On May 16th, the Wall Street Journal reported that Spartan Race faced a cash crunch. The obstacle racing community was fired up on both sides of the Spartan fence. Those that love Spartan tried to give a rationale as to why this is temporary, and Spartan will bounce back. The anti-Spartan crowd had fodder to go after Joe D. and his business practices that they felt were not helping the community.
Me? I sat, watched, and thought. On the morning of May 18th and once again on May 25th, I emailed Joe D. directly with my thoughts on a few topics, all that would help Spartan and help the OCR Community.
A little background. I have been participating in Spartan events since 2013. I do not travel much but have been on the course in Killington, Barre, Tuxedo, Bethel, Mountain Creek, and Citifield. I enjoy Spartan Races. They challenge me. Whether I succeed at an obstacle or not, I enjoy the events and the time I spend on the course with my friends.
That is me. I am not anti-Spartan and I understand those that are. Your arguments are valid as are the arguments that are pro-Spartan. But, instead of arguing and causing a scene, I emailed Joe with suggestions.
Before I share sections of this email, I want to say two things about it. First, I am the owner/creator of OCR Buddy. Parts of my suggestions include OCR Buddy as something that can help. It may seem that my suggestions are self-promoting and I understand the sentiment. Second, I am doing this post because I never heard a response from Joe or anyone from Spartan, and I would like them to possibly hear these suggestions on how to help Spartan and also the OCR Community at large:
“1. Scheduling of Events
There have been over a dozen, if not two dozen, incidents that I can recall Spartan making a change in schedule or location to cause direct competition with another obstacle race. Spartan has done this in the past to Tough Mudder (before the purchase), Savage Race, Bonefrog and numerous local events. While this is your competition in theory, this hurts the entire obstacle racing community.
People have to make a choice. They have to decide where to spend their money. Spartan or the competition will lose a participant. This is a loss of revenue and grass roots publicity to one of these brands.
When conflicts occur, the perception is that Spartan does not care. As this is a capitalistic society, Spartan has every right to do as it wishes against the competition. However, there is a larger picture. Obstacle racing needs other brands to survive and thrive. The OCR Community needs the smaller brands and local brands to race throughout the year. Now, people have to make a choice and speak negatively about your brand because of the perception that it does not care about anyone else but themselves.
Lastly regarding this topic, people are swayed by social media. When Spartan has made changes, there are dozens of posts about how Spartan does not care and “I will never do a race with Spartan again” and the obvious posts that are for the event that Spartan is competing against. While Spartan is a machine, the winds of perception blow strong against it.
I will make a suggestion for this below.”
Scheduling has been a huge contention with Spartan over the years. Many of us can give our own examples (ie. Last weekend in Ohio Spartan/Savage Race). People want to be on the course and when schedules clash, people have to make a choice of where to spend their disposable income. In the end, the OCR Community loses. The more opportunities that people have to compete, the more opportunities that we have to grow the OCR Community.
In my opinion, if Spartan works with smaller companies to promote the sport, there will be a larger pool of people to sign up for future Spartan events. Spartan, let’s work together to help everyone succeed. Other brands success will only help yours.
- Prize Payments
I am not an athlete that competes. I have never and will never be on a podium. However, many people do. Some events are advertised with a prize for being on the podium. There are many people who are still awaiting payments. How do I know this? People who are due checks for winning events are posting that they were never received and they cannot get answers from Spartan HQ. Are they lying? I would not know. All I know is that many people claim to be owed prize money from Spartan,
I read in the WSJ article that some of your vendors have allowed you to delay payments and that is good news for Spartan. However, Home Depot will not go on social media to their followers and claim Spartan does not do good business practices. Athletes will go on social media to complain. People see complaints and they remember them. What happens next? Other people read these complaints and choose not to participate in a Spartan event, hurting your bottom line.
I suggest that these athletes be contacted. Offer them something as compensation. Free pass instead of 100% cash? Make the value worth it to them to say, “Spartan stepped up and thank you.” Positive comments sway perception,
Perception is reality. People listen to those that yell the loudest, or the most consistent. Throughout the past year and a half, I have seen multiple comments from athletes waiting to be paid their prize, compensated in other promised ways or even having their transfers not moved properly. I have not heard any too many words from Spartan (officially) with ways that they plan on making things right.
People want what they were promised. It is that simple. Communication is even more simple. If you owe someone something, reach out and talk to them. For some people, at this point, it is about the principle as opposed to the compensation. Step up, take a few lumps as you listen to people complain and talk to them. In the end, you will have spoken to your athletes, worked to make things right and also dispel the notion that you just do not care.
“3. Better utilize and promote your athletes.
I do not mean only Ryan and Lindsay, who are amazing people. You have athletes of multiple tiers around the world who are doing amazing things. Every week, due to circumstances, many of them succeed at an event around the world. What harm would it to do have social media posts that say, “Congratulations to Spartan Pro Athlete Kris Rugloski for becoming the HYROX World Champion.”
Spartan could keep a running list and promote their athletes. Imagine if Spartan knew their athletes and their successes. This promotes your athletes, promotes Spartan’s willing to acknowledge there are other brands out there and can also show how dominant Spartan’s Pro Team is.
Once the perception is changed that Spartan is in a vacuum, the better it will be for Spartan.
I own OCR Buddy. What is OCR Buddy? It is a scheduling app which attempts to list as many obstacle and other types of events from around the world. This tool can be of great assistance to Spartan to utilize OCR Buddy and my outreach into the OCR Community,
Before scheduling dates for events and locking them in, have someone in Spartan scheduling contact me and let’s come up with a plan how Spartan can avoid conflicts if and wherever possible. Over a dozen Race Directors/owners have contacted me regularly to make sure what is happening in specific regions on specific dates. Spartan can minimize conflict. Spartan can work with the community. It becomes known that Spartan wants to help build the entire community and the perception that Spartan does not care, changes.
OCR Buddy can also be used by your Spartan Pro Team staff. Through OCR Buddy, athletes can indicate that they are part of a team. Without getting into the specifics, Spartan Pro Team members can use the app to indicate their entire schedule and ask to become a member of the Spartan Pro Team within the app. Pro Team staff can see who is doing which events and check for results after the weekend and also see which Spartan races will have Pro Team members attending. It can be a useful tool that your staff can use.
The tool can also be used to promote your SGX Coaches. We can have that discussion another day.
The app is free to download. The app is easy to use and I will be glad to help anyone that needs assistance.
I want to assist any way I can. I believe that I can assist Spartan in multiple ways. And as you can see, I am not asking for a penny for this.”
The races are not the “sport”, the athletes are. Spartan has a variety of athletes under contract that allow the athletes certain availabilities. This idea goes hand in hand with building the OCR Community. There is nothing wrong with mentioning other brands and congratulating athletes for their accomplishments. Spartan has a huge Social Media team and presence. Use it. Promote it. Spartan can bring the OCR Community together each and every Monday by congratulating their Pro Team athletes for accomplishments across the world.
These thoughts would require a change in practice by Spartan and would require Spartan to open their mind to becoming the “Big Brother “in the community as opposed to pretending they are an only child.
Joe, if you read this, I am not asking for a penny from you or Spartan for helping Spartan. I want to help the OCR Community continue to grow and promote itself as the best sport in the world. The people at every race around the world are amazing. We help each other. We cheer each other. We live vicariously through one another.
Imagine if our sport’s race brands were able to do that as well? This sport would be unstoppable.
Call me Joe. My phone number is in the email I sent you on May 18th and May 25th.