Running a Race Ambassador Program

It’s very fashionable these days to hear people speak of “influencers” - people who work with brands to promote their products and services to a niche audience in which they have a strong following.

Well, our industry has had that for a while. They’re called race ambassadors and they can be your race’s special influencers, going out into the community and spreading the word for your event in their running club, weekly group run, or the next race or expo they attend.

Today I have the pleasure of talking with William Dyson, Communications Manager for High Five Events. William manages the race ambassador programs for such prestigious events as the Austin Marathon, 3M Half Marathon, CapTex Tri and Kerrville Triathlon, and he’ll be sharing his thoughts with us on how you can launch, grow and manage your own race ambassador program, including tips on using incentives, keeping track of your ambassadors’ performance and ways to come up with unique ideas to make the most of your ambassadors’ community reach.

In this episode:

  • What a race ambassador program is about and how it works
  • The benefits of running a race ambassador program: expand your brand reach in your target community
  • Inventivizing race ambassadors: comp codes, event gear, networking opportunities, and other perks
  • Building a race ambassador program that effectively represents the local running community
  • Deciding how many ambassadors you should have, based on your budget and human resources
  • Sharing content/ social media posting schedules with your ambassadors
  • Recruiting non-local race ambassadors to expand your race reach in neighboring markets
  • Bringing your team together: social meet-ups, happy hours
  • Over-communicating!
  • What makes for a good race ambassador and how to pick a good mix of race ambassadors for your program
  • Making the most of celebrity race ambassadors
  • Pros and cons of basing ambassador perks and comp codes on performance
  • Offering prizes for your best-performing ambassadors
  • Mixing up returning and new ambassadors
  • Advertizing your race ambassador program in the community
  • Race ambassador program ROI: what return/results you should expect from your race ambassador program

Thanks to GiveSignup|RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 22,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use GiveSignup|RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about GiveSignup|RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.

Episode transcript

Panos  2:05  
William, welcome to the podcast!

William  2:07  
Thanks for having me. I'm glad to be here and ready to kick this off.

Panos  2:10  
Well, thanks a lot for coming on. First things first, you're based in Texas. Is that right?

William  2:15  
Correct. Austin, Texas - the live music capital of the world.

Panos  2:19  
Super. That is where High Five Events - the whole company and crew - are based as well - right?

William  2:24  
Correct. The company was founded here. We're still here. We run with all the groups and swim with all the clubs. So we're in this community as thick as we can be.

Panos  2:33  
So tell us a little bit more about High Five Events. Quite a few people would know about the races you put on in the US. I mean, you have some really prestigious names on the roster. But tell us a little bit more about High Five Events, and the kinds of events you put on, and also a little bit about your role within the organization.

William  2:52  
Yeah, so High Five was founded in Austin. We're one of the largest privately-owned large-scale endurance event production companies in the country. Currently, on our roster is the Ascension Seton Austin marathon presented by Under Armour, which we'll kind of talk a little bit more about today as it pertains to our ambassadors, but also the 3M half marathon, which is one of the fastest half marathon courses in the country. We also have the CapTex Triathlon, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year as Austin's only downtown triathlon. And, then, we also have Kerrville Triathlon Festival which we just produced a couple of weeks ago at the end of September out in the Texas Hill Country. And that event actually just celebrated its 10th anniversary. So we've been around for a while. Like I was kind of saying earlier, we're endurance athletes ourselves, so we know what we want and what we expect from events in terms of the production of those events. But we also tap into the community so that we kind of have that firsthand feedback that, maybe, some other event production companies don't necessarily have access to.

Panos  3:55  
And your role within High Five Events-- you're the communications manager, is that right?

William  4:00  
Yes, sir. I wear a couple of hats within that. But that pertains to everything from press releases to content creation, media relations, community relations. I also handle and manage the elite athlete program for the Austin Marathon, Austin Half Marathon, and also for the 3M Half Marathon. And what we'll really dive into today is essentially the ambassador program manager.

Panos  4:26  
And how are things with races coming back for you guys? Are you back to full-swing?

William  4:31  
Oh, yeah. We're definitely back to full-swing. We did have kind of a modified version of the Austin Half Marathon earlier this year from its original date. We worked with the city to have a postponed date in late April, but the Kerrville Triathlon Festival that we just produced a couple weeks ago at the end of September saw the largest field in the event history. So that gives us a pretty good picture and some indicators that people are ready to come back, people are ready to race, especially since they've been off for 12, 18, 24 months.

Panos  5:03  
I think Texas from-- I was discussing this with a guest I had, in a few episodes back, who was the Marketing Manager for the Woodlands Marathon and he was telling me that Texas generally fared quite okay through the crisis, I guess. I mean, it was one of the first ones to open up to in-person events. So do you guys have a particularly hard time through the pandemic?

William  5:26  
I guess it's as difficult as with everyone else. But what really came in handy was our working relationships with our sponsors, our partners, the City of Austin, and various officials that we interacted with - just from an event standpoint alone, being able to really come together and kind of have a mind meld - to be able to not only produce events that are beneficial to the city and to our communities, but also to do that in a manner that's safe for staffs, volunteers, and participants.

Panos  5:58  
Super. That's nice to hear. Today, as you mentioned, we will be talking about race ambassador programs - really interesting topic. It's something that's we've had a lot of interest in our group - to have a podcast about this. For people who don't know, what are we talking about? What is a race ambassador program and how does it work?

William  6:17  
Essentially, you're recruiting and bringing enthusiast and fanatics of your event closer into your world in a sense that they are now essentially representatives of the event. And they love it so much. They run it every year. Or maybe, they're real big into the local running community - whether they led a group or two, or they helped to produce smaller events, or they volunteered all the time. But it's these individuals who just have this outgoing personality about them - they love running - whether they're new runners or veteran runners. That's something we'll talk about a little bit later. But it's an extension of the event in the company and in the business. And what it does is it allows individuals like myself to essentially be in multiple places at one time, because we empower these individuals and give them the necessary tools and the resources to go out and be the ambassadors and representatives of these events that, then, can kind of infiltrate into the community a little bit more and really expand the impact that we have.

Panos  7:27  
And from the point of view of someone like High Five Events or from the point of view of a race director, what do you try to achieve with a race ambassador program? So why do you do it in the first place?

William  7:39  
It's a chance to increase our exposure. It's a chance to expand the brand awareness and to really increase that community engagement. I mean, there's only so many group runs I can attend, there's only so many 5K's I can attend, and so many happy hours I can go to. But when you really start to interact and engage with these individuals who are highly engaged with your event - and they're big fans of your event already - to bring them further into the fold. It's a chance to basically expand the amount of individuals who are out there stumping for your event, helping push registration, talk about price increases, sharing blogs whether it's tips or stories of training for your first half marathon. It's just a chance to really kind of increase your reach and expand that engagement beyond what you can currently do or are able to do in-house.

Panos  8:38  
And the ultimate bottom line is to help you get more people registered for the event - right? That's what the ambassador's job sort of is about?

William  8:47  
Yes, I would say that's the 1a to 1b which is enhanced community relations, expanded brand awareness, increased exposure reach. As communities start to gain momentum - when it comes to building endurance in sports, or building healthier lifestyles, or eating better, or increasing the amount of exercise that they do - people start to congregate and come together and, then, you start to see these little clubs and these groups form. And these are just people that want to get together and have coffee and tacos after their morning run or grab a beer after a hard evening workout. And so, to be able to tap into these opportunities is a little bit more difficult when it's one individual or maybe two individuals in a company. But when you can expand the amount of eyeballs and faces that are out in the community representing your event, that's what leads to the increased exposure, brand awareness, and community engagement. And that's when things really start to tick up which can then lead back to increased registration, website clicks, blog readers, or social media followers. All of these things are cyclical and they all feed into one another. That's why I kinda go back with the 1a to the 1b as mentioned earlier. Yes, we do want to sell registrations. But at the end of the day, we want people go into our site, follow us on social, come to some of these community events in order to get them in our world and in our community, and have them stay because they're enjoying us so much.

Panos  10:18  
Yeah. And obviously, these are people who feel quite passionate about the event - right? They really like the brand. They really like taking part. Beyond that, what are sort of the incentives that are driving race ambassadors to go out and represent the brand and do well for the brand? What's in it for the race ambassador?

William  10:37  
Yeah, so they get gear and codes - right? So we kind of swag them out, make sure that they have shirts, shorts, hats, coffee mugs, pint glasses, bandanas, anything you can think of that would incentivize someone from a gear standpoint, because it's kind of that exclusivity factor - right? You only get so many ambassadors per year. And each year, we have a different design and different gear. So it's really kind of exclusive to that year. So it does have that exclusivity aspect to it. Of course, like you mentioned earlier, they get to represent an event that they love. And that goes back to exclusivity because not everyone that applies to be an ambassador for our events is accepted due to sheer budgetary standpoints and also the management of a vast amount of people. I think we'll talk about that a little bit later too. But we also give them codes. They get codes that they can use in order to incentivize people to register for the event. But then we also give them comp codes for the event itself. And that's one of the perks. As they're accepted into the ambassador program, they essentially get a free comp code to register for the events. So specifically, for the Boston Marathon, they can run 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles, or they could run the 5K - whatever they want to do - just as long as they're being the ambassador that they said they would be when they applied for the program. And it's also an opportunity for those individuals to network and gain exposure for themselves, whether they're coaches, whether they're with a certain group, whether they just started a club of their own. It's really a chance to kind of further cement themselves inside the running community here in Austin, but also in Central Texas, and then across the state.

Panos  12:21  
Just to clarify this point, we're not talking about necessarily elite runners, or only fast runners or, like, people of that kind of sort?

William  12:30  
Oh, correct. These ambassadors are all across the running spectrum - first-timers, veterans, people returning from injury, people who have never raced a marathon before, someone who's training for their first half marathon, Austinites, people from Houston or Dallas. I think we have - didn't check the roster - at least one individual from Mexico City. So yeah, that's one of our goals to not really zero in on the fast people, or someone with a large following, or someone with a popular blog, because that's not representative of the endurance community in and of itself. And that's what we try to do. We try to make sure that our ambassador program and the individuals within it represent the running community at large.

Panos  13:18  
So you mentioned following there. And I would have thought that someone with a large following would be kind of like a no-brainer to have in your roster because the more people they can reach, the better for the event, the better for the bottom line. But you're suggesting that the story behind the individual, and the passion and the enthusiasm they have for the event, is equally - if not more - important to just the numbers of how many people follow them on Instagram or someplace?

William  13:44  
Correct. I mean, following does factor into it. Audience does factor into it. But there's many levels of influencers out there - right? And if you look at your nano, macro and micro influencers, they have audiences of their own. They may not have 100,000 followers or a million followers, but if it's 100 or 1,000 of them who are highly engaged followers, and that audience is commenting all the time, or providing feedback, or liking or spreading the awareness of that individual-- there's no one size fits all and each level of influencer has its own benefit. And that's why we try to not necessarily just look at individuals with large followings. We really look at the entire spectrum. And that's why we review every application thoroughly just to see who does this individual work with, who do they run with, which groups or clubs do they run with, do they also swim and bike and do triathlon? Like, what is their reach? What is their exposure? If you have a million followers, your exposure and your reach can still kind of have that same impact from a percentage standpoint because that individual with a million followers isn't necessarily going to reach all 1 million followers. And even if they have 1000 comments, chances aren't as likely that they'll be able to respond to or engage with all of those individuals. On the other hand, for a nano influencer who might have 100 or 500 followers, the chance that they can engage with their audience is much higher, which then also reflects highly upon themselves and also the brand as they're an ambassador for a specific event.

Panos  15:31  
And you mentioned there that when you set up a program like that, particularly, for the event you guys put on like the 3M Half and the Austin Marathon - pretty prestigious events - you must get a decent amount of people applying - right? I mean, a lot of people would love the gear, would love just being part of the brand, wearing the gear, or being an ambassador. Can you give us some numbers roughly like, in your case, how many people would apply to next year's Austin Marathon race ambassador program? And, of those, how many would be accepted in the end?

William  16:04  
Yeah, so actually, we opened this up for 2022 a couple of months ago. So we already have our ambassadors in place. I want to say that we had 80-90 applications and we accepted 33. And a lot of those numbers - as far as the acceptance rate is concerned - stems from a budgetary standpoint as well as a leadership and management standpoint.

Panos  16:32  
Yeah. It wasn't obvious to me when I was thinking about race ambassador programs, but this is managing people - right? This is managing a good 30-40 people per event. And as you said, it's not just the money you put in to get the gear, to train them, and all of that, it must take a lot of time to just coordinate all those people.

William  16:56  
You're right. I mean, in terms of communication, if you just think about emails, social media, potential phone calls, text messages, conversations at group runs or smaller events, or other community events, the management aspect of it is often overlooked. I have basically created a private Facebook group for all of our ambassadors just as another means of mass communication. And not everyone's going to be on Facebook. I get that. I understand that. But those individuals who might not check their email all the time might check Facebook more. It's just a different platform and a different opportunity to communicate. But what that Facebook group does is it also opens up the floor for other discussions, and it opens up the floor to questions that an ambassador might ask of me that another ambassador might be able to answer, or at least start a dialogue about that question until I can get there. And what that does and what I've seen these last couple months is that tends to reduce the amount of communication that I have to do. If I can go in and see that question has been answered a couple of times by a couple of different ambassadors, I'm like, "Yeah, Chelsea and Brian are right. Thanks for your help!" And, then, be able to move on and move forward with the next task at hand. But yeah, communication is massive because you can have these individuals in your world and you can have them representing your brand and your event. But if you don't communicate with them, they will be left in the dark and that can only lead to bad things because they''ll not know what to do, they'll not know what to say, when to say it, how to share things, what things they should share, or how they can answer certain questions. And I'm a big over-communicator. As a communications manager, that's just kind of my MO. So any information I can give them 1-2 weeks out in advance and then provide reminders throughout, I'm going to do that for them because that then empowers them to communicate messages and share content that we as a brand and as an event want shared. 

Panos  19:10  
And that's actually a great tip. I've seen this kind of approach being used with managing volunteers as well - creating the community and the peer-to-peer network where people can sort of like answer questions for themselves. It takes a lot of time and burden off of your chest, I guess, to run all of those things. 

William  19:28  
You're empowering them - right? And that's what you want from these ambassadors. You want them to represent your brand and your event to their fullest capabilities. And if you don't giving them all the information that they need, or answer their questions, or talk through scenarios, or provide examples, then they'll not feel the confidence they need to feel to go out and effectively represent your brand and your event.

Panos  19:54  
And in terms of the direction that you give to them, on top of them interacting with each other - I guess this is more like a personal thing, but like for you specifically - how much do you need to micromanage your race ambassadors? Do you actually send them, for instance, like an actual schedule of when to post or what things to post about? Or do you give them a lot more flexibility to do their own thing and post up their own at will?

William  20:22  
Yeah. So there's kind of two different scenarios when it comes to that. I do not provide them with a schedule. I don't say when to post. I don't say how to post. They do have some guidelines. If you're an Austin Marathon ambassador but you also represent other events or brands, when you're an awesome marathon ambassador, you're only an Austin Marathon ambassador. And we do provide them with content and designs when it comes to price increases or anything that's specific or associated with a date, because we want them to share what's on the brand - it follows our color scheme, it shares our logo, it shares the exact font in the text that we want. So there's not a specific schedule with that unless the design has text in it that says, "Price increases tonight" or "Price increases tomorrow" or "Price increases in five days." So those are kind of the only times where requirements are concerned and kind of mandated. But outside of that, we want them to share tips, we want them to post about their training, we want them to post about their accomplishments, we want them to share about the bad runs, or the small injuries, or the big injuries, or coming back, or being sick and missing a week's worth of running, and what does that mean, because other runners are dealing with those same issues. And we want to have that peer-to-peer experience. Individuals are more likely to follow that individual or believe in what they say because they're experiencing the same thing. And they can modify off of that, or they can follow what that individual is doing, or they can tweak their tips and their advice to fit their own scenario. It's not a free for all but it's definitely kind of controlled chaos - that might be a good word - because some people like to share a lot, some people like to share once a week on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram - right? And so, that's where you gotta figure out where the individual's strengths and weaknesses are, and really zero in, and play to those strengths and weaknesses, and that kind of goes back to that communication aspect. It's like, "Hey, tell me everything that you like to do and tell me what you don't like to do." Because if you're not on Facebook, then I'm not gonna keep inviting you to the Facebook group or give you these certain designs to share. And that just goes back to understanding your ambassadors and what role they fit in order to maximize the opportunity that has presented itself within the ambassador program. 

Panos  23:02  
When they actually share that content like the training runs and all of that stuff, how does your event come into that? Do they sort of like hashtag Austin Marathon or something? Or do they just drop a thing about "Oh, I did my run and training today for the Austin Marathon." Like, how explicit does the event come up through all of that content?

William  23:24  
Yeah, so they'll tag us, basically, and remind people that they're an ambassador for the event. And that way, we can see that and share certain Instagram posts or stories or comment on Facebook. And they don't have to do it all the time. We don't want them to overwhelm their audience or their community because that's not natural. Like, if they just post about being an ambassador all the time, people are gonna get turned off by that because that's all they're gonna see. That's not why they follow that person in the first place - right? Now, if they share their unique code, of course, we want them to remind people that they're an ambassador for that event. And that's why they should use their unique code to save $10 from their registration if they use that individual's code. So it kind of goes back to what we were talkinh about earlier and kind of understanding people and their strengths and their weaknesses, and making sure that they're following a lot of the guidelines that were set forth whenever they first came on board.

Panos  24:25  
And beyond the online stuff which, I guess, is what comes to mind for most people, do you expect them or would people go out of their way to also engage with runners offline, maybe, do like a like a group run or maybe go to the local running store and hand out leaflets or anything like that?

William  24:43  
Oh, yeah. That's another big thing. It's not just limited to posters, flyers and postcards that they can handout. And that's why it's beneficial to have a certain segment of your ambassador program outside of Central Texas such as San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Because they have their own network and their own connections, they can take that stuff into those areas that we necessarily can't get. And they have those personal relationships with those individuals, managers, store owners, and group leaders that we don't necessarily have. And so, it's another avenue which we can have an impact on those communities and get our brand in the places that it might not otherwise be. And I'll give you a couple of examples. When this first started, one of our ambassadors created a Strava group for the ambassadors so that they could just follow one another and share their run and their training. Earlier this month, we sent some postcards to one of our ambassadors who's also kind of a co race director for a smaller event in the town that she lives in. And what she wanted was some postcards that she could then put in the packets for her participants as they were stuffing them. So when you think about this and opportunities that arise, don't think that there's a one size fits all or that there's only certain things that can or can't be done, because your ambassadors are going to come up with every idea under the sun. The only thing that is the whole back is, "Can we do this from a timeline standpoint and from a budget standpoint?" And if the answer is yes, then you have to do it. I mean, you just got to knock it out because the return on investment can be through the roof if you take into consideration all the opportunities that are out there and all the different networks that are touched by your ambassadors.

Panos  26:34  
So you're basically sitting there and you're quite fortunate in saying that if you pick the right kind of person as your race ambassadors, they'll be so excited, they'll be bringing initiatives to you that you then have to weigh up and - depending on budget and time and stuff - approve or turn down.

William  26:52  
Correct, yeah. I mean, I'll include content creation, blogs, and videos. I mean, people share stuff all the time. And if they share stories about their most recent run, or their weekend long run, or how they tweak their calves and they're going to see this specialist, all of these things that kind of reflect the community at large are ways that can humanize your brand and your event in a way that you might be able to do to a certain extent. But as your ambassadors grow and feel more empowered and free to share their stories, their training, and their lives, the more you can increase their exposure from your event that, in turn, increases their exposure as a singular individual within your ambassador program.

Panos  27:39  
And you mentioned - which actually was also a little bit surprising to me - that it also makes sense to have a portion of your race ambassadors be outside the direct region where you're putting on the races. So you guys are in Central Texas and you said that you have ambassadors like all over Texas. How do you weigh that up? Like, how many ambassadors would you get outside of your core region and why? And what kind of return would you expect to get from those guys?

William  28:07  
So it's a little different because one of the requirements for ambassadors is to work or be a representative at an Expo where their event is present and has a booth. And so, they're basically there for a 4-hour shift, or they could do all 8-hours, or however the expo is set out. That's another chance for them to earn those comp entries that we talked about earlier. But again, that's an extension of their opportunity to represent the brand - for our followers or even their followers - to put faces with names or faces with profiles and really get to talk about the ups-and-downs, the highs-and-lows, the training for a half. It's an opportunity for an in-person experience. Specifically, for the Austin Marathon, I think I tried to have about 70% to 75% from the Central Texas area  because three of our events - Austin Marathon, 3M Half, and CapTex Tri - are here in Austin. So all of our events will have booths at the other events expos. So it's really important to have individuals be able to step up and say, "Hey, yeah. I'll work this shift or I'll work that shift, or I can bring my friend and she'll come with me, or my coach will come with me to talk about some training or something like that." But that, then, goes back to having the other 25% to 30% outside of the Central Texas area because they can then go to their own community events - right? Like I was kind of said earlier, the lady who wanted to put the postcards in the packets for the event that she co produced - that's big. That's an opportunity that we wouldn't have had if it weren't for her bringing that idea to us and saying, "Hey, William, I've got this idea. I've got this event. It's on this date. We have this kind of timeline. I need this by this date and I need 300 of them." I'm like, "Alright. I think we can do that. Let me talk with some people and get back to you." You never know what's going to come from any one of your ambassadors. It's just a matter of looking at a particular situation or scenario, and making sure that it makes sense and aligns with your goals, as well as the goals of the ambassador program.

Panos  30:28  
And you as the person who's responsible for managing all of those guys, do you encourage ambassadors or even yourself to meet up in-person as well? Do you actually sit down with a team and have a drink or something?

William  30:40  
Yeah, so we've done happy hours in the past. We haven't done anything since we accepted the 2022 Austin Marathon and the 3M Half Marathon ambassadors. We haven't done anything in-person yet. We do have monthly meetings that have been held over Zoom. But in the past, we have done some group runs, we have done some meetups, and we have done some happy hours. It's just a chance to kind of maybe not talk about running, maybe talk about work, maybe talk about other ideas, maybe talk about trying triathlon for the first time, maybe talk about someone who's maybe a little intimidated to train for their first marathon, or maybe they have a friend and they don't know how to share advice with them or make them feel encouraged without talking down because they're a runner and their friend is not. And they don't want to come off as negative because they want to encourage that person to try that distance or to try that event. So it doesn't have to be about running. And it doesn't have to be a personal experience or conversation. It can be about someone else trying to get them to come into our community which, then, grows the endurance community at large.

Panos  31:49  
Okay, so you want to keep your race ambassadors motivated and working hard for your event to get more and more people signed up for it. And you want to reward your highest-performing race ambassadors with premium swag and all kinds of VIP perks, but you can spend the time to track every signup your ambassadors refer and keep score of what each of them has earned in rewards.

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Speaking of which, let's go back to our chat with High Five Events' William Dyson - and let's hear a bit more about the process of recruiting your race ambassadors. 

Panos  33:40  
So let's go back just for a minute now to the topic of selecting these guys - the application process - which I think is sort of key to all this. It's a little bit of an art, I guess. But it sounds to me like it is one of the most important aspects of the race ambassador program. From what you've been saying, it seems to me that if you pick the right people, the program will sort of runs itself with the right people. So what makes for a really good race ambassador pick? What do you look for when you have those 100 or 200 applications? First of all, what kind of questions do you ask in the application form? Like, what information do you expect to get from people to make that decision? And how do you make that decision? How do you pick from all those different profiles of runners that cut across different areas, backgrounds, and all of that?

William  34:34  
Yes. We'll ask for name, address, city, experience as a runner, what clubs or groups they're connected with, whether they've been an ambassador before in one of our events or another event or a brand, because then that tells me that they have the experience and they kind of know what to expect when coming into this opportunity. Granted, it might not be exactly the same, but they at least kind of have a heads up as to what's going on and could potentially be an asset to new ambassadors who might do this for the first time. I'm looking for first-time runners, veteran runners, people who have only done half marathons, or people who are training for their first full marathon. We're looking for slow people, fast people, of people in the middle of the pack. We're looking for all ages - male or female - it doesn't matter. We want our ambassador program to be reflective of the running community at large - and we kind of talked about that earlier - because if your ambassador program doesn't reflect your community, your participant base, or individuals who are registering for your event, that could potentially be a turnoff. It's the idea that, "Oh, I see someone like myself. I'm going to be more inclined to do that, or pay attention to that, or follow that individual, or see what they're talking about, or engage with them." That's a big thing - it's engagement. And people feel more comfortable to engage with individuals who they can identify with. And so, when you have that thought process during the application process itself, it's essentially a one-way interview. Sometimes, I'll reach out and ask follow-up questions or say, "Hey. This link is broken. Can you reshare it?" Or, "I need a little bit clarification on your bio because this didn't fully make sense or I didn't understand." But, yeah. It's a chance to interview someone and be able to understand their background, their story, and why they're enthusiastic about representing your event. And so, being able to see all of that is thrilling but at the same time it's not because you have to reject some people. And that's the hardest part of this. If it was up to me, I'd accept it all. If I had all the money and all the time in the world, I'd have 150 Boston Marathon ambassadors. But that's just not possible. And that's the hard part about it - it's to see these great stories, to hear these first-timers or these people coming back from injury, or someone who's having their mom train with him for the first time, or they've overcame addiction through running - right? They've lost 150 pounds through running. Every runner's story is amazing. Saying no to people is the hardest part.

Panos  37:28  
I guess it is about the stories - right? Because then, as they train, it also gives you and the rest of your team content and ideas and sort of things to leverage as content for the event - right? It's a two-way street. So the ambassadors put out content. Having the right people with a story to share also works very well for you guys that then have to create stories and put out content through your social media and the website.

William  37:56  
Correct. Yeah, I'll give you an excellent example which is the Kerrville Triathlon Festival that we just produced a couple of weeks ago. Our ambassadors for that event are fantastic because they've seen it all and they've done it all. And one of them had the idea of writing a blog on transition tips. And the reason that really struck me is because Kerrville Triathlon Festival has a split transition. And they're about a mile and a half apart, meaning there's one transition near the swim start and then there's one transition near the finish line. And so, once they get out of the swim, they go to the bike into that transition, and then they bike to the other transition. So it's a little bit different from your traditional triathlons that have one transition. So that person always come back to that spot - right? This ambassador wanted to write a split transition blog with tips and advice on how to handle it, how to prepare for it, what to look for, what to not look for, how to pack your bags, when to rack your bike, and when to set up. And we can sit here and write this stuff from our standpoint, our knowledge, and our experience in dealing with all this. But again, it comes back from that peer-to-peer mentality. This individual is a triathlete. This individual is a mother. This individual has done a half triathlon and I'm training for my first one. These tips and advice are beneficial to me as a registrant who is reading this, knowing that it comes first-hand from a person where I can click on a link and go check out their Instagram profile, or follow them, or slide into their DMS and ask a question - right? That's another thing - these individuals have the power to answer questions on our behalf because they're knowledgeable about our event and they're knowledgeable about the sport - and that's another aspect that's kind of underrated - they have the opportunity to also be that mouthpiece for your event. And granted, that's a little different from media opportunities which are a whole different animal in and of themselves. And I'll work with individuals to make sure that they're prepared and have the questions ahead of time and all that good stuff, especially for live or taped interviews. But, yeah. If someone reaches out and ask a question about a blog they wrote and know that they're an ambassador, that's one less question I have to answer on social media and that's one less email our team has to answer on the backend of our system. So there's kind of that two-way street that we kind of keep coming back to every topic that we talk about. As far as ambassador programs are concerned, they're there to help. And if you give them the tools and the resources needed to be helpful, it's only going to better your brand, your event, and your company. 

Panos  40:39  
Yeah, and you can definitely sort of strike gold with people like that who go out of their way and are being really helpful - they write posts and stuff like that - which I can see being invaluable for you guys. I guess, you might also attract-- when you put out an ambassador program and you say, "We're gonna give you free gear and a couple of free tickets and stuff," you must also get some people who apply mostly for the free ticket and the gear. How does that make you feel?

William  41:07  
Actually, that population who fills out those applications is surprisingly low and surprisingly rare. I mean, I'll get a bio that says, "Oh, I've been running for five years. I love to run. I love Austin." That's great! I would love to accept you! But sell me on your story, your experience, your network, and your running life. How do you fit the brand? How do you represent the brand? How do you identify with the brand? Because that informs me what the individuals are best suited for within the ambassador program. Yeah, there's some people out there that know about the gear, they know about the codes, they know about the codes to our other events. But it's pretty easy to weed through some of those individuals. But that's also the good thing with a lot of applications - you can sift through these stories and that kind of helps identify, "Yeah. I hate to say 'no' because you've been running for a long time and you're well represented in the city but these other people have even more amazing stories and they represent the brand and the community better." And so, if anyone out there is listening and they're applying for an ambassador program, you sell yourself, make yourself seem like the perfect fit for the event you're applying for because that's what's going to catch someone's eye, that's what's going to make them want to accept you, and essentially become an extension of the brand in the event.

Panos  42:34  
So if someone came your way, or maybe you reached out to maybe like a celebrity or like really well-known person, I would think they might be generally good for publicity of your race ambassador program. Do you ever get that kind of profile or seek out people who are just beyond like a running influencer and being someone really famous and tell like an Austinite or something, "Come join the event. We really love to have you!"

William  43:07  
Yeah, that's a whole other conversation. Yes, they're still ambassadors. They really, really truly present one-off customizable opportunities to work with that individual or those individuals. I'll bring up a very specific example which is the 2012 Olympic, silver medalist, Leonel Manzano. He's from Mexico and, then, moved to central Texas and ended up going to UT. He's just an amazing human, great story, down-to-earth, willing to help out in any and every way possible. We've worked with him to help produce some mile events in the past but he's been the Austin Marathon celebrity race ambassador for the last four or five years, I believe. And that's a completely separate opportunity from the ambassador program - although there might be parallels to the ambassador program - answering questions, helping produce content, creating opportunities, or opening doors - right? It's just on a different level and it provides a different opportunity. And sometimes, those individuals are compensated financially. Sometimes, it's gear, passes, comps, and VIPs. Sometimes, it's connections with sponsors and partners for additional ancillary opportunities. I mean, like I was kind of saying earlier with our ambassador program, there's nothing you can say 'No' to outright. It's just a matter of the timeline, the man-hours, and the budgetary constraints that come with each possible scenario. And so, Leo is an amazing individual because a lot of his content that he pushes out - and I'll work with him to create, make sure he's tagged in social media, or if he has specific messaging, I'll send it to him - he does it in English and Spanish because that's his community, that's his audience, that's his following. And we have a large amount of participants who come from Mexico, historically and even recently. And it's great to be able to tap into that network because it's authentic, it's genuine, it's coming from Leo. It's an extension of the Austin Marathon and Austin Half Marathon. And that's what helps resonate with those individuals, because it's coming from someone that they know and love and trust through the Austin Marathon. And that's something that we necessarily wouldn't be able to do because we don't have that relationship with Leo's community in the way that Leo has that relationship with his community.

Panos  45:37  
That's a really interesting point. I never thought of that. Basically, for you guys, particularly in Texas, there's also the bilingual angle to it - right? So you want that content to go out across both Spanish and English communities and just hit them in a way that that feels familiar to them and in a way that feels sort of like genuine.

William  45:57  
It's helpful because that's your audience that's representative of the running in the endurance community at large - right? And if you're not communicating to those individuals in some form or fashion, or understanding what they need, or what the individual needs - in this case, what Leo needs to share from a content or a language standpoint - then you're missing a massive opportunity and, in our case, you're missing a decent portion of our participant base and also our community.

Panos  46:27  
So let's talk a little bit about the people who do get into the program. So you send them an email, "Glad to have you! Welcome on board, guys!" What's next? So you have your race ambassadors, do you send some kind of like standard media kit with logos and like your approved media that they can start using in their content? Do you send out any specific day one instructions? How do you manage those people who come through the program?

William  46:54  
Yeah. So there's basically an agreement that they have to sign in and it really breaks down what we want, what the expectations are, what they get, what they can expect to get, and when they can expect to get it. To really go back to that two-way street communication scenario that we keep talking about, I want to ensure that every individual knows upfront what they'll be getting and what we expect of them. And they have to sign that in some form or fashion and send it back to me and then I check it off. But we also ask them to submit a little bit more information including - and this is very, very important from a content standpoint - high res photos, not screenshots, or cropped images, or a photo of a photo, or something that you screenshot at all finisher pics with the finisher pics' watermark scribbled all across it - right? Because what we can then do-- and what I actually just sent them last week was we have designs created with those very specific photos for those specific ambassadors that say, "2022 Austin Marathon ambassador" And specifically for this year, it has our 30th anniversary logo that we had created, but it also has their name on it, and it fits our brand, it fits our color scheme, it fits our font, and it fits the gradients that we have. And those individuals are then allowed to share those things in however way they see fit and whenever they want. They can share it 100 times. They can share it just once. I do ask that they share their acceptance as soon as possible because people are jacked and excited - right? The moment they get that acceptance email, they want to tell their friends, they want to tell their family, they want to tell Instagram, they want to tell Facebook, but we don't have those designs at that point in time - right? We don't have those unique comp codes at that point in time. So what that does is that creates a buzz - right? It tells their audience, "Oh, hey, this big thing just happened." And then, these ambassadors can say, "Expect more to come. I'll have designs come in. I'm going to have codes coming in. I'll have opportunities coming in." And that kind of creates a little bit of buzz. I mean, when the Austin Marathon has 30 plus individuals sending that out, that's 30 different networks, 30 different audiences, 30 different communities. And granted, they all might be part of the same running/endurance community - right? But it'll not have the impact we would have if we just sit out, "Oh, hey. We just accepted our ambassadors. We'll share some more information soon." It'll not have the same impact as Jackie over here who's just thrilled beyond belief and can't wait to tell her friends and family and following that she's an Austin Marathon ambassador. And so, it really kind of deepens that impact that your brand or your event can have through the ambassador themselves.

Panos  49:42  
Yeah. I've seen those kinds of teaser tweets, particularly, on Twitter that people put out when they're first accepted into race ambassador programs. And they're really effective because as you say, people are super excited, they can't wait to get started. And it also gives everyone who follows them, like something to anticipate when the codes are coming out and when they'll be sharing that. So it's really exciting. So beyond the comp code that you send to them - which is going to be unique so that you can also track what everyone's doing - you said specifics in the little contract that they signed. So specifically for the Austin Marathon, what specifically is the arrangement of what race ambassadors get? And how do they get it and when do they get it?

William  50:25  
Yeah. So they have three different codes and - this is something where communication is critical because each code is very specific - it is meant for different intended use. So they have a unique code that is unique. All their codes are unique to them. But their unique code is $10 off registration for the event that they're an ambassador of. That's what they can share on social, friends, family, run group, clubs, if they're out at community events, if they're working booths at an expo. I've had ambassadors write their code down on postcards and have people sign up right there and they get $10 off - right? So it goes back to that in-person experience. They also have the comp codesthat  we talked about earlier for the event. They get one for themselves and, then, they get a second 100% comp code that they can then give to a friend or a family member. And what some have actually been doing this year - this is one of the ideas that came up in email and also in that Facebook group - is a giveaway. "Follow Austin Marathon. Tell me why you're excited. It's our 30th anniversary." Hype it up, build that following, and create that energy and that excitement. So we've actually seen some increase in our followers from stuff like that too. So if they want that comp code to do whatever they want, as long as they do not sell it to make money or anything like that, we're good with it. But then, we also give them a 50% off code that is good for our other events. So an Austin Marathon ambassador has all the stuff related to the Austin Marathon but then they also have a third code that's good for 3M Half Marathon, CapTex Triathlon, or Kerrville Triathlon Festival. We've seen and heard from our previous ambassadors that a lot of them crossover, a lot of them cross train, and a lot of them are also triathletes. Sometimes they ask, "Hey, can I give this to my sister who's a bigger triathlete than I am?" I'm not a big fan of limiting individuals. If someone genuinely comes up to me or sends an email and says, "Hey, my sister is a bigger triathlete than I am, can she have my 50% off code?" That's fine with me. But we'll also have a welcome package that will go out. So now, the photos are submitted, the designs are created, and they're sent to the ambassadors. Now, we'll work on getting them outfit with some gear. And so, that takes a little bit longer because we have to get all that information from them in terms of shirt size, potential jacket size, pants, shoes, socks, all that jazz because that will then have the 30th anniversary design and logo from the previous years. So that does take a little bit of time to get together and ship out to those individuals. So that's something that I know they're excited about and I know they're waiting for, but that's kind of part of the timeline in the process - right? Getting them accepted, getting them their codes, getting them these designs that they can then share on social media and, now, there's almost like this welcome package which is kind of the next step in that iteration. But then, we'll also have quarterly packages wherein we get koozies, pint glasses-- I mean, if there's anything that we can do to kind of continue to reward these individuals for their efforts and their time and their energy, we'll do it. If we have to ship them out, we'll ship them out. If we can do it at a happy hour and give them away, we'll do that at a happy hour and give them away.

Panos  54:02  
I guess you send the gear out to them because you want those guys to be branded head-to-toe with your stuff. But the free tickets that they get and the other 50% to the other events that you have, are those based on performance or would they get it regardless of how many people they sign up?

William  54:20  
Both. They are based on performance. But what we saw last year is, when you base it on performance - and having people hit certain triggers or certain goals, or work a certain amount of expos or booths - you're giving access to those codes in one-off scenarios which is very time-consuming. It's extremely time-consuming because, then, you end up dealing with five emails from one person saying, "Hey, I did that. Can I get my free code?" Six weeks later, they're like, "Alright, I did X, Y and Z. Can I get the second code?" And that can end up with 12 to 15 emails for two codes for one person in your ambassador program. So what we did this year is we gave them access to those two free comp codes at the beginning and I told them why. I said, "Hey, this is time-consuming. This is your reward based on these things that you have to do. We'll track these things and I'll keep tabs on if you come to a booth, or work in expo, or if you're at a community event. We'll keep track of these. But here are your comp codes upfront. Go register and do what you need to do." That will essentially eliminates the need to handle those situations on a one-on-one basis and track certain things on a one-on-one basis. And so, being able to communicate that and have them understand that, "Hey, this is how it was. Here's the feedback we got. Here's what we did to better the program. Don't let us down. If you need something, come ask. If you're having troubles, come ask. If you're not having the impact you thought you'd have, let's talk about ideas. But here are your two comp codes upfront. Go get register and share your other one with your friends or family."

Panos  56:12  
Yeah, I think that makes sense. I mean, I can definitely see how it can be too much work to basically track all of that across like 40 people - like ticking boxes and moving them along. I did this and I did that just to give them the ticket, I guess. You give them the ticket upfront. They're happy. They understand what you're doing. There's like a trust element. 

William  56:30  
Correct. And that's something too that factors into the next year or the next opportunity for ambassadors for that specific event. Not only can you get feedback from that, but you can also learn from it. You can say, "All right. Well, this worked way better than we expected. We'll to continue to do it." Or, "We had 25% of ambassadors not reach their goals but they got their codes up front. What shall we do to mitigate that, moving forward? Or how do we help them be more successful, moving forward?" So it's not even just about trusting them - that is a massive component - it's also about basically streamlining the system and creating a path of least resistance not only for the ambassadors, but also for employees who manage opportunities like this - myself included. So how can I make my job that much easier? How can I reduce the amount of communications needed to resolve this one issue, or this one task, or this one opportunity? 

Panos  57:26  
And on top of the standard package of stuff that you give to all the race ambassadors, do you have any kind of like special prize or something? I've seen that in some programs where there's a bit of a friendly competition element to it, and the race ambassador who signs up the most people or the three top race ambassadors would get like something extra special from us? Do you have any of that?

William  57:51  
We haven't done that. That's actually a good idea. I'm going to write that down real quick because that might be an improvement for next year. So we'll give credit to you on that one. But there's already an inherent competitive nature amongst endurance athletes whether they're first-timers or not - it's just how we're wired. But what we try to do also is to create more of a teamwork mentality and share, "What works? What doesn't work? How I managed this giveaway as an ambassador? How I handled this opportunity? How I worked this event? How I share postcards here? How I used my code at this group run, shared it with everyone, and hit my 15 because the group run had 100 people and they're all interested and are actually currently training for my event, but they just weren't registered yet?" And so, being able to kind of take those mentalities and merge them is what we found to be beneficial in how we actually revamped the program for this year, heading into our 2022 calendar.

Panos  58:52  
And then, going into next year, you have a few people who have done great. How do you weigh up continuing with keeping some of those on board for the next year, and introducing some new blood to the program just so you can benefit from new stories, new faces, and all of that stuff, because you also mentioned earlier that race ambassadors who've done that kind of thing before tend to become more effective. So how do you weigh up the people with the experience - your veteran race ambassadors - against getting new people into the program?

William  59:24  
For last year's ambassadors, I said, "Hey, you gave me all this excellent feedback, all these ideas, all these thoughts, all the things that went right, all the things that went wrong, things that could be done better. You all are gonna have first shot at 2022." And that was also stemming from some of them being 2020 ambassadors but not getting to actually be an ambassador because of some of our canceled events - so we had a lot of carry-over. But what I want to do is always give returning ambassadors first shot - again, going back to clear communication - saying "Hey, all of you might not make it. We want to have a nice mix of returning because they can help with questions and answers and ideas, and help with the new group of incoming ambassadors." But also, there's got to be natural attrition. People decide not to run anymore. They decided to not do triathlon anymore. They moved. They started families. They switched jobs that requires them to travel more. They just don't want to be an ambassador. They had a lot of fun but it took up a lot more of their time than they anticipated. There's all these different reasons for natural attrition. It just depends on the applicants that come in. If you have all ambassadors return from the previous year but you add on 75 new people who want to join the ambassador program, there'll be some hard choices that have to be made - unless the program grew and had such a large ROI that the budget allows increasing the amount of ambassadors for the following year. So there's a lot of pieces in play there. But having a foundation and a group of returning ambassadors is critical because they have a knowledge base - this idea, this thought, this tactic, or this approach which I might not even think about - which they might be able to chime in. So again, it goes back to them being an extension of me and an extension of the brand in the event.

Panos  1:01:23  
And I guess for an event like the Austin Marathon where you have various distances, would you have a different subgroup of race ambassadors for the different events - so you'll try to mix a few 5K runners, some half marathoners, and some marathoners? How do that work?

William  1:01:39  
No. We don't ask what event or what distance do they plan to run. Again, that kind of goes back to the bio that they submitted or the story about themselves that they submit - right? A lot of people will be upfront and say that Austin's going to be their first full marathon. That was a couple of people's applications. So that didn't kind of triggers, "Oh, hey! That's a good story. We might be able to glean some ideas, some content, some tips, and some advice from that." We don't necessarily ask what distance do they plan to run upfront. But some people will be a little bit more forthcoming in their bios or in their stories about what they want to run. When Austin Marathon ambassadors are accepted, they're not ambassadors of a specific distance. They're ambassadors of the brand and of the event. Now, if they have to drop from the full to the half, we'll take care of them. If they want to grow from the half to the full - because they had an excellent training and they hit some really good long runs with their group - we'll take care of them and adjust that on the backend. If they want to run the 5K with their family, or they got injured and couldn't train for a month and need to drop down to the 5K, we'll take care of them. That's all part of their story. That's all part of their background - right? That can be something that they talk about. Don't feel ashamed about dropping from a half marathon to a 5K because you missed 4-6 weeks due to injury or some other life scenario that happened and took you away from your schedule. Again, it kind of goes back to not being an ambassador of a specific distance, but being an ambassador for the brand or the event, although a specific distance might be tied directly to their story.

Panos  1:03:16  
So I've seen you guys advertise your race ambassador programs on the website which, I guess, is an obvious place to put it. And I've seen those high res images and the stories which is really great for visitors on the website. Do you go beyond that to advertise the program in hope of getting even more people to apply for it?

William  1:03:37  
Yeah. So outside of the website, it's definitely shared via social media. That's kind of the the main way to reach the audience. Word of mouth is still huge and I'm a huge believer that it will never go away. The social and digital age can do whatever it wants to do. Word of mouth, at the end of the day, will still be more than likely your biggest and greatest friend when it comes to opportunities like this because people trust one another. If I tell you, "Hey, I had a great time being an ambassador last year. I think you'd be great. I can't do it this year because my family is growing and we just had a son." You'll trust me telling you that I had a great time last year doing that more than you'll trust a Facebook post telling you that you'll have a good time from the Boston Marathon - right? Granted, you may trust that but me telling you peer-to-peer, one-to-one, me coming straight to you, you'll more likely take the next step because of what I tell you than what a Facebook post tells you from the event itself.

Panos  1:04:45  
And I'll guess you'll also email the people on your newsletter - people who follow you.

William  1:04:50  
Correct. 

Panos  1:04:51  
Some of them would probably just subscribe to the newsletter just to be notified of when the program is up and running - right?

William  1:04:58  
Yeah. Email is another big thing especially with our participant base. And sometimes, we'll even put out press releases to let people know and try to share it with some of the local running sites or forums and stuff like that. And that kind of goes back to your previous ambassadors who will then say, "Hey, here's this great opportunity. I can't do it this year because of X. If you think you'd be a great fit, sign up!" That goes back to that word of mouth and sharing within the community. So there's all these different opportunities outside of just your website, email, in-person stuff, training kickoffs, smaller community events, or telling club presidents to include it in their email to their followers or their subscribers. So there's a lot of different opportunities and ways to get that word out. It's just a matter of figuring out that path of least resistance - like we were talking about earlier - that will then gain you the best pool of applicants with which to pull from.

Panos  1:06:02  
So the last thing I'd like to touch on - which I think is quite important in all this - is return on investment which is a pretty technical term but I think people are familiar with it. Basically, it's putting effort in for stuffs to come out of it. And I think it should be quite obvious from all of this discussion that it takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of resources, and also just straight up cash to run a race ambassador program. So do we have any feel at all-- and I appreciate that it maybe a little bit hard to like pin down very specifically, but do we have any feel on the return you're getting on all of that time and all of that money that you put into the program?

William  1:06:47  
Yeah. I figured this might be a question. But you kind of hit the nail on the head about this still being kind of an unrefined science. And what I did is I just kind of came up with some general numbers based on certain items that didn't feed into that final number. So for a single specific ambassador, when you consider their codes, the gear, and shipping, it's roughly $1,000 per ambassador. 

Panos  1:07:16  
Okay. 

William  1:07:17  
They get about $1,000 worth of stuff in codes and the gear, and what I did is I just kind of included roundabout shipping in there - right? But when you think about that number, that doesn't necessarily include food and drinks at expos, or a quick breakfast, or a happy hour, or covering the tab of that happy hour, or other goodies as they might come along the pipeline when new sponsors and partners get involved. None of that was factored into that amount. And now, bringing up the ROI, what I did is I took the unique code usage alone - right? And so, the minimum for each ambassador, in order to get that first comp code, is 15 uses. And that means someone is using that $10 off code 15 times specifically for the Austin Marathon. I took our registration and as it stands yesterday, the 5K is 59, I think the half was 129, and the full was 149. I averaged that out and then multiply that by 15 uses - because we're kind of about in the middle of our pricing tier structure right now, so I didn't go high, I didn't go super low, we're about right in the middle - and that's $1,680 for the Austin Marathon alone if you kind of average everything out. Now, with 3M, it's a standalone half marathon. There's only one distance. It was 129 for the half, so that ended up being $1,935, as long as every ambassador has their code used 15 times. And again, that's middle of the road of our pricing structure. For those numbers alone, the ROI is already there. Now, if the code gets used more time, that number only goes up. But there's other things that we just haven't been able to quantify or put a dollar amount to yet. And that includes engagement, exposure, reach, content created, booths worked, and time saved. We kind of hit on certain aspects and scenarios where ambassadors kind of-- like I was saying, they're an extension of me, of the brand, and of the event. There's a dollar amount associated with that because it saves my time, it saves our company's time, and it saves my colleagues' time - right? So being able to put a dollar amount with that is something that only makes the ROI increase that much more. So if it's done correctly, if it's orchestrated properly, if it's communicated effectively, if the rewards and the incentive are there, if it gets more people into our events, and if it helps us reach populations in segments of the community that we may not be able to have full effect within that said community wherein these ambassadors can have that impact, it is an effective ROI.

Panos  1:10:19  
Yeah. I mean, if 15 race entries is sort of the minimum or the benchmark, my guess is that quite a few people will do a lot better than that. Of course, you need to factor in the time for you and the team. On the one hand, as you said, these race ambassadors are out there answering questions, helping people out, so they're sort of saving you time. On the other hand, you need to administer the program and stuff, but it's a really tough calculation. Is there anything similar to that, that you would use to evaluate individual race ambassadors performance, so you can tell at the end of the year, "That guy pulled their weight, that guy didn't?" 

William  1:11:12  
Yeah. One of the things that we started doing this year - to streamline communication and kind of reduce the amount of time spent on calculating these individual unique codes - is I tell them, "Hey, you've already got your comp code. Just keep pushing your unique code. And what we'll do is we'll update you at every monthly meeting. I'll go through and I'll check each code myself. Maybe my colleague, Fiona, will help out and check them for that month" Right? But what we'll do is we'll update the spreadsheet wherein all of our ambassadors - from a transparency standpoint - have access to this spreadsheet. And what it does is it also has their codes on it - all of their codes - so they can access it whenever they want. They can't edit it but they have access to that. So they can see, "Alright, October meeting is coming up on the 21st. William did updates this week. I'm gonna go check the list," or, "I worked a booth at the Kerrville Tri Expo. I'm gonna see if that was added to basically my line item for column F where it says that this person has done this," or, "I wrote this blog and it got published but it's not listed in my section. Hey, William. Add it to my section because that then calculates or goes towards those contributions that we do track." I wish there was an easier way to track all that stuff but for the time being, this is the best way and it also just gives a little bit more time to communicate with these individuals, and get to know a little bit better. But, yes. We do track stuffs. They know about that upfront. They have access to this. Again, as far as over communicating is concerned, you have to be transparent and you have to be forthright because that helps build the relationship and establish trust. And that just kind of furthers their deepening involvement and their relationship with your brand and your event. You have to treat them like your title sponsor - if you're fortunate enough to have a title sponsor. You have to treat your ambassadors just like the person who signs that cheque for your title sponsorship, or the CEO who holds the finish line tape on race day. I mean, you got to treat them with dignity and respect because they're, again, an extension of your brand and your event. And that's what it boils down to at the end of the day.

Panos  1:13:31  
Yeah, absolutely. I think, treating people with respect - particularly, people that you work so closely with - is absolutely key. We've been through that in other episodes, that just a simple thank you to some of those people is the most basic, the most important, and the most effective thing you can do that costs you nothing. And it's just a courtesy that shows that you remember their contributions and you just say thank you at the end of the day. It's really, really important. Last question from me, if there's someone who wants to get started with a race ambassador program - I mean, there's quite a few events have those these days which is great, but for people who don't and might be interested on the back of this to go out and launch their own race ambassador programs - what words of wisdom would you hold for them?

William  1:14:18  
Ah, I mean, just like you would want to do any other new implementation you want to add to your event, you got to do your due diligence, do your research, see what other people out there are doing, maybe listen to this podcast a couple of times, take notes. I mean, you can always reach out to me at william@highfiveevents.com if there are questions. There's no trade secrets here. There's nothing that we're keeping close to the vest. But, yeah. Do your due diligence and research and, then, take what you've researched and what other events are doing, and apply that to your goals - right? So in year one of your ambassador program, what do you want your goals to be? Is it a specific number of ambassadors? Is it a specific number of people registering through those ambassadors? Is it blogs created? Is it social media posts? Like, what do you want out of that ambassador program? So it's a matter of doing your research but, then, making that align with your goals and making sure that your goals are attainable. Maybe this is a trade secret, I don't know - I always like to undershoot and overdeliver. And it's also a big psychological thing, it also makes you look successful. That way you don't feel stressed trying to get 50 ambassadors but only got 40 applications. How will I get 10 more applicants - right? Because then, you put yourself in a bind to where you try to reach that number, to reach a goal, and then you might let in people who aren't as invested in the ambassador program as you want them to be just to hit a goal. If you go over your goal, fantastic! By all means, do it! But make sure that your goals are attainable, especially in year one and especially if it pertains to your budget, or dollar spent, or dollars coming in.

Panos  1:16:13  
Yeah, definitely. I mean, those kinds of arbitrary targets in anything - whether it's sales, or hitting a number of race ambassadors, or whatever - they're just numbers, right? I mean, it doesn't matter. You can plug a number out of thin air. You soon solve for that. And as you say, you should never discount your race ambassadors program by just getting anyone in simply because you want to have 40 or 50 of them. If anything's clear from the last hour or so of our discussion, you really need to get the right people in because they will be spending time with you and they'll be an ambassador for your team - so selecting those people rightly is super, super important. So, William, thank you very much for your time today. That has been very helpful, I'm sure, for many people.

William  1:16:56  
Thanks for having me. It was great to talk about this. And if anyone wants to follow along, in probably the next 4-6 weeks, we will open applications for 2022 CapTex Triathlon and 2022 Kerrville Triathlon Festival. So that's just another thing. If you want to see how it's done or follow along, or maybe you want to be an ambassador, definitely feel free to apply because those will be going out soon. Make sure you follow us on social media or get on our email newsletter because that's the best way to get the admission kind of like what we were talking about earlier.

Panos  1:17:26  
Awesome. I want to wish you all the best with the remainder of races for you guys at High Five Events. I'm sure it's going to be getting better and better for everyone. So thank you very much for your time. Thanks to everyone listening. And I will see everyone on the next podcast. 

Panos  1:17:48  
I hope you enjoyed this episode on race ambassador programs with my guest, High Five Events' Communications Manager, William Dyson.

You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your questions about launching and growing your race ambassador program or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.

If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to subscribe or leave a review on your favorite player and, also, check out the podcast back-catalogue for more great content like this.

Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.

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