Your Athletes are not the only people you need to consider when planning your race. Spectators also play a key role in generating buzz and energy around your event, and making it a success. And their experience is important—the term “spectator-friendly” goes a long way when marketing a race. There are also rules and safety issues that apply to Spectators, and you’ll want to be sure these issues are clearly communicated. Here are some factors to consider regarding Spectators when planning your event:
Planning & Permits
When applying for permits and planning the venue for your race, you’ll need to add Spectator numbers into the equation. For a first-year race, it can be hard to estimate the number of people likely to watch your event, but a good starting point is to assume that every Athlete, on average, will have one or two fans on hand. Some people may have less, while others will bring an entire army of friends. Plus, pure fans of the sport, as well as locals within the community, will likely attend. Be sure to beef up the numbers to allow plenty of space—and adequate port-a-potties—for everyone.
Security & Medical
As attendance numbers increase for your event, so will your need for additional medical and security staff. Hopefully your Spectators won’t need much medical attention, but issues such as heat exhaustion are possible, so be prepared. Security needs will depend on the specific venue, type of race, and Athlete and Spectator numbers. If Spectators need to cross the course at any point, be sure to set up designated crosswalks that are strictly monitored by race security or volunteers. You do want to allow Spectators to move around the venue, but Athlete safety should always come first, and an Athlete in the midst of competition should never be made to maneuver around a Spectator who is not paying attention. Likewise, make sure that any congested areas offer a clear separation between the Athletes and crowds.
Rules & Regulations
Race rules can apply to spectators as well as Athletes; and Spectators need to refrain from doing anything that might interfere with an Athlete’s race. Rules to consider—and clearly communicate in your athlete guide—include whether or not Athletes can accept food or drink from unofficial aid stations, and whether they can receive technical assistance (in the case of a cycling race or triathlon) from Spectators, as opposed to race officials. The finish line is also important when it comes to rules—can friends and family members join Athletes as they cross the line, or is that forbidden? Whatever your race rules and regulations, make sure they’re clearly stated in the athlete guide and on the website. Encourage your Athletes to pass this information along to their loved ones, so they’re not penalized for accidentally doing something wrong.
The opportunities for Spectator viewing will depend on your course and the type of event. A criterium cycling race, for example, allows Spectators to stay in one place, while people watching a long-distance mountain bike race may rush around to spot their Athletes at various points on course. Keep in mind that the course layout can significantly impact how spectator-friendly a race may be. At times, a looped course may be preferable—so that Spectators better enjoy their time cheering, and so that Athletes receive more cheers and emotional support on course. You may also want to add video monitors that broadcast sections of the race that Spectators wouldn’t otherwise see. A Spectator guide, listing all the hot spots for optimal viewing, is a great inclusion for your athlete guide or goodie bags.
Ways to Make it Fun
While it’s critical that Spectators stay safe and defer to the appropriate race rules, it’s also important to engage them and make sure their experience watching the race is a positive one. Prior to the race, encourage fans to create signs for their Athletes by supplying poster board and markers at the expo. On race day, make sure your announcer is energized to rev up the crowd; upbeat music (or even a band), live video feeds of the race action, and giveaways to Spectators in the finish chute also help boost the fun factor at any event.
Now that your Spectators—along with your Athletes—are front of mind, you’ll be ready to plan a best-in-class event. And if you need help or advice, we’re here for you—just give our Athlinks Services team a call at 855-709-4555.