Building and Marketing a Great Event with The Cascade Classic's Jordan Holland

Jordan Holland is the organizer of the Cascade Classic, a fitness throwdown held every year in Seattle, Washington, one that consistently attracts CrossFit Games-level athletes.

Last year, the Cascade Classic's online qualifier alone had 600-plus athletes compete. This year’s online qualifier begins on August 3rd and runs for three weeks. (You can register here). On top of the functional fitness competition for CrossFit athletes, this year’s event, which will be held on September 24th and 25th, will also offer an Olympic weightlifting competition, as well as strongman and powerlifting events.

Holland took the time to provide us with his top six insights about the most important keys to success when it comes to growing and marketing a fitness event for CrossFit athletes.

Holland also remembers to have fun along the way!

6. Media and Social Media

Holland’s message here is: More is better. More pictures. More videos. More people invovled!

“You can’t get too many good photos, or too much good video. This stuff will give you great content to share on social media, in e-mails, for posters, or any other messaging you are trying to create,” Holland said. “If you can only afford one, then use photos. They’re easier to share and cheaper to capture in abundance.”

He added: “There is probably someone in your area who is capturing awesome images. Get them to your event.”

As for involving more people, one of the creative things the Cascade Classic has done this year is create a team of partners—made up of athletes, judges, volunteers and writers—to help do some of the social media work for them. The ambassadors have been helping Holland pump the Cascade Classic on social media through posting pictures and sharing posts, and will be financially compensated based on the success of the online qualifier. The main idea is the more the partners get invovled and pump the event, the more successful the event will be, and the more the partners will be rewarded for their efforts.

 

It's a great day for your event when Margaux Alvarez is pumping it!

5. Frequency and Consistency

“Reach out often and on all your available channels. And keep doing it,” Holland said. “One e-mail and one Faecbook post a week isn’t going to cut it. Put something out, somewhere, every day, multiple time per day,” he said.

“And feed (your audience) good stuff. If you are funny, be funny. If you are a data person, put up some data,” he said. “Every Facebook post, every Instagram post, and every e-mail should move the needle a little bit.”

And, of course, the more people you have on board working for the same goal—like Holland and his Cascade Classic partners—the less this task will rest on just one or two people.

4. Build Relationships and Be a Giver

“As an event director, you are constantly trying to figure out how to get more for less. We call up every company we can think of,” Holland said.

However, instead of just asking, asking, asking, Holland has learned it’s important to give back—to offer something in return.

“My first exposure to that concept was with Rowan Minnion from Blonyx. Every time we chat, or e-mail, I feel like I got so much more than I gave. And because of that, I want to give more next time I see him, and somehow he always gives even more. This serves both of us well. He wants me to win and I want him to win. Our event has the traction in Western Canada that is does thanks to Rowan,” Holland said. 

The point being, it's important to ask yourself what you can do in return for the athletes, the volunteers, the judges, and your sponsors.

"It isn’t just about getting them to give you money, or sign up for your event. What can you do for them? How will your event help their athletic progress or personal development? How can your event help their business?” Holland asked rhetorically.

3. Don’t Forget About Real World Interaction

Although it sometimes feels easier and more efficient to resort to online communication, Holland reminds us of the importance of face time.

“Get in front of as may people as you can. Nothing, and no one, can share the vision for your event like you can. There is no e-mail or poster that will convey it with the conviction and passions as the words from your mouth and the look in your eyes,” he said.

2. Build Slowly

One of Holland's bigget warnings is to be patient, and to let your event grow slowly over time.

“Start small and nail all of the details,” Holland said. “I think a lot of folks, myself included, overestimate the demand and underestimate the cost and difficulty of building a reputation and a following (for your event).”

In his first year, Holland was shooting for 200 regional-level competitors, and fell significantly short of that lofty goal.

“We had 36 folks and 12 of them were from my own gym,” he said.

But it ended up being a blessing, as he was able to hold a great event that ran smoothly, as it was easy to manage such a small group of athletes.

When you do go out too hard and bite off more than you can chew, you run the risk of making mistakes that can hurt you if you plan to host your event again the next year, Holland explained.

“There are a lot of competitions out there, which means there’s a lot of noise. It also means that there are a lot of bad events and if you have been to a bad event you become dubious,” Holland said.

1. Bring on Elite Athletes

If you’re trying to create an ‘elite’ event, you need to find a way to recruit top athletes. For Holland, this is simple:

“Pay them. Fly them out. Put them in hotels. And pay them to compete,” he said.

“But before you do that, make sure you are nailing your event. You don’t want to invite someone with a huge following to your event and then let them down,” he said.

 

Emily Abbott was one of many CrossFit Games atheltes who competed at the Cascade Classic last year

For the Cascade Classic, their path to elite athletes was through sponsors and vendors.

“Companies sponsor lots of amazing athletes, and those athletes need a place to represent their brand. Create a platform for them do do that and you can get them there that way,” he said.  “Also appreciate that the 40 athletes that competed at the last CrossFit Games aren’t the only elite athletes out there. People are fans of folks for lots of reasons.”

The key to getting companies on board to send their athletes to compete at your event is once again about providing value in return to the company, Holland reiterated.

“Be creative. Maybe their business thrives on social media attention. Maybe they want to just get their product into the hands of the athletes. Don’t underestimate your ability to serve companies in creative ways that will in turn make them want to help you deliver an incredible event.”