The first ever European Running Business Conference attracted almost 300 delegates from a wide variety of backgrounds – international federations, national federations, race organisations, sports industry specialists, sponsors and other stakeholders – but united in exploring the future of running in Europe and helping make the community grow.
The orientation of the first of the two-day event was primarily on Running For All and the involvement of non-elite or recreational runners and – after opening addresses from European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen and IAAF CEO Olivier Gers – saw the first presentations addressing the issue of The World of Running - Where are we Heading?
One of the keynote speakers and the first man to take the stage was Carlo Capalbo, President of the RunCzech organisation, who presented data which suggested that the number of marathon runners since 2013 in many European nations has plateaued and identified race and organisational opportunities over shorter distances, especially 10km and half marathon.
Capalbo also cited his own hugely successful organisation’s experience in promoting races in the Czech Republic, in which elite runners have regularly produced headline grabbing performances but also have grown over the last decade and attract thousands of recreational runners, many from overseas.
Guy Horne, Lagardère Senior Director Media-Production and himself a former international marathon race director, and Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger provided addition presentations relating to the current position and possibilities for the future in the Asian and North American markets, and how they might influence or impact on Europe.
After breakout groups examined different areas of the distance running business – entitles classic distance (marathon/half/marathon/10km), nature (cross country races and trail running) and fun/adventure events (e.g. beer miles, urban racing) – the full complement of delegates reconvened to hear two outstanding presentations on the Commercial Perspectives on Running Communities.
Complete not compete
Søren Runge of the Mikkeller Running Club provided a hugely entertaining address on how to engage recreation runners by combining running with beer drinking – providing the caveat, which got extensive applause, that both should be enjoyed extensively but done in moderation – while ASICS’s Jan Erik Kruse elaborated on his company’s ASICS FrontRunner project and how the well-known sports apparel company had combined community values and virtues into an effective business model with the use of role models.
The Friday sessions concluded with two business-orientated case studies with Golazo CEO Bob Verbeeck, himself a top class middle-distance runner in the 1980s, and former Senior Vice President of the US-based Competitor Group Tracy Sundlun – the inspiration behind the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of road races – relating their own experience as senior executives of for-profit companies focussed on running events.
The pair graciously and openly elaborated on some of the highs and lows of their career, especially in relation to the companies they had founded.
Saturday sees the second day of the conference with topics including Digital Solutions That Can Improve Your Race, Running Communities and Trend Setting, and Sport for All Strategies before concluding with a Leadership Panel which sees Capalbo, Verbeeck and Sundlun return to the stage alongside European Athletics Vice President Jean Gracia and AIMS (Association of International Marathons) President Paco Borao.