Orienteering Edinburgh Report
The main focus of the Orienteering Edinburgh initiative is to increase the profile of the
sport as part of the build up to WOC2024 and to engage newcomers, with a view to them
going on to participate in local events, join their local club or even become a volunteer at
the World Champs! The key target audience is young (20-35 years old) local professionals
who have an interest in getting outside and being active, however any newcomers
participating is taken as a success. The events are all urban based, as this keeps it WOC
relevant but is also an easier introduction for beginners. The idea is that the vast majority
of participants will know the area already, we are just providing them with an extra
challenge to make their lunchtimes more exciting!
The Recent ‘Try it’ Series
Over the last month, Orienteering Edinburgh hosted another series of events aimed at
bringing newcomers into the sport. As with the initial trial series held back in the summer,
the events were all based in the Festival Square on Lothian Road in Edinburgh city centre.
However, quite a few changes were made. One of which was the decision to hold them in
the middle of the day to hopefully coincide with the lunch breaks of local office workers.
This very central location was chosen to be super visible and easily accessible from the
nearby offices. The time and location was the same for all 4 events in the series as this
kept the organisation simple and meant there was consistency for the newcomers – they
always knew where we were going to be and at what time! Other changes that were made
were with the marketing, branding and organisation that was done by Scottish
Orienteering instead of the local clubs ESOC and INT.
How does it work?
The aim is to keep it as simple and consistent as possible to make things easy to
understand. There are only two courses on offer each week – a long and a short. These are
planned to be the same technical difficulty, but with some progression throughout the
course and from week to week. Within the courses, the first few controls start off closer
together with little to no route choice and progress into longer legs with typically two
route options (one usually being more obvious than the other). The weekly progression was
achieved by the choice of area used for the courses – the first week was in close proximity
to Festival Square and then moved further away, including reaching the Meadows in the
third week and down to the more complex Dean Village for the final event.
To reduce load on the organisation and the need for burdensome and expensive
equipment, the MapRun app is used as the punching and timing system. Not only does this
reduce the stress of whether SI units will be stolen, but makes it highly accessible to
newcomers who likely all own a mobile phone. Another positive from using MapRun is it
enables immediate analysis as it shows the runner what route they took and gives them
access to a results list for those who are more competitive! However, to make the
experience more like a standard orienteering event, paper maps are printed and given to
participants. This means that once MapRun is set up and running, they can pop their
phones in a pocket and focus solely on the map.
People are asked to sign up in advance, however we also provided a QR code at
registration that could be used for on the day sign ups. The sign up process is set up so
that people can sign up in pairs if they wish to participate together, and this proved to be
well used during our recent series. The registration form also collects data on where
people work and how they found out about Orienteering Edinburgh to help us with analysis
of our marketing strategies.
In terms of volunteer helpers, we had a large number in the first week (which was great to
see!) but we realised that this made the event look unprofessional and cliquey as helpers
stood around and chatted to each other instead of focussing on the newcomer experience.
For the following weeks, we reduced the number of helpers to only 3 or 4 and assigned
roles (welcoming participants/MapRun help/congratulate finishers) to ensure they had a
specific purpose to focus on and newcomers always had someone making them feel
The first event of the series was made free to enter, so unsurprisingly this attracted the
largest number of participants at around 25. The following two weeks were smaller with
around 15 entrants, although we did suffer from a very cold spell which we expect put off
a few people from attending. The final week we had some lovely weather and attracted
about 20 people. The vast majority of participants were complete beginners or had only
brief experiences with orienteering in the past. A lot of participants returned most weeks
and some brought along friends/colleagues to compete as a pair. We are happy that the
series largely attracted newcomers, but are looking to boost the numbers for future
Only about half the participants signed up to our mailing list, which is a little
disappointing as this makes it very hard to keep them in the loop. After every event we
sent round an email to thank people for participating and reminded them of the next
weeks event. Another reminder email was sent out the day before each event as well. At
the end of the series, a feedback form was emailed out to collect people’s opinions on the
series and on potential changes to future events in the new year.
Marketing and Branding
Organising an event that aims to attract newcomers can be very challenging as you can’t
use the usual channels that only target current members of the orienteering community.
Our main target of the local offices proved very difficult, as an extensive search for any
contact details came to nothing. We resorted to emailing the local clubs asking for
members to spread the word in their places of work and to pass on any contacts they had.
This proved fairly successful as many worked in city centre offices, but this is still an area
of our marketing needing much improvement. This also provided opportunity to advertise
the events to local orienteers as the urban nature of the courses meant they were still
suitable for those with more experience.
We also emailed around local running clubs which again came to some success as a number
of participants told us they had heard about the event from these emails. We had lots of
flyers printed and spent a few lunchtimes stood outside handing these out to passers-by.
We initially flyered within Festival Square and The Exchange to target workers coming out
of the offices on their lunch breaks, and we also handed out flyers at the end of the canal
and on the meadows. Only a couple of people we flyered actually came along to the
events but we had many conversations with people who were interested in the sport and
the impending world champs, so this still acted as good advertisement for orienteering in
general. Holyrood Parkrun was another target of our flyers one Saturday morning, but
unfortunately it was a very wet and cold day so we didn’t get many people wanting to
chat to us. We also gave flyers to a couple of the nearby running shops and had some
pinned up at the university.
Orienteering Edinburgh has got its own unique branding to separate it from local clubs, as
we are keen for it to be its own standalone entity organised by Scottish Orienteering. We
therefore hired a graphic design company who came up with a logo and colourway that we
could use to tie all the branding together. Using this design, we have invested in flyers, hi-
vis vests, bunting, banners and feather flags to pull everything together and make the
registration look attractive and professional on the days of the events. For the last two
weeks, we also acquired the WOC gazebo which made us stand out even more, created the
connection between us and WOC and also kept us sheltered from the wintery weather!
Instagram and Facebook accounts were made specifically for Orienteering Edinburgh so
that we can post photos and updates about the events separate to the main Scottish
Orienteering account, although frequent sharing of content onto the SOA accounts does
help increase interaction with the content.
What’s to come in 2024
In the new year, Orienteering Edinburgh is going to become a weekly event (weather
dependent…) in the run up to WOC in July. We are going to continue hosting the events at
lunchtimes, at least throughout the winter months, as this allows people to get out during
daylight hours! We are keen to keep the events consistent as this makes it easier for
people to know where they are going and when, but we are also wary of it becoming
repetitive and hence potentially putting people off from coming. In order to gauge
opinions on this, the feedback form that was sent out questioned people’s availability if it
was changed to a Wednesday or if it was hosted in different locations around Edinburgh.
Responses to this are currently ongoing but we are hoping for enough responses to make
some decisions on these potential changes after the new year.
We believe there is also potential for some ‘spin off’ events that could be hosted in an
evening or weekend as a form of progression for those that have been regularly coming
along. These could also be arranged to coincide with EUOC’s FWTN races or the
Sprintelope series closer to summer, as this can also introduce newcomers to the local
clubs and orienteers.
Orienteering Edinburgh is scheduled to return in the third week of January, we hope to
see you there!