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Social Media and Cycling: Larry H Miller Tour of Utah
 
By Imelda March
Date: 8/3/2011
Social Media and Cycling: Larry H Miller Tour of Utah
 

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah returns for a sixth edition August 9-14, 2011. Historic landmarks, scenic byways and community festivals will be part of the 409-mile stage race. The six-day race and rolling festival was elevated this year by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to a 2.1-rated stage race, which makes it one of the top three pro cycling events of its kind for North America. The Tour of Utah promises to uphold its distinction as "America's Toughest Stage Race" with close to 30,000 feet of climbing over the total route, as well as providing stunning scenery along the Wasatch Front in and around six host venues.

We reached out to Jackie Blackburn-Tyson who explained how her company (Peloton Sports Inc.) will use social media tools to drive spectator participation, extend event value, add to the bottom line and improve revenue for potential sponsors. In this interview, she highlights the use of social media from an event management company point of view.

DP: Tell me about your company: when were you founded? How are you different from other media companies?

Jackie: Peloton Sports began started in 1998.

My previous professional work includes the Games of the XXVI Olympiad (1996 Summer Olympics of Atlanta), professional and minor league baseball but cycling is something I do for fun because I am passionate about it.

Directly related to the Director of Communications role I was previously with the now defunct Tour of Georgia.

DP: Tell me about your work with the upcoming Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah?

Jackie: I landed this gig due to the work I did with my friends at Medalist Sports. They managed the Tour of Georgia and the USA Pro Cycling Championships in Greenville, NC.

My role with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is that of a Director Communications. The role is similar to a PR job in which I oversee media relations, try to get publicity by messaging with teams to talk to media and plug the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. In addition, I work with six communities for the Tour of Utah and work with the volunteers for host cities.

In terms of the use social media tools, I work with the technical group and they ensure that the social media links work while I provide the content for the social media channels.

I love the social media! I have been a sports writer and I love sports and I know that the news have to get to the people.

DP: How are you creating buzz about the event?

Jackie: We are trying something new - a bigger event! The Larry H Miller group of companies owns many properties in the automotive, entertainment, sports, restaurant, retail, finance & insurance and services. Utah Cycling Foundation is in the same group as well.

Notably in the sports segment of the Larry H Miller group of companies they own the Utah Jazz (NBA), Salt Lake Bees (minor league baseball), Miller Motorsports Park (state-of-the-art road racing facility for automobiles and motorcycles) fan sports (radio), Million Miles at Miller (charity bike event) and the Tour of Utah (cycling).

We have never had World Tour teams as part of our event but with our recent announcements this is very exciting for cycling as a whole.

As an event we have not engaged fans early in the process but plan providing information through social media tools before, during and after the event.

On a personal level, I prefer Twitter because it is very immediate.

For the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah we will be using video heavily. We will have athletes and team managers talk about coming to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and preparing for the race. Levi Leipheimer is from Montana and he will be featured heavily in our marketing.

We plan to engage fans about information on how to watch the race i.e. Cycling 101 days before the race, while also providing information on techniques on how to watch the race. Fans can follow via Twitter and via our website which will have everything streaming live on race day.

Through our social media push our fans will learn about the best spots to catch the peloton, in addition, to providing them with travel information.

We want to engage the fans and continue to inform them about news of athletes and how they are doing elsewhere. Sunset Magazine, a Southern Living magazine of sorts has been tapped because it reaches a diverse group of people. We want to target areas of general interest for a deeper fan reach.

DP: In the cycling industry, are the sponsors requesting metrics of events that use of social media?

Jackie: A few of them are requesting metrics and another few will implement activation and we will help them with it. We really expect sponsors to request social media metrics from us.

We will be utilizing Google Analytics and Utah News Clips to measure our efforts.

DP: To build community, what platforms are you using for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah?

Jackie: We will be using You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr during race week.

DP: Are you/will you use any mobile applications? Do you plan or use mobile roadie?

Jackie: No we don't use Mobile Roadie, but are discussing that and we have not used it in the past.

On Monday, August 8 we confirmed that Tour Tracker will help the Tour of Utah with LIVE race web casting and mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.

On race day, we plan to use Twitter feeds to let provide information about rider sign-ins, what's going on at start of the race, sponsor give-a-ways, tell followers what the crowd is doing, live race streams, links to web-streaming, pictures and videos.

DP: In what platform(s) are you experiencing success? Is one platform experiencing more fan engagement? If so, which one(s)?

Jackie: Good question! I have seen a lot of volume of re-tweets. Our primary platform will be Twitter and Facebook. There is a lot of cycling athletes on Twitter and it makes sense for us to be part of that social media channel.

We began things early by sending out messages in January of this year with press conferences messages and other marketing of the event using Twitter.

DP: Will your event utilize any cross-marketing?

Jackie: On the marketing front, we have partnered with our host venue properties; additionally, with Tourism Snow Bird Sky, Park City Utah, Salt Lake City, the University of Utah and the MS 150 Charity Bike ride in Utah.

DP: Do you use e-mail in conjunction with social media to reach your fans/community?

Jackie: Earlier in the marketing process we did not have a newsletter yet; however, our goal is to use e-mail as part of our communication to reach a broader audience.

DP: What marketing integration plans you have for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah in the next year?

Jackie: Should we get a sponsor we will be back. I worked the Salt Lake Olympic games and it is great to be back.

The key objectives with utilizing social media tools is to inspire people to participate in the August 6th (the weekend before the race start) event where participants get to ride 90 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing the western Rocky Mountains and Wasatch Range (mountain range in the Utah-Idaho border).

DP: In sports, who is doing a good job with social media?

Jackie: At FOX Sports, Ian Polter is doing a good job. In cycling the teams are just sporadic with their information. The Sea Otter Classic and the Redlands Bicycle Classic through Lynn’s (Podium Insight) live Tweets.

In other sports, NASCAR teams with their Insights with the Driver segment on television allows for good fan engagement and they are excellent.

Some of the pro-teams are just too commercial with ticket sale push. Red Sox Nation does a great job with it and they use e-mail messages to reach their fans. They send out their e-mails two three times a week emphasizing player and community stories.

EVENT INFORMATION

Website: Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah

The Ultimate Challenge - Saturday, August 6

A grueling, one-day, non-competitive ride that follows the cyclists to ride the very same Park City-to-Snowbird road course that the world’s top professional bike racers will race one week later.

Stages

Prologue – Time Trial, 2kms/1.25 miles - Tuesday, August 9
Stage 1 – Road Race, 187kms/116 miles – Wednesday, August 10
Stage 2 – Road Race, 151kms/100 miles – Thursday, August 11
Stage 3 – Individual Time Trial, 14.5kms/9.0 miles – Friday, August 12
Stage 4 – Circuit Race, 132kms/82.0 miles – Saturday, August 13
Stage 5 – Road Race: Mountaintop Finish 161kms/100 miles – Sunday, August 14

About Peloton Sports Inc.: The Company was founded in 1998 by Jackie Blackburn-Tyson, a marketing/public relations professional with 20-plus years of experience in the sports industry, ranging from minor league baseball to Olympic Games sponsors. The Peloton Sports Inc. has been recognized by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America with multiple awards for effective public relations projects, including Phoenix Awards for ING Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon and the Tour de Georgia cycling event. Peloton Sports currently provides media and public relations consultation and services for Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty, 24 Hours of Booty – Atlanta, USTA Florida, Project Athena Foundation, RealCyclist.com Pro Cycling Team, Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze, and The First Tee of Jacksonville. Visit Peloton Sports Inc. or www.twitter.com/sportspr.


About the author: Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling issues and general peloton ramblings. Imelda is an experienced racer who also holds an MBA and is a marketing strategy expert.

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