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STEPHEN OLIVER'S EXTRAORDINARY MARKETING
"TOURNAMENTS AND OTHER DIVERSIONS"
To start this chapter it is really important to note that you
really must decide what really gets you turned on and make sure
you have that opportunity. If competing on the open circuit or
coaching two or three key students to championship level really
turns you on then by all means pursue it. Just be sure that you
keep this compartmentalized as a hobby not as a part of your business
For me I really want to compete next year - in auto racing! What's
the likely impact on my school? Well I will need $50,000 to $75,000
to pay for training, licensing, track fees, pit crews, and the
car lease. On one hand maybe I'll really have to get the gross
up to support his new hobby - on the other hand it will take me
away for 7 to 10 four day weekends hitting the track quite a distraction.
Will traveling that circuit - successfully or otherwise help my
school? No way. Will traveling that circuit hurt my school? Absolutely!
Why - dissipated time, energy, focus, and ultimately money. What's
the point? Why do I bring this up? Well frankly - your own
participation in open karate tournaments is no more relevant to
your martial arts school than auto racing is to mine. Exercise
your hobby if you wish - but, gee don't try to justify it as helping
your profession or your school.
In addition to Intramural Tournaments that I host for my own students - that
have had as many as 750 students in attendance I made a decision
to promote a national level event beginning in 1989. My tournament "The
Mile High Karate Classic" was a NASKA World Tour event that was
by far the largest and highest quality event in this region of
the country and one of the top events in the country.
That having been said I have never figured out even a single positive
element to exposing your students to the open tournament circuit.
Ultimately most events are so poorly run that your run of the mill
student may get so annoyed by their experiences that they drop
Then you have your top students who start winning lots of trophies
and start "getting ranked" These are the students who eventually
develop a "prima dona" syndrome. Suddenly they start
to think that they are doing you a favor by running around to events
everywhere representing you (as if you really care what schools
in competition with you think about your school!) Once they really
start having success they suddenly have other instructors approaching
them to "help" them reach their potential.
Ultimately many competitors end up basically as free agents. Trained
in their garage by their "tournament parents," paying other
competitors up to $100 or more an hour to train them privately,
while complaining that you wouldn't spend adequate private time
with them at $100 per MONTH. Allowed to continue - some of your
most physically gifted students actually become bad role models
for the rest of your student body.
Am I overly cynical in outlining all of these "worst case" outcomes?
No I really don't think I am. I've seen it happen over and over
Next let's consider the prospects of promoting your own event.
In as objective a way as possible I'll list the pros and cons of
being a promoter:
done at a highly successful and professional level being a promoter
gives you wonderful networking opportunities. Many of the
top people in our industry that I've met came from my involvement
in the circuit. Don't discount the value of this one element.
your students to Jimmy Pham, John Valera, and Mike Chat's of the
circuit. On the national circuit right now there are some really
nice people and some outrageously good technicians. Exposure to
these great champions can certainly have a positive impact on all
of your students. (keep in mind that this applies to the traditional
karate circuit, to the traditional Tae Kwon Do events, and to all
of the tournament environments to some extent.)
rewards. I really don't believe that many promoters make enough
money to justify promoting their event based upon financial outcome.
In evaluating this you really must factor in "opportunity costs" At
my peak as a promoter the event could make $30,000 to $50,000 net.
Although that is a significant amount of money I never figured
that my income from the event by itself justified the time and
effort that went into it.
run a big event well requires literally a mind-numbing number of
details and activities. Big events become really complex
in a hurry. Try scheduling 200+ divisions into 20 or more rings
run by 150+ volunteers and then get everything to start on time - run
smoothly - and end on time. It takes lots of time and effort to
put all of these details together. When I did it my staff was pretty
big and most of the administrative details could be delegated to
paid, full-time staff members.
To successfully promote an event you've really got to spend a lot
of time getting those schools who otherwise are in competition
with you to support your event. You can chew up an incredible amount
of time trying to garner support from these school owners and black
Although a big event can make a fair amount of money - I've seen
more of them lose A LOT of money. A big event will have a BIG budget
which will get spent no matter what happens. Start with 6 foot
trophies for 200 or even 300 divisions. Add in $10,000 to $15,000
in prize money. Don't forget $2,000 to $3,000 in pipe and drape
(really!) another similar amount for lights and sound. Then comp
20 to 100 room nights for your volunteers. And don't forget anywhere
from $5,000 up to even $50,000 in rental for your venue. Wait did
I mention printing costs for 50,000+ flyers and the cost of postage.
I know promoters who attend literally 50 tournaments per year and
travel across country to 12 or 15 big events. Hitting these events
to politic the other promoters and school owners can start to chew
up every Saturday and Sunday and kill quite a few three day weekends.
You really better love attending tournaments!
To me this really was the straw that "broke
the camel's back" There really were lots of better ways to spend
Remember when computing the net profit
from any event to include opportunity costs. What negative impact
has the event had on your ability to commit time, energy, and focus
to your school (or to your family, hobbies, or other activities.)
With few exceptions what I've seen is:
When supporting events:
to local tournaments has a negative impact on the students who
local tournaments takes time away from your school.
involved in the local scene becomes political and time wasting
in a hurry.
a "Tournament School" Turns off lots of potential and current
a personal or school reputation on the local tournament scene
will have no impact on your school results.
your competitors (other schools in your area) has no impact on
your school performance.
When competing personally:
personally adds NO VALUE to your school operation.
your "Name out there" on the circuit adds NO VALUE to your
and effort to prepare for tournaments can become a distraction
from your school.
a Black Eye or Broken Nose really turns off intros!.
because it's important to you to do so is great - just remember
that it is a hobby UNRELATED to your school operation and will
not contribute to your school results.
When promoting a local or regional tournament:
promoters lose as much (or more) money from time taken away from
their school as they would make promoting an event.
seen more promoters LOSE a ton of money - than I've seen make
a ton of money.
a quality event takes LOTS of TIME.
you are not going to do a QUALITY event - don't do one at all.
gain lots of local support you must:
a. Be politically active
in the local community;
b. Go to LOTS of tournaments;
c. Work hard at those tournaments;
d. Be careful that your
school is not so successful that the local guys see you as a threat.
When promoting a large national event:
1. You will spend LOTS of
time traveling to other national events.
2. You must network - get
to know other national promoters - create a positive impression.
3. You must also spend as
much or more time at local tournaments as you would if you promoted
just a local event.
4. You must have a STRONG
base of your own students or of local competitors.
5. You must recruit 100
to 200 volunteers and a minimum of 100 Black Belt Judges.
6. You must make sure that
your tournament is a Renewal Tool for your own students.
7. You must plan to LOSE
lots of money to get the event up and running.
Excerpted from "Everything I Wish I Knew When I Was 22" part of
the Extraordinary Marketing Program by Stephen Oliver, MBA -
to receive a free 10 "Insider's Secrets to Marketing your Martial
Arts School" report and, the free Extraordinary Marketing newsletter
go to: http://www.ExtraordinaryMarketing.com
(c) copyright 2001 Stephen
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Putting up a Web Site
a Great Advertisement?
the Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22": Part 2
Everything is Negotiable
the Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22": Part 3
Wealth vs. Lifestyle
Much Can You Spend to Generate Enrollment?
and other Diversions