last year's phone.
Apr 18, 2017 10:36 AM # 
The 1:30 video I put together on Facebook that cost me $10 to make had 5,000 views. A lot of my non-orienteering friends saw it and thought the sport looked really fun. If someone gets me a GoPro and a stabilizer I'll keep making videos and promoting the heck out of them. Not too much of an official proposal there, but I think my experiment's results merit some consideration.
Video here:
Apr 18, 2017 1:16 PM # 
An effort to get on a running podcast ( orienteering is a running sport?), and/ or create one? That's a good way to get on 'radio'. Not sure on how much $$ needed but OUSA involvement could help. Maybe runners world would be interested in our banner year, they have 2 podcasts and DVOA has a map of their office's trail running spot.

I've heard orienteering mentioned several times on running podcasts but never really explained . Fell running had a full episode on trail running podcast. Barkley gets a lot of attention, and while not orienteering, involves maps.
Apr 18, 2017 3:40 PM # 
Pouring money into Google Adwords or Facebook ads only works if you have a proven history of ads that profitably convert to sales (or memberships, or starts). I would be hesitant to go that route unless you've already got a club that's doing it profitably, and you're simply testing that campaign nationwide.

Facebook events and meetups seem to me to be the best way to advertise orienteering in a social way, but only if you can convince existing club members to RSVP and participate through these social channels.

I started orienteering last year, and have attended about a dozen foot orienteering events, one MTB-O and two adventure races. Everyone I know on facebook knows about the MTB-O and the AR, but nobody knows about the foot orienteering. Why? Because somebody took photos of me at the bike and AR events, and I immediately shared those with everyone. The fastest way to get people talking about orienteering on social media is to give them photos of themselves looking happy and adventurous out in the woods.

There is a lot of low-hanging fruit that should be addressed before spending money on advertising to increase O-wareness or to try to bring new people to the OUSA or club web sites. Spend some of that 50-year anniversary money on developing some best practices for communicating to non-orienteers with words and images they can relate to.
Apr 18, 2017 4:43 PM # 
I agree that images (video or still) is the path forward. Old people might look at newspaper event calendars. My kids will probably never know what a newspaper is, just like I never used a typewriter in my lifetime.

Two ideas that I had: 1) Get a professional sports photographer to come shoot an orienteering event. There are many photographers out there that shoot road-running/trail-running/MTB/cycloX/Mudder races. People can purchase their own action shots and share on social media.

2) Produce a professional video that can go to the masses. If it goes viral then your job is done.
Apr 18, 2017 6:07 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
#2 seems the easiest. It's cheap and easy to experiment with dollar amounts that are recouped by a handful of new or additional attendees. Plus there's already a successful example

Warmest regards,
America's Most Likable Orienteering Club
Apr 18, 2017 11:34 PM # 
If I'd seen it a week or more ahead, I'd likely have forgotten about it.

That may not be a typical experience, but its certainly one possibility.

I'd say that's pretty standard. You might get the odd 'We already had something planned so would have been nice to have more notice' but these days people are more inclined to leave it until the last minute to plan anything in the event something better comes along.
Apr 19, 2017 12:22 AM # 
I think that many first timers plan a few days ahead. Repeat orienteers, and groups like scouts (as Mike says), are the ones who more often plan ahead. (But, it takes more than two weeks notice to get in the newspaper. Far less for social media I suspect. Believe it or not, I get response when I list events in the newspaper, radio, local calendar, etc. Not knocking social though.)
Apr 19, 2017 6:09 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Genuinely curious - Jim, what is your bang for buck on the promotional channels you are using? How much effort for what kind of attendance? If it's on the good side, I'm happy to try it as well. I haven't much because: I almost never check papers, I never hear about events on the radio, and I can't find the event I did submit to one of the calendars. But I am happy to be wrong if there are effective ways to use them.

I forgot to vote for my second - club website template would be nice. The template is going to be good enough for us for now, but some sort of payment/member management would be great..

My third vote is a thread title of "Increasing Owareness"
Apr 19, 2017 6:25 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Produce a professional video that can go to the masses. If it goes viral then your job is done.

Is it possible to contact the Puresive guys (the ones behind the best produced videos) and have them make a video for us? Just use whatever fantastic action footage they have that would work, but use US-specific text, voiceovers, and supplemental American footage if needed.
Apr 19, 2017 10:46 PM # 
I recall spending an hour to promote four or five nearby events in newspaper, radio and local calendar, and got one or two responses for each event, not all of whom actually turned up. Don't bother sending something in if they'll receive it less than two full weeks before the event. Almost all such calendars have a strictly enforced two week deadline, probably for their sanity. I wouldn't even cut it close. From having done this a lot in the past, if it's close to or after the deadline, it silently ends​ up in the trash. If it is received before then, it usually gets in.

A thread title of Owareness sounds wonderful.
Apr 20, 2017 12:49 AM # 

Please... no...
Apr 20, 2017 2:27 AM # 
Wonderful, for your social media promotion, how much effort vs. how many attendees attracted?
Apr 20, 2017 9:01 AM # 
From my anecdotal experience of late, social media is all about how many 'likes' you get, even though many of those people putting in the likes don't go to events.

and got one or two responses for each event, not all of whom actually turned up

I think this is also standard for potential new orienteers. The one call I received regarding an event for our recent urban series never ended up showing. Last year I had tons of email communication with a guy who got all fired up to come to a MTBO event even so far as to tell me how many friends he was bringing, then some last minute work trip cancelled his attendance and that of all his friends.
Apr 20, 2017 10:26 AM # 
It definitely is a problem for orienteering that those running the sport and putting on the events are also those running IN the events.
We do our share and act as event directors, course setters, timers etc but then when our turn is done we want to be out there looking for controls and running on new maps not seeking out new recruits for the sport. I can point to example after example of clubs in various urban areas of Canada and the States where orienteering got off to great starts as groups of friends came together to join orienteering but since then the local programs have stagnated or died because instead of staying home to promote a local schedule they preferred to take off to West Point or the Flying Pig or some other great adventure.
In the 50 years since orienteering got a foothold in North America sports such as triathlon, duathlon, adventure races, spartan races have all been invented and surpassed orienteering in popularity.
The difference? All the latter sports are usually run and staged by non-participants, in many cases by people who make money, sometimes make a lot of money from staging their events. They know that promotion is the key to the success of their events. They also know that that in marketing their sport just like Disney marketing they "sell the sizzle; not the steak."
I'm not saying we should turn to pro event organizers but it might help in some areas. However it is important to figure out that you are not just promoting a ramble in the park you are, for example selling, a navigation adventure and inviting people to discover skills they didn't know they had. etc etc
Apr 20, 2017 3:31 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
tl;dr; 30 minutes a week in season and $0.50/per extra start, +12 starts per event

For the overall like increase that got us over QOC (which is in every way probably a better managed page, but we advertise!):

I found the nicest backlit flag at sunset I had. I made up some copy like "Experience your favorite parks in a whole new way - find checkpoints, on trail and off". Hit send, and then just reupped my ad limits whenever I ran out. 15 minutes to get started, occasional five minutes to check in. Took us from 300 organic likes to our current 1600, although the pace was slowing slightly so lately all the ad funds are targeted to fans and friends of fans reminding them about the event since FB doesn't serve our midweek bumps to much of our audience.

For individual events, if I have a venue photo (I am accruing a library of 'em), I grab the nicest or closest to accurate terrain photo (if I really can't find park A and park B looks similar), put some text in, hit go. Close to 5 if I have good photos from the course setter.

Pre ads, we had 630 starts (2014). In 2015, where I started screwing around with ads (about $30 per event), we went to 800 starts. So +170 for $300, or roughly $0.50/piece, which is probably covered by the $5 member or $10 non member entry fee associated with each start.

As far as administrating the facebook page, you can invest as much time or as little time as you like. If your course setters send useful info and pictures, that makes it easy or I have to make stuff up. If efficient, <10 or 20 minutes per week. If screwing around/crap posting/etc maybe a bit more. This week I did a little "avoiding parallel traps" thing that took a few / fifteen minutes. A nice route choice write up might take 20-30 minutes, since I'm slow, but livelox will help speed that up I think (auto orients, easy to toggle people on/off etc. no quickrouting by me, etc.) I think those extra ones help keep our not-diehard yet folks get more engaged.

Non means tested in season FB post pattern:

Tuesday: Hey, something's coming up (5 mins)
Thursday: With these particular details (5 mins)
After event: Results (5 mins)
After event: Photos (10-15 mins if I have to pare down the collection)
After event: Ad for next week started (5 mins)

I experimented with Twitter, but we have approximately (1) active Twitter user who engages with us there. He's really nice, but it didn't seem to get us much action, so as much as my personal feelings are counter to FB usage, FB sees the bulk of effort since it's easy and works for us. Haven't tried instagram/etc. Did try Google+, audience was more active but very small and already committed. Open to suggestions
Apr 20, 2017 5:35 PM # 
Thanks; useful info.
Apr 21, 2017 2:22 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Current campaign example stats. Started a couple days ago. Target was: fans and friends of fans, hoping to get them to show up Sunday at one of my favorite maps.

1,535 People Reached
48 Engagements
$16.11 Total Spend

My ~$30 spend will be justified with some small combination of a handful of members or non members.

The alternative to ads is to have attractive, socially-connected people engage in your activity. I am pretty sure one such person's photo in our latest album is responsible for it being a 3500 reach album instead of a pretty-good-for-us 2000 reach album.
Apr 21, 2017 8:33 PM # 
For what it's worth, Google will grant eligible non-profits $10,000/month in free adwords. Might be worth looking into if money is part of the issue.
Apr 22, 2017 1:08 AM # 
The alternative to ads is to have attractive, socially-connected people engage in your activity.

+1, and those fat and ugly should not be allowed near start/finish. Better hide in the woods.

Maybe also should bring some cheer-leader squad to national meets. This would be the American way.
Apr 28, 2017 8:34 AM # 
Maybe also should bring some cheer-leader squad to national meets. This would be the American way.

It's now also the Olympic way.

This discussion thread is closed.