How to approach endurance event photography at your event and meet the media needs for your organization, your sponsors and most importantly your participants

I like to focus on People, Product and Process with every business-related decision I have to make. There is no difference with that mandate when looking at the fulfillment of endurance event photography as a piece of your race management practices. Your participants will be actively seeking two things after your event; (1) their results and (2) their photos. The expectation of these deliverables continues to be ever more demanding in regards to the quality and timeliness to market. Whereas results have essentially become instantaneous, the digital media deliverable has some catching up to do.

People

event-photographer-scaledAs your organization begins to evaluate the needs of event photography please keep in mind ultimately who they’re serving. A focus on your participants’ experience should be a cornerstone of every race plan. Ask yourself, is it in my best interest that I look to photography as being a retail vendor to my event, a service provider to my event or something in between (a hybrid).

The most traditional event photography model is where the photography vendor is purchasing the exclusive rights to photograph the event and sell the images back to the runners (retail model). Then, for a transfer of these rights, the photography vendor will supply a gross revenue share, net profit share or a per finisher guarantee back to you 90 to 120 days after the event. In this model, “retail model”, your participants will potentially be subject to a large host of emails encouraging them to buy photos. For most events, only 3% to 5% will end up making a purchase. Once again, on “people”, ask yourself, is the photography rebate vendor check worth this treatment to your runners?

On the other end of the spectrum is the “service model” where your participants will receive free digital content after the event. In this model, about 80% to 85% will have an engagement with your event photography compared to the 3% to 5% as noted in the “retail model”. Specific to “service model”, your participants will take great interest and quickly download the content creating a shareable experience from the event. In a “service model”, your photography vendor will have a set charge for these services, typically based upon a per finisher head count. These costs should and can be monetized by bringing on an “event media sponsor” and/or increase in registration price. Remember, your participants are receiving a heightened service when free digital media is being provided.

Product

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As shared above, the product of event photography is transforming. From 1984 to 2008, Print & Product were the leading contributing factors for revenue gains in the event photography space. Starting in 2009, digital downloads started taking off and becoming one of the leading contributors to bringing in dollars. The digital media product evolved again in 2012 as participants began to loose interest in purchasing media and as a result the aforementioned “service model” began to take shape in our industry.

Companies like Backprint, ChronoTrack and GameFace have created platforms that allow for an instant HI_RES, downloadable, socially shareable digital media product that is accompanied by a sponsor’s logo. As we walk into the 2015 calendar year, large event owners like Life Time Fitness Athletic Events, Spartan Race and the San Francisco Marathon now offer free digital downloads, a service model, at the majority of their owned events. A telling sign for the future, your digital media is a transformative product that not only creates an event day experience for your runners but also extends beyond the day of the event by creating sharable experiences and lasting memories long after.

Process

This internal conversation with your event is necessary as you’ll need to address who your consumer is [the people], and what you want them to receive [the product]. With that in mind, you’ll address the “process” in which your organization wants to take on and act in accordance to your budgeted resources and/or revenue expectations with event photography. Questions like:

  • Do we want to sell photos or give them away?
  • Do we want a vendor to receive our participant database or do we want to keep everything “in-house”?
  • What company do we want to host and fulfill our photography needs?
  • Do we want to hire the photographers or outsource that function?
  • What photography vendor is best suited to meet the needs of our participants?
  • What photography vendor is best suited to demonstrate ROI to our sponsor when enacting a “service model”?
  • Do we to look at photography as a new type of sponsorship package?
  • How can event photography be a differentiator at my event?
  • How much content do I want captured at my event?
  • How do I want my runners marketed to (email, social media, MMS, print mail, etc.)?

ChronoTrack is setting a new foundation in the endurance event media space by providing a variety options that allow our clients to best meet the individual needs of their participants. Selecting a vendor capable of providing an end-to-end solution, race photography is playing arguably a larger role than in years past with race planning, should be top of mind with any planning activity as consumers continue to consumer digital media as an accelerated rate. In concert and addressing People, Product and Process will put your event into a new class in regards to creating an ideal event photography solution.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” Walt E. Disney

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About the Author, Sean P. Walkinshaw
sean_walkinshaw_chronotrack_employee

Sean P. Walkinshaw, ChronoTrack’s Digital Media Product Manager, is one of the leading authorities in the endurance event media space with over 10 years experience with companies like brightroom and MarathonFoto. He has worked with clients like the New York Road Runners, Boston Athletic Association, Nike and the Houston Marathon on providing the best possible delivery of services in a very competitive environment. Sean is also one of the pioneers looking to endurance digital media as an advertising vehicle for brands rather than just a retail operation.

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