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Buy Side/Sell Side: Crankworx’s Tak Mutu

22 Mar 2018  By Contributor

Tak Mutu


Crankworx’s head of business development, Tak Mutu, on nailing the first festival with only seven months lead-time, the winning formula for commercial partnerships and the growing the economic impact of the event in Rotorua.
Crankworx began in Whistler Canada and is the biggest mountain biking festival in the world. There are more eyes on it – watching on tv and attending in person – than any other event.
The Rotorua event, which this year is one of four fixtures on the Crankworx World Tour, is jointly owned by myself, Skyline and the Rotorua Lakes Council.
We ran the first event here back in 2015 with only seven months to prepare and a 30-strong senior management board with practically no major event experience. Instead of a team of experienced people, I chose a team of doers and problem solvers.
We nailed it. The five-day fixture at the Skyline Rotorua Gravity Park was one of the most successful Crankworx rounds internationally, and became one of the most watched mountain bike events in television history.
We had 30,000 visits on site, which is 10,000 – 12,000 people and we sold out the flagship Enduro World Series event in two minutes.
Funding for Crankworx is pretty similar to most major events that are run in New Zealand and is around one-third ticketing, one-third commercial revenue and one-third funding, which is a mixture of both central and local government and charitable funding.
However, we think there is a real opportunity to grow commercial revenue and in recognition of that this year I have moved from being event director to head up business development.
My role is not just to sell the Rotorua event, but it is also to help support the international team that this year is also working on a festival in Innsbruck, Austria, Les Gets, France, and Whistler Canada for the fifteenth year of Crankworx competition.
There are three layers to the marketing for this event. The top layer is the global team which concentrates on promoting the world tour through the group’s website and social channels. They carry the information for all the separate global events – we don’t have a local Rotorua website – and do a small amount of individual event promotion alongside the global push.
The next layer is the local organising committee, which sees all the regional marketing carried out through the owner’s channels, so in the case of Rotorua this means through Skyline, the council and Mountain Bike Rotorua. It is this layer that concentrates on promoting ticket sales and entry to events throughout New Zealand and Australia.
The third and final layer is the partner leveraging. Once we get partners or sponsors on board they have that ability to create an association with the event and market their products as well as of course marketing the event.
For example, retailer Torpedo 7 and merino clothing company Mons Royale are both currently running promotions and competitions for VIP tickets to the event. This all adds to the event’s market reach.
Over the past four years of developing these corporate partnerships, I have learned how crucial it is to develop relationships. The deals I have got across the line have always been because I either have a good relationship with someone in the senior team, or those that have come to us.
You might have the perfect product for the perfect market but that won’t get you over the line with sponsorship – the idea is never enough. You really need to demonstrate how you will drive sales to their business.
A good example of that and our most successful sponsorship story is Mons Royale. The merino clothing company, which started as just snow clothing, came to us in the first year of the event because they wanted to break into the MTB market.
Since then a significant amount of their business growth has come from the summer market, and the majority of their summer marketing budget is spent around Crankworx. It really demonstrates the power of events when you have the right fit for your brand.
The idealist in me says it would be a lovely transition to become 100% run on commercial revenue but the realist in me says we’re going to be in the current model for a long time.
This year we have seen a big jump in commercial revenue – we are up 30% – but costs have also gone up especially with three new events in 2018.
While TV viewership has skyrocketed over the years – growing from 1.8 million to over 12 million in the 50 countries where it is distributed – ticket sales have been fairly consistent. We had around 10,000 our first year, which went up to about 15,000 people on site last year.
At the moment we are more than double ahead of where we were at the same time last year so we are hoping for a good year – our capacity is 20,000 so we might as well aim for that.
However, with a longer event what we are now seeing is people staying for longer and this is where you see those economic multipliers really start to kick in.
It is one thing to have 10,000 people here a day, but having that number here for nine days is huge – and those are starting to be realistic numbers now.
Crankworx visitors comprise around 10-20% international, with the balance being domestic.
The average international visitor – a mixture of sponsors, athletes and spectators – is now staying in Rotorua for upwards of 20 days and that is exactly what we want.
One thing we have changed for the event this year is to really concentrate on our digital market. In the past, we have used really traditional forms of advertising comprising radio, tv and print.
For 2018 we spent just one third of previous year’s budgets on traditional channels and have instead focused on digital. If our ticket sales are anything to go by its working – it’s a not a new idea, it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, but to have proof in terms of sales is great.

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