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How Obstacle Races Achieve Success Through Social Media

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Before 2010, the idea of running through mud, fire, ice-cold water and 10,000 volts electricity was just an image that came up when people talked about the training of specialized military units such as the Navy Seals. In 2012, these intense physical events, including Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and Spartan Race, have become a 150 million dollar industry.

Why on earth do people pay $110 on average to participate and to suffer through all types of pain, and get nothing in return? Well, a simple answer would be because it’s just fun, both in the real world and online!

For instance, Tough Mudder is taking the concept of intense individual races and turns them into a concept that is similar to Facebook or Twitter’s achievements. The races were made into social, attractive, and even viral events. In a sense, Tough Mudder has taken advantage of the shareable and responsive aspects of social media into real life; something that any business would need in today’s world with increasing demand of transparency from consumers. A simple marathon is not just an interesting thing to share with your friends, but it is also a race where accomplishments are dedicated to individuals receiving no help or support from any other participants. With Tough Mudder, participants must help each other share their challenges and demonstrate companionship. But the best part about it all is that participants will be able to post pictures on their social media platforms after the race to brag about their experiences and accomplishments. Tough Mudder has almost 3 million Facebook “likes.” The truth is: post a muddy picture of yourself completing Tough Mudder, and your friends will think it’s pretty cool.

So why would businesses, marketers  or social media marketing agencies care about these types of events?

Letting your products or services build themselves into brands would make any marketer’s wildest dream come true. Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have achieved that through customers’ volunteering conversations on social networks, which are also due to their shareable and interesting aspects, rather forcing people to review or share.

In an interview with Forbes, Tough Mudder’s CEO and co-founder, Will Dean revealed his first rule of advertising on Facebook: “Try anything once, the great thing about digital media is you can experiment with small amounts of money.” Display ads, s
mall boxes on the right-hand side of users’ homepages; and even partner-sponsored stories—you name it, and they have tried it all. Their social media team spends time analyzing click-through-rates and cost per engagement, which is also combined with data that they collect from surveys.

Businesses are often discovered through a Google search, so Google is where those businesses should be. Will Dean agreed that Facebook ads serve a different purpose, which is to get people talking about a brand. An ad just works as a cue. “When people do Tough Mudder, they talk about it to their friends, and if a brand wouldn’t come up in a normal conversation, then Facebook’s probably not a good fit.”