Last year, the CanWest Games had just 82 competitors. This year, 852 competed in the online qualifier, with 315 advancing to the event that was held outdoors at a track stadium outside of Vancouver.
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Errol Clark, one of the event organizers and owner of Rocky Point, said there wasn’t a magic solution to their dramatic growth. CanWest Games was as successful as it was because of the huge amount of time and effort put into it.
“We worked a countless amount of hours planning, budgeting and executing our marketing and business plans, often running off little or no sleep to hit deadlines and planning targets,” Clark said about he and his business partner Tom Smith's efforts. “We both had to make sacrifices in our personal lives in virtually every area—less time for training, no social life, and I barely saw my family during those months…”.
Clark doesn’t think you can host a great event without this type of commitment.
“I think most underestimate the amount of time and resources involved to pull of an event in the first place. Formal planning, accurate forecasting, experience and a willingness to work for very little (if any) financial compensation are all prerequisites for a successful event during its early years,” he said.
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Clark and his fiance
WAS IT WORTH IT?
“There’s something very special about the feeling of producing happiness for others...We are both very grateful for our lifestyles and the community that surrounds them, and this was a great way for us to give back to that community and help strengthen the sport.” - Errol
2. Powerful Marketing
A second reason CanWest Games grew as much as it did this year was because of their well-executed marketing plan (the event became the buzz around Canada West and attracted many of the region’s top athletes).
Clark has a background in marketing—he helped build a company called mydealbag.com (a daily deal aggregator website), which was later sold to PlentyofFish.com. He was able to take the marketing experiences he learned building mydealbag.com and use it to promote the CanWest Games.
Part of this process was to: “Establish a market, tell a story to that market that aligns with their beliefs, and then send that message to the market in as many was you can creatively come up with,” he said. “We basically made a very tall claim, to host the best functional fitness event in Western Canada, and then we did everything in our power to deliver on that statement."
Clark’s Marketing Tip
“Don’t get stuck doing what everyone else is. Be creative, try different channels and messages, set up reporting and tracking to test what's working. Think outside the box,” he said, adding it doesn’t always need to cost much.
“One of the most successful campaigns I ever was a part of was something my old business partner came up with. We took sticky pad notes and wrote Mydealbag on them and posted them all over the skytrain. I'm talking everywhere,” Clark said. “We ended up getting contacted by the City bylaw and they weren’t too happy so we offered to take them down, but before that happened, a marketing author saw our notes and published an article about us and how creative our Gorilla Marketing efforts were.”
1. Solid Partnership
It’s pretty hard to run a good event when you’re not on the same page with your partners.
Clark said one of final keys to the CanWest Games' success was how he and Smith work together.
“His strengths in business all compliment my weaknesses,” Clark said of Smith. “We have a very synergistic partnership, one that I feel is essential for success in any business. I often dream up these ridiculous ideas and he turns them into manageable action plans that we execute together.”