It’s all about the long term
To our Faces Team, I am aware that many of you have suffered the effects of Covid during this third wave
from either being ill yourself or losing loved ones. I tried to reach out to many during this time but want to express my sincerest condolences for your losses and my great relief for those in our Team who overcame the virus. The first half of this pandemic filled year is behind us and we have successfully delivered a hand full of events. This Team manages, despite the challenges, to find great solutions to deliver to our participants who have responded well to the Trailseeker, Race to the Sun, Cullinan 2 Tonteldoos and Torpedo events. We too have spent much time laying the platform and preparing for our more busy half of the year. As mentioned previously, the October and November months will determine the success of our financial year. Much effort is going into preparing for the worst and allowing for most scenarios to still deliver successful events. We are trying to manage all the variables that we can control to ensure we deliver these great events. Parallel to this, we are building the key foundations that provide long term sustained competitive advantages and a value proposition that scales easily across the globe. A few details on these initiatives are revealed later in this document and I ask you to please keep the information confidential.
The one that stands out for me in the current year has been recognising the passion, skills and commitment of our Team as well as how well we work together (especially evident at the fantastic Race to the Sun event). It has been really satisfying to observe these qualities especially knowing that this is such a key ingredient to building a great
business. I continue to encourage collaboration not only within teams but also across teams and their race directors. The more we hear each other out, the fewer mistakes we will make and the greater our insights will be for every significant decision. As a Team, we allow for great autonomy and decentralised decision making. We encourage bold decisions and push for innovation whilst accepting the inevitable mistakes. However, we will remain highly disciplined and accountable in applying our agreed-upon values when determining how we go about our work. These remain our magic ingredients and cannot be compromised. Over time these values will determine our culture and maintain our competitive advantage.
The 4 agreed-upon values we adopt as a business remain as follows:
1. Always act in the best interest of the customer
2. Always do the right thing
3. Provide new thinking and challenge convention
4. Maintain open and honest conversations
It is imperative that we correctly identify our customers when it comes to living our values. CPT marathon and The Otter, for instance, includes the “environment” as one of four key customers. The importance is not limited to the fact that we rely significantly on nature (Table Mountain Nature Reserve & The Tsitsikamma forest) as our differentiator but includes what our participants, hosts and sponsors regard as critical to our ongoing use thereof. Sustainability is therefore not a buzzword or charity a department within Faces but rather a key component built into our value proposition and therefore considered in everything we do. These behaviours have been designed to ensure we build a great business, work well as a team and gain respect for being good corporate citizens. It seems we have been well rewarded for sticking to these behaviours especially in a testing pandemic filled year. These guiding principles meant we opted for full 100% refunds on events being cancelled due to Covid, found solutions to comply with regulations to deliver on events and improved our participant experience via technology when entering and registering at our events. Let us remain committed and accountable to these 4 principles.
Our focus from the outset has been on building a great business for the long term. This in turn has defined how we reacted in a Covid year to obsessing at overcoming the obstacles to deliver value to our participants. We now have workable plans that may well allow us to deliver our mass participation events despite being at great cost. For instance, our plan presented to the Minister of Sport (another first) to approve 15,000 participants at the Cape Town Marathon included a free (our cost) rapid test for each and every participant, volunteer, supplier and staff. We deemed it necessary as we see the marathon as being the first permitted mass participation event in the country. This again has added to our perceived leadership position in the industry and impressed our key stakeholders. It is evident that some players in the event industry have no intention to deliver on events despite selling entries. Their intention to play the waiting game for refund policy terms to favour and maximise their returns will come back to bite them. Trailseeker has already delivered a few events and managed to postpone events with
little resentment shown. The manner and timing of our postponement as well as our trusted brand assisted greatly. The Covid compliance protocols, slick new registration process, broadcast enhancements and experience experiments (evening trail runs etc) have positioned us as pioneers in the industry and provided a solid growth platform when normalcy returns.
Ride Joburg is improving in each and every touchpoint from entry & communication experience, social media, design, city & federation engagement and more. The “on the day” experience too will enhance the overall experience for elites, participants, screen spectators and sponsors. We are in total pursuit of the number 1 timed day road race title. Our plans, brand and new initiatives have attracted potential sponsors and all
indications are that we will have a title sponsor for 2022. Cape Town marathon is also committed to improving at each and every touchpoint. In pursuit of bringing the marathon to global spectators & sponsors, we recently sold 25% of the event to Infront Sport & Media. Infront specialises in international media rights distribution, sponsorship sales and activations and cutting edge media production. These are skills in international locations we believe we require in order to become a global leader in the crowded marathon event space. We also substituted the 10km Peace Trail run with the Cape Town Trail Marathon in collaboration with Ryan Sandes. This trail marathon has the potential to build up to one of the great trail marathons in the world and we hope to attract the best elite
competitors for 2022 already. Our efforts with the marathon have not gone unnoticed and in turn, a massive opportunity has presented itself. Please do watch out for an exciting announcement on the 24th of August.
The Otter has clear focus areas for October’s event and enjoying the responsibility of managing its first-ever title sponsor. The live tracking of elite athletes presents a great opportunity to attract screen spectators and provide more exciting and sustained race commentary on-site, on-screen and on social media. It is also a great example of how to cross Team collaboration can add significant value. The added excitement of monetary incentives for target times makes for great entertainment. The Team is also providing new and unique experiences for current and potential sponsors, stakeholders and participants which will add to an already amazing event.
With sport, there is a platform to develop deep and long-lasting relationships with the consumer. Apparel brands have discovered the magic of direct selling and definitely shifted to cutting out the intermediate retailer quicker than expected. I believe they will (and have) invested in significant concept type stores that primarily serves as a
showcase or marketing engine to the product. The product over time will be tried and tested in these concept stores before being bought online on the brand eCommerce sites. This means there is a greater need to connect to consumers outside of the store, to build an emotional connection with participants and fans alike and pursue like-minded endorser brands to reflect their position in the market. If we are the number one event in our class or location we are putting our hand up to endorse such a sponsor in a similar fashion. Further, brands would want to regularly communicate to consumers in a personalised and very relevant manner. Specialized, for instance, wouldn’t want to try to sell an S-Works SL7 to the Ride Joburg 6 hour finisher but instead market this to the sub-3-hour vet competitor. Our tech stack allows for this and has already attracted the attention of potential apparel sponsors. We have been very fortunate to conclude new multi-event partnerships this past 6 months with aspirational brands such as Garmin and Didata. These partnerships not only endorse our events but also contribute product and “know-how” that will allow for better customer experiences. Didata will have a significant role to play in enhancing our screen spectator experience. This will assist our endeavours to make use of technology to entertain (a concept we refer to as “techtainment”).
We are incredibly excited at the new partnership with SuperSport across the groups events. We need to leverage off the platform to raise the profile of our events and attract potential participants all over Africa. The SuperSport relationship needs much attention to ensure we build on this partnership and in time make use of their channels
and website to also promote our events and tell our stories. I am told it is the first time a South African key road running event (the big 5) has been successful in moving away from SABC. There is always some luck involved but we still needed to navigate 3 key parties being ASA, SABC and SuperSport. Again we could rely on our brand, production teams quality and reputation to get this over the line. The most effective broadcasting medium seems to be different for each of our events. Deciding on a live SuperSport or streamed production, a same-day highlights package, news real, social media update production or similar is no simple decision considering costs and potential screen spectator demand. We will be learning fast over the next year in trying to solve for the best formula but in the interim, the following insights are very useful.
The full tech stack for Faces is coming together and Willem presents the following update:
– All Faces group entries that have gone on sale in 2020 were launched on our Howler Active platform. This enabled us to test the platform (and partners) and we have learned some valuable lessons on where we can improve. Thank you to everyone for embracing our latest group partner.
– The platform’s performance during higher traffic periods (like selling out Otter and the first day rushes for CPT Marathon and Ride Joburg entries) was very encouraging.
– Early data from the Challenge Feature deployed in CPT Marathon and Ride Joburg is showing positive traction of community-driven entries. We will look to continue to build out this feature during the course of the year.
– The event organiser modules on our CRM have now been completed and can facilitate batching, seeding and indexing for event organisers. This completes the circular value proposition between consumers and event organisers to use our platform and this should grow organically to the leading indexing provider in the industry and importantly across sporting disciplines.
– We have enabled communication modules to our customers through email, SMS and now also WhatsApp from the CRM. Event organisers are encouraged to use this platform to test marketing methodologies to drive entries and for race day communication.
– Integration between our consumer-facing front-end and our back-end CRM is holding up well, with isolated errors and managing to scale in line with expectations. This has all laid the groundwork for the birth of a consumer-facing event passport of sorts. The consumer will enjoy an automatically updated record of their historical events, events entered but not yet participated in, recommended events, category seeding, challenges and more. We are incredibly excited at the possibilities – see draft 1 of the landing page below.
We have an incredible few months that lie ahead of us. We are in pursuit of something very special. It will require a higher intensity from our efforts than we have ever experienced with more hurdles to overcome for the most simple of tasks. Laying this foundation is the hardest part and will define our industry leadership position for many years to come.
Enjoy the journey Team and please do stay safe!