Matt Hudson; Total Motion Events; 29th June 2016
Stair climb events are becoming more common in the UK as charities partner with some of Britain’s high profile landmarks to host these mass participation events with a difference. Here we examine the benefits of hosting or partnering in ‘tower running’ events; some benefits are obvious, some less so.
So let’s start with what is at the heart of tower running and where it has found its principal catalyst; acting as a means to raise money for good causes. The Empire State Building Run Up is the longest running event globally, having celebrated it’s 39th anniversary this year making it a must-race event on every tower runners’ bucket list. Entry is limited to just a few hundred fundraisers, but due to its popularity minimum sponsorship is set at $2,500. The maths are pretty straightforward; this event grosses over half a million dollars for it’s charity partners, most recently Challenged Athletes Foundation and The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation…a pretty substantial return from a relatively simple concept on a course that requires very little augmentation.
But why limit to just one event a year? The American Lung Association will stage 10 ‘Fight For Air Climb’ events across the US in 2017, with each one set to raise a minimum of $250k, and some 2-3 times that amount the rewards for replicating a winning formula are clear.
Not all events can be so charitably successful, but this shows what is possible when you pair stair climb events at high profile venues with well-supported charities.
More commonly in the UK charitable commitments are much lower, usually around £150-200 after entry fees, but the numbers taking part can be higher with over 1,000 entrants to Shelter’s 8th edition of Vertical Rush at Tower 42 this year raising over £350k for the charity. The NSPCC’s Gherkin Challenge has just completed it’s 5th event after raising over £200k in 2015.
Towerrunning is still a relatively new sport to the UK, so as yet the ability of events to raise money has not been overly diluted, it still carries the ‘wow factor’ in a way that some other mass participation events no longer have. This offers a platform to grow the sport here and penetrate a greater proportion of the UK population, growing the charitable opportunity.
Typically it is has been the ‘mega charities’ that have raised the mega money with their established events well marketed to their large group of supporters and celebrity ambassadors. Total Motion is bringing this fundraising capability to more charities as we pioneer a model where we provide logistical support to a small number of charities participating in a single event, sharing in the success of some of the more renowned stair climbs. This works well with Total Motion grouping standalone charities or by providing a perfect platform for tenants of office buildings to work together to support their own charities, thus feeding directly into their CSR strategies.
The sport of Towerrunning may be relatively unknown here in the UK, but make no mistake across the US, Mainland Europe, the Middle East and Asia the sport is booming. Over the past 5 years the number of races globally has doubled to 250 across 45 countries in 2015, and is expected to top 300 events in 2016. In recognition of the fact that the sport is growing in professionalism with a huge increase in elite athletes the Towerruning World Association has now introduced a global registration system which overseas global events, world ranking points and standings in tandem with national organisations.
In the UK the sport lags with only 12 events scheduled for 2016, including the established events as mentioned previously in addition to Total Motion’s events at The Broadgate Tower, a venue which continues to be one of the leading supporters of stair climbs in London hosting several events in 2016 and with a clear pro-stairclimb attitude. There is an opportunity for more events as we search for new challenges that make use of the urban landscape, we now just ask that venues open their doors to allow the sport to grow.
The elite tower running fraternity are hugely keen to come to the UK to compete, London has a clear international draw, and our buildings add to that allure; who wouldn’t want to run up stairwells in the capital? With these elites journeying across the globe in pursuit of ranking points London is crying out for that flagship event. The profile of the venue helps, but the combination of the charities, the marketing and facilities for these elites can really create a fantastic experience for all parties.
(see our blog for more about the little known world of elite tower running)
Stair climb events offer fantastic opportunities for individuals or teams to engage their employees in physical activity. A single event may be the focal point, but the knock on effect would be to encourage employees to use the stairs on a more regular basis, both in the lead up to an event and subsequently, offering the legacy effect of a more active workforce. The specific benefit is multi faceted and not always immediately quantifiable, however in a recent study StepJockey (a recent spin off from the Dept. of Health) found that not only does taking the stairs increase the health and wellbeing of staff, but also over 8 floors it is often quicker to take the stairs rather than wait for the lift. A win for the employee as well as for the employer as staff get generally more active.
Aside for the health and time saving benefits we must address the commercial incentives for building developers, owners and managers.
London’s office vacancy rates hover around 15 year lows; this is presently great news for the commercial landlords, but as we head into the end of 2016 the trend will likely begin to reverse when completed schemes currently under construction start to enter the supply figures, according to BNP Paribas. This added supply, along with the potential of a migration of jobs from the country post Brexit, could lead to the capping of rental yields, making it increasingly important to explore additional and alternative marketing strategies to differentiate from the competition in an attempt to hold a pricing advantage. Some venues have a lead in the PR battle either through their age, their design, their height or their prominence in London’s skyline, but for others there is an awareness gap that needs to be filled. A well run, well branded and well marketed event with a charitable core can help fill that gap, and can be another weapon in the armoury of a management company or marketing agency competing for a new mandate or account.
So why limit events to office buildings? The only requirement is the need for stairs, so this can include residential buildings, hotels, landmarks and even sports stadia, with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the US even hosting an event at a baseball stadium in Florida.
When these all of these elements are combined we get an increasingly powerful proposition. Towerrunning events have an established track record of generating large sums of money for good causes, notably in the US, but also with events here in the UK annually raising around $1mln. With the attraction of an increasing number of elite competitors complementing amateur fundraisers, the sport itself is becoming more professional, with the addition of sponsorship from well-known sports brands such as New Balance creeping in at the very top. Added to this brand awareness opportunities created by stair climbs through positive PR/CSR as well as the ability to generate that all important content to enhance online reach and engagement we start to see a compelling case for stair climb events at more of the UK’s existing and newly constructed venues. In Europe we have seen events televised live on Eurosport, and it is becoming more commonplace to have them featured on local and national news as flagship, charitable events again enhancing awareness and engagement amongst audiences..
Is it time to think about the opportunities for you as an owner, developer, agent, manager, marketer or charity?
Contact Matt Hudson firstname.lastname@example.org to talk through how a stair climb event could work for you.