The Build Cycle Podcast #008 – Breck Epic’s Mike McCormack

Fair warning: Mike’s a talker, in the best possible way. Our conversation meanders back and forth through his work background, and each turn reveals another piece of the puzzle that’s come together to create the “Mountain Bike Stage Race World Championship” event. He’s also running the Vail Outlier, a consumer mountain bike festival that’s quickly established itself as a major late-season event. Oh, and he’s running a PR firm that works with some of the top brands in the cycling industry.

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:42 – The first events and work experiences that led to creating the multi-day Breck Epic MTB stage race.
  • 09:05 – How he determined the revenue model for his events.
  • 18:50 – The seed was planted.
  • 19:45 – First steps to get an event rolling along.
  • 24:40 – Talking logistics, finding staff, and curating the experience.
  • 30:30 – How to deal with setbacks and prevent future mistakes.
  • 34:20 – Other ways to grow participation, awareness and enthusiasm for his events, and bringing in promotional partnerships.
  • 41:00 – A little more on sponsorships.
  • 44:00 – Growing when registration is capped is no longer only about participation.
  • 60:10 – Issues with permitting.
  • 65:00 – How he launched the Vail Outlier Festival and quickly attracted a crowd.
  • 67:45 – Keeping a year round staff in a nomadic culture.
  • 77:30 – Why start a PR firm when you’ve got your hands full with events?
  • 82:10 – Last bits of advice to anyone wanting to start an event.
Mike watches daily updates from the side for a change. All color photos courtesy of Mike McCormack, by Eddie Clark.

POST GAME ANALYSIS

OOOOOO, man. There are so many value bombs in this episode, so I’m going to rapid fire them:

Make it easy for people to say yes. He did this to attract sponsors by making the ask very small.

Sponsorship or registration based event models mean you’re relying on different sources of revenue, which also changes how you can grow and monetize an event.

Getting fired from his day job with Trek Bikes was both the wake up call needed to adjust his attitude and the springboard for the next phase of his life, which led to owning his own events and PR firm. This is a common theme among entrepreneurs, and proves yet again that losing your job isn’t the end, it’s usually the beginning.

Create an experience that makes the customer feel like they’ve accomplished something, and make sure their needs are met so they walk away with a great impression and tell their friends. Before the event, project confidence to assure your potential and returning customers that you know what you’re doing and all of their questions will be answered. Let them know they’ll be taken care of and that the event will be awesome. They need to trust in your ability to provide the experience they’re paying for, and then you need to over deliver.

See things from others’ points of view and build consensus when you need teamwork. Treat your workers, sponsors and partners well and they’ll be there for you.

An event isn’t just about an event. It’s also about the impact on the community. Not just the revenue it brings to local hotels, restaurants and shops, but also the impact on the environment. In Mike’s case, that’s literal, since riders are racing through the forest and they need to deal with litter, wear and tear, posting and removing course markings, etc. But it could also mean traffic, street closures, and more.

When designing event swag and promo items for participants, make it something they’ll actually want to wear. Or use. If you’re just giving something away because it’s expected, take the extra effort to make it valuable or memorable.

Photo by Liam Doran.

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