Race the Castles report and accounts
Following the success of the event held last October you can now read the President’s & Event Directors’ reports and the accounts.
Race the Castles has been a first class showcase for orienteering in Scotland. The proposal to hold this event came to the SOA in Summer 2012. It was an ambitious idea with WOC 2015 in mind but also to show that Scottish terrain and the Scottish orienteering community can deliver attractive international events for the world’s top orienteers at the same time as providing high-quality orienteering for the home nations. The event received tremendous support from the clubs hosting the individual races – INT, EUOC, FVO, MAROC, GRAMP – and enormous thanks are due to them for going the extra mile to make sure everyone, from world champions to the hundreds of club orienteers, had a memorable weekend. However, for me a feature of the overall event was the stream of ideas from Graeme Ackland on how to make it succeed and establish good practice for future, similar events. We have learnt a lot from Race the Castles, which I hope will give the Scottish community confidence for the organisation of similar international weekend events in the future.
President, Scottish Orienteering Association
Event Directors’ Report
The idea of Race the Castles was to promote Orienteering as a tourist activity, and provide a taster for the World Championships next year. It was a tremendous success, with the best city events ever in Scotland. The support of EventScotland proved crucial in opening access to new venues at Balmoral and Stirling Castles, both of which were also a terrific success.
Orienteering has an incredibly strong volunteer tradition, mobilised by a strong club spirit, and literally hundreds of people gave up their time to support the event. We were able to call on professional marketers, web designers, accountants, event managers, grant-writers to contribute for free. Key to unlocking this voluntary effort was targeted marketing: specifically, convincing the community that this new event was the most important of the year.
We used social media extensively, and traditional methods of flyering and magazine adverts. But the most successful publicity came from distributing pre-event T-shirts and inviting elite athletes. Unlike road running, orienteering has no tradition of free event shirts. We designed high quality shirts that people would wear to run in: and they did. We gave them away to people on a promise to wear and promote the event: and they did. Each T-shirt cost us the same as 20 flyers, a bargain in marketing terms.
The other marketing ploy was inviting international elites, again in return for them promoting us on social media. Again this was a tremendous success: once we were able to list the World Champions who were coming, Everyone could buy into the idea that Race The Castles really was the event to do: "if it's good enough for the top runners, it's good enough for me". The upshot was that we had a thousand people from 30 countries at the event, almost all staying overnight around Stirling or Deeside.
The event itself was highly acclaimed. Stirling was voted "Course of the Year" by Sweden's "World of O" website, beating of the World Championship in Venice. Scotland is established as a destination for orienteering tourism. Most remarkable was the teamwork behind the scenes: over two years not one person quit their volunteer job, and by the actual weekend the day-organising teams kicked in and I, as overall event director, was so redundant that I went orienteering every day.