The Charlotte Turkey Dash is a homegrown family affair.
The Schwake family had been running in a local turkey trot for years. As the race grew to 10,000+ participants, the crowds and the distance from their home in South Charlotte made participation less attractive, so they stopped going–but they missed the festive atmosphere and active family time.
So, in 2012 the Schwakes founded their own Thanksgiving Day event, the Charlotte Turkey Dash, which started with over 800 participants. Five years later, it has more than doubled in size.
Like many running events, the Charlotte Turkey Dash works with a charity partner: Beds for Kids. The Schwake’s event has raised nearly $50,000 to help provide essential furniture and furnishings for families transitioning from homelessness.
“Working with a charity partner is an important component of our race, to effectively use our talents and sweat equity to help provide for families in need,” says Gary. “It ties in well with Thanksgiving.”
An employee and a client In 2010, Gary and his business partner created Virtual Event Bags® (VEB), which was acquired by ACTIVE Network in 2015. Gary stayed with the product as ACTIVE’s Vice President of Development for VEB.
The Charlotte Turkey Dash has been using VEB since the start, but added other ACTIVE solutions down the road.
Gary sees this unique relationship as an opportunity to experience and improve ACTIVE products from the customer experience angle. To that end, he goes so far as to use traditional support channels when he has a software question or issue, rather than calling a coworker at the top of the chain.
An Ecosystem of Integrated Solutions
Gary uses the following solutions to manage the Turkey Dash:
The hub of a suite of solutions for event directors, ACTIVE’s registration and database management product provides the starting point for event operations.
Gary calls On-Site a godsend. The On-Site app allows all registration data–including last-minute entries–to sync with an iPad for check-in and packet pick-up.
"The On-Site App made things so easy. We had a dozen volunteers on the first day of packet pick-up, but we could have easily managed with half that," Gary says.
“In literally 30 seconds, volunteers could dynamically assign a bib and grab a t-shirt for an individual who had the QR code queued up on their phone. Even when people checked in multiple participants and families at one time, or they didn’t have their QR code handy, no bottlenecks formed."
On-Site also helped bring additional revenue to the event. “We had over 75 people register the morning of the event. With On-Site, we could take those registrations, dynamically assign the bib, pass the info to our timer and get them into the race without delay. It was awesome,” Gary says.
Word of mouth through the social referral program resulted in 49 additional registrations, with no effort and minimal cost to the event.
Recognizing that the market is more challenging than ever and that once-free methods such as email and Facebook now come at a cost, Gary became an early adopter of ACTIVE’s new marketing service. “You have to go where your audience is,” he says.
Six weeks prior to the race, he provided images and snippets about the event. ACTIVE created the content, queued up the campaign and took care of everything needed for Adwords, Facebook, Instagram and remarketing ads.
150 additional registrations were driven by the campaign, but Gary feels the biggest win was how easy it was to implement an advanced social media strategy through this service.
“ACTIVE did all the work. We didn’t have to hire an agency or create content,” he says.
As creator of this revolutionary product, Gary knows that for small events, providing resources to help sponsors—and vice versa—is a challenge. “Virtual event bags makes it very easy to help sponsors connect with the community,” he says.
As a busy husband, father and executive producing an annual side gig, Gary also knows that it's key for his solutions to work together.
“For small event directors who don’t have the resources to hire third-parties for areas like technology and digital marketing, and don’t have the time to learn them, time is our most precious commodity," Gary says.
“For me, anything that allows me to save time, keep registration open until the race starts, get the timer the information he needs, and that provides me simplicity and seamless operations, is a win. Our goal is to continue to use all the tools available to us to produce a great event and to facilitate word of mouth to let customer experience be a vehicle of growth.
“With ACTIVE, it all comes together to let me deliver a cleaner and more professional event than an organization of our size should be able to do–which helps us grow year over year."