Running a footbag event is a rewarding experience whether you are running a jam, a camp, a demo, or a full blown tournament. This handbook will help you in your quest. It is recommended that you read this handbook from front to back before beginning your planning steps.
What type of event?
First, you need to decide whether you are holding a “hang out” event or something more “serious”.
- Hang out events (also called jams or festival style) are great because they are inexpensive, low key, and easy to organize. They are as close as it gets to being “for the players by the players” since the destiny of the weekend is largely determined by the participants. A jam allows players to get together, have fun playing footbag, hang out, barbecue, and maybe even camp out etc. Generally jams do not include t-shirts, prize money, or competition formats. Since the event is low key and does not cost the organizer much money to hold, participants are generally only charged nominal fees to help with venue costs etc.
- Serious events (also called tournaments) on the other hand are more formal in their makeup and generally cost more money to hold. Serious events normally provide each paying participant with player’s packs (with small gifts and tournament t-shirts) and stage formally judged/scored competitions. Winners of an event at a tournament normally win merchandise prizes at the amateur level or cash prizes at the open level.
- Hybrid events take pieces of both event types above. For example, you could put together an event with player’s packs and t-shirts but forgo the competition. Just pick the combination of attributes that seems to be the most fun for you and the players.
The serious event/tournament formats will be discussed in full length laterï¿½ For now, knowing whether you want to hang out or compete is enough. Make this decision now and try to stick to it.
Suggestion: If this is your first experience in holding any sort of organized event, it is suggested that you hold a hang out event or a hybrid event. This is simply to minimize the complications and costs that youï¿½ll face while ‘learning the ropes’ of being an event organizer.
Sanctioning your event allows your tournament results to count towards ranking players for the World Championships. To be sanctioned you need to conform to certain guidelines. You can learn more about sanctioning here. If you choose to go the sanctioned route, keep in mind that some of my following advice will be trumped by the rules of the IFC/IFPA.
Scout out, contact, and secure a venue
This is by far the most important (and most difficult) part of the entire event organizing process. Footbag is still relatively unknown and therefore potential venue owners donï¿½t have a lot of incentive to go out of their way for you. Keep this in mind and be polite and thankful. DO NOT burn any bridges as a potential venue might turn you down this time but accept you later.
Scouting the venue
Getting a venue is important, but getting a suitable venue is even more important. Examples of great venues are indoor soccer facilities, YMCA’s, indoor tennis warehouses, pavilions at parks etc. Some things to consider:
- Close to home – Try to pick a venue that is reasonably close to where you live but that is also close to other attractions. You want it close to home because you’ll need to spend some time there while planning and running your event and you’ll be low on time, so having it nearby helps.
- Exposure – Try to pick a venue that has some possibility of gaining exposure for the sport. It doesn’t need to be a media circus, but showing at least some people what we do for fun is a bonus.
- Human needs – Try to pick a venue that meets basic human needs: Bathrooms, water, and electricity are some needs that come to mind. Other desirable features include cheap/free parking, access to public transportation, showers, food, other attractions (museums etc.)…
- Freestyle needs – Freestylers primarily need a good surface to shred on. Rubber track and field surfaces and thin/low pile carpeting are particularly good because they offer cushion and good grip. Concrete, asphalt, and tennis courts are also satisfactory. Wood gym floors and other surfaces that are similarly susceptible to dust and being slippery are BAD.
- Beyond surfaces, freestylers will need to be able to get out of the elements in the case of rain. A pavilion or an alternate indoor space will need to be secured if you’re in an area with unpredictable weather (pretty much anywhere except California or Florida).
- Net needs – Netters are much easier to please than freestylers. They’ll play rain or shine as long as their playing field is a nice flat grass surface. For example, a soccer field is a good location for net players.
- Close encounters – One last point… If netters and freestylers will both be at your event, try to set it up so that they are both playing near to one another. This is more fun for the players and is more visually exciting for spectators.
Contacting and securing the venue
Once you’ve found your dream venue (it might be a good idea to line up a couple of possible venues) you’ll want to contact the venue to discuss the possibility of a mutually beneficial event (notice I said ‘mutually beneficial’). Be sure to take the following points into consideration in order to have a prayer of getting serious consideration from the venue.
- Pick a date – Walk into your meeting with several dates in mind (making sure that your dates are well into the future to reduce the likelihood of conflicts). Use the Events link at [www.footbag.org] to choose weekends that don’t conflict with other events in your area.
- Length of event – Decide on how long the event will be. Normally, you’ll want about 7 hours of time on a Saturday and an additional 5-7 hours on Sunday (adjust these times longer or shorter to event’s needs). Often times having a small get together for players Friday night when they’re arriving is fun too.
- Face to face – Make your inquiries in person. Trust me. Just make the effort to walk in and make your sales pitch.
- Dress it up – On this note, dress respectably. First impressions go a long way. The venue will not make a deal with you if you look like a punk rocker.
- Show the sport – If possible, come armed with a short video of your local team playing your favorite sport. Be prepared to leave this video with the venue. Or, equip your team website with a short demo video that you can direct the venue to. It is generally not a good idea to try to shred for the venue at your first meeting.
- Go to the top – Always deal with a manager who is authorized to make decisions. Walk up to the front desk and say “Hello, I’m ___. I’d like to speak with someone about possibly holding an event here. Is there a manager that I can speak with?”
- Beat them to the punch – Confront the manager’s major concerns without being prompted.
- Explain the sport. If they understand that you’re not just a Hacky sacker but actually a serious athlete, your chances are much improved.
- Explain what you can offer the venue in return: The attached Venue Inquiry shows some common promises that can be made to entice venues to support you. The fact that you have printed material shows professionalism and lends credibility to your cause. It is also a good reminder after you leave (‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ as they say).
- Offer to perform a demo for their members or their customers. Or offer to let their members watch free of charge.
- Mention that you will be contacting local media (such as newspapers and TV stations). Exposure is the biggest thing we can offer the venues.
- Be sure to be up front about the costs you can accept. I usually ask for a free venue or a severe discount. There is no shame in explaining that we are a part of a growing sport and that expenses are individually absorbed. If they want a lot of money from such a small group and are unwilling to change their minds, you probably don’t have the right venue.
- Write it down – Supposing that the venue accepts your proposal, try to get them to write it down for you. For some reason, the venue that signs their name to something saying that you can use their space is the venue that doesn’t bail on you at the last minute. Trust me – nothing is worse than having your venue change their mind 2 weeks before your event.
Advertising your event
Once you’re sure that your event has a home and a date/time, it’s time to let players know about it. It is also time to start letting local media sources know about your sport and the upcoming event.
- On the web and through email – Technological resources are a great (and cheap/free) way to let people know about your event.
- Use your team’s website to list the particulars of your event.
- The Events link at [www.footbag.org] allows members (it is free to become a member) to list events free of charge. This is highly recommended since nearly all serious players use this resource to find out about events.
- There are several footbag related internet forums available. Use any well known internet search engine (such as www.google.com) to search for the key words “footbag forum”. Listing your event in such a location will increase awareness.
- While playing – When you get together for your regular shred session or pickup net games, put some flyers out nearby. Or a sandwich board. Anything. Just let passers by know that they’ll be able to see more of this at your event.
- Newspapers and TV – You’d be surprised to find out that your local media will be interested in your event. Create a press release and mail it or email it to every local paper and TV station you can think of. Also, most towns have public access stations that offer inexpensive short commercials. If you’re really ambitious, put together some video highlights about our sport and make a mini commercial about your event (remember to ask the public access station to air your commercial for free… they might not do it, but they might!)
Well, we’re doing pretty well. We have a venue and people are coming in droves to our event! Now, are we going to run an inexpensive/free jam, or do we want to have some prizes and other perks?
As mentioned earlier, there’s a spectrum of events that we can hold that ranges from a jam to a hybrid event to a serious tournament. As we move along the spectrum towards the serious tournament we begin to add more and more costs and therefore would ideally need more sponsors (else you’ll end up paying for all sorts of things out of pocket). Here’s a conservative comparison that will help you to see this cost spectrum:
|Jam Costs||Hybrid Costs||Tournament Costs|
|Venue Rental Fee ($100)||Venue Rental Fee ($100)||Venue Rental Fee ($100)|
|Drinks (optional – $25)||Drinks (optional – $25)||Drinks (optional – $25)|
|Food (optional – $25)||Food (optional – $25)||Food (optional – $25)|
|T-shirts ($300)||T-shirts ($300)|
|Cash and Prizes ($600)|
|Total = $150||Total = $450||Total = $1050|
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t hold a tournament. You just need to be aware that unless you’re a rich footbag player (‘rich’ and ‘footbag player’ generally do not go together) you’ll need more sponsors to help with costs at a tournament. This is especially true if you plan to hold an annual event.
How to contact and woo sponsors
The only way to get good at sweet talking sponsors is to get to it and practice. You’ll develop a natural rhythm after a couple of visits. You should probably visit a couple of sponsors that youï¿½re not 100% interested in first ï¿½ this will give you a chance to get comfortable.
Once you’re comfortable talking with potential sponsors, remember the rules that we talked about when securing a venue.
Which sponsors? And, what to ask for
OK, so we know that we need some sponsors, but now we need to decide who to contact. Be prepared for rejection. For every 10 sponsors you contact it is likely that more than 6 of them will not be interested in helping you out (at least not this year!).
As a rule of thumb, CASH IS KING because you can use it for any of your event needs. In other words, ask sponsors for cash if at all possible.
Also, pick sponsors that fulfill particular needs. Here are suggestions based on successes Iï¿½ve had in the past: