Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sea Otter '07- What gives Eurobike?

Sea Otter finished up this past Sunday. As usual, there was crazy weather to contend with and all kinds of cool racing and bike nerdery going on. It was exactly what Sea Otter always has been and always will be.

The big difference this year is that Sea Otter teamed up with the fine folks from Eurobike (Messe-Friedrichshafen) to create what was being billed as the largest outdoor cycling festival and "tradeshow" in the US. In keeping with this incredible new relationship and enhancement of the event, exhibitor space rates went through the roof, as did race entry fees and other associated costs of providing a worldclass event/ exhibit.

Thing is... it wasn't any busier, it wasn't any better, it wasn't any different than years past (except for the increase in cost). Disclaimer- this was my first time attending the event, so these observations/ comparisons are based off of feedback I received from other exhibitors at the event. If this was supposed to be a premiere cycling event, in terms of being an exhibit/ festival/ tradeshow... it was a flop. As an actual race, it was superb as always. The racers and the people who come to hang out and gawk at the event, really make it what it is- a celebration of cycling (even if that celebration takes place in the rain and tornado-like winds).

I know that the race organizers and Eurobike had very little time to pull this together, after making their announcement of joining forces just a few months ago (the end of November). It would seem that once Eurobike realized their proposed "Eurobike-Portland" wasn't going to work and that they were receiving so much negative press, they simply decided to shrink their ambitions for a year and start off a little smaller. Well... can't say it worked. Many people doubted whether or not they would have enough time to create what they were claiming they would. It seems those folks were at least marginally correct. Don't get me wrong, I'd call the event a success, but it wasn't what it was billed to be and certainly didn't merit the incredible cost hikes.

Here's another point that may seem like I am just trying to pick a fight; where were the folks from either Sea Otter or Eurobike during the event? During the entire event, neither I nor Jill Hamilton (our Haro MTB Brand Manager and my partner in crime at Sea Otter) saw hide nor hair of anybody from the event. Many of us in the industry complain about costs and other issues associated with Interbike, but at least every year at Interbike I get a visit (or several) from somebody from the show organization thanking me for my business and checking in to see how things are going. It might seem like nothing, but it does make an impression- a little humanity goes a long way. Nobody disputes that the Eurobike shows are great. They are widely regarded as well run, well attended and well respected by exhibitors, retailers and consumer attendees. It's a strong brand with a lot of potential. When they announced they were coming to the US, many people thought it was a great thing- including myself (though I argued with the date).

It seems that Eurobike has made a series of strange steps all along the way and it really begs the question of whether or not they are serious about coming to the US or if they even understand the US market. The way they handled the announcement and then the disappearing act they did, were both missteps. Then that was followed up with an overall strangeness in how they dealt with Sea Otter, on down to the lack of any known follow-up with US exhibitors at the event. It just doesn't make them look like they know what they are doing or that they really have the desire to chase the US market. Was Sea Otter just a way to save face after all of the negative press they received over Eurobike-Portland? Nobody appears to know.

One other point that needs to be mentioned; kudos to the folks at Interbike! Not only did they handle the original announcement about Eurobike-Portland well, but they attended Sea Otter and met with exhibitors. I met with Rich Kelly and a few other folks from Interbike during Otter and they didn't even mention Interbike once. It really did feel like they were simply there to see things for themselves and to say hello to friends. Gripe all we want about Interbike, this little touch was not unnoticed by me and surely wasn't unnoticed by many other folks as well. Good job folks!

So, what's your take on this all? Exhibitors- Did anybody from Eurobike/ Sea Otter come talk to you? Did the event have more traffic than ever, to match the cost of attending? Am I making too much of nothing? Please share your thoughts...

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:56 PM

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous Phil posted at 1:50 AM  
    Tim, From my seat on the other side of the pond I shouldn't really comment, but hey that's never stopped me before - so I'm thinking that it looks like they were just testing the waters.

    Maybe because it's a competitive situation they want to keep a low profile, but why the heck would you get involved with an event and not trumpet you existence?

    Interseting
  2. Blogger Smithers posted at 7:52 AM  
    Tim,

    I am planning on writing a letter to the Sea Otter folks letting them know that we are expecting a bit more from the event for the amount that they are charging. Specifically, more road events. The way the market is currently trending in the USA it does not make sense to me to have the Sea Otter event so heavily oriented towards MTB.

    I was thinking of offering this letter up for others in the industry to sign on to, let me know if this is something that you would be interested in.

    Sorry I did not have the time to come over and say hi. It’s too bad because your booth was almost right across from ours!
  3. Anonymous Sedrik posted at 11:43 AM  
    This was our 3rd year at Sea Otter. We use it to get the brand in front of consumers and touch base with friends in the industry. There are definitely no buyers there from the retail world, although I have had a few checking us out. Its definitely not anything like Interbike and I saw no one from Eurobike or even Sea Otter.

    Overall this is definitely a consumer event. Its a great place to sell product too. Most attendees are there with the mindset to purchase stuff and find deals. Its good for us 'cause we can offset the travel and expo fees... the very high fees.

    Since I have been attending, the expo fees have increased 140%! Its insane. The other thing is the fees to race are the highest I have ever seen... around $65 for each event.

    A lot of the younger riders that were hanging out with us were complaining that its too expensive to race there and that their Dad, Mom and/or friends all had to buy expo wristbands just to get in and walk around the event - its $10 per day per person, unless you get the 4 day pass for $30. YIKES!

    The Otter didn't used to charge spectators to get in. That started 2 years ago. I have definitely seen a drop in the attendance levels and I think this is due to having to pay $10 just to get in and walk around. It really hurts us (the expo/vendors). Plus it hurts the sport. Cycling in general is still struggling to get its head above water and bring more people into it - be it road, mtb or even just urban cruisers - why would you charge non-racers to get in to an expo where they get the opportinity to see new products, demo bikes, ask questions and really get excited enough to potentially run home to their local bike shop and order up a new bike or two?! We (the exhibitors) already pay a lot to be there.

    I think its a lot like a newspaper. The cost involved to create just one issue is covered by the advertisers (exhibitors) so that price for the newspaper stays low and you get more readers (attendees). I would think that same concept applies to events like the Sea Otter, yes?

    I sure hope that for 08 the expo prices and race fees don't increase again, the spectator fee gets dropped completely or at least to $5 per day and there is better signage around the event so people know where to find stuff. I had a lot of people asking me where to find stuff because "information" didn't know or sent them in to the wrong place.

    I know I have not had anything positive to say about the Sea Otter Classic. Its a great event, it really is one of the best - but the fees for everyone are really getting out of control.
  4. Blogger Ryan posted at 11:14 PM  
    It is amazing how all you Industry Hardcore’s so quickly forget the origin of this event and how it became the official launch pad to spring and summer season of cycling.

    Back in the day, in the spring, there was Redlands and not much else for the road and for MTB there was the Cactus Cup. Both events were nice, but did not receive international attention because there was not point in the Euro’s coming all the way west for just these races.

    Then came Ric Sutton, who had the vision to locate the Sea Otter just after Redlands and for a MTB World Cup to be just after Sea Otter. With this new schedule, it was enough for a larger by teams and sponsors to invest in the travel ‘cause they could schedule a month, or so and hit the events and some key customers along the way.

    That was all Ric and his team worked on, just those 2 events! That’s why they were, and still are considered the benchmarks of race organization.

    Ah, those were the days . . . .

    Then, the Napa WC got cut, Redlands organizers and Sutton were taking about a merger, but that never happened, and then things just sort of blew apart. Now, you have the Tour of Cali, & the Tour of Georgia so the Roadies are out of the picture also. That was about the time Ric had enough and moved on . http://www.velonews.com/pr/prn/articles/8098.0.html

    If you ever meet Ric Sutton, he is THE MAN when it comes to race organization.

    2 Points –
    1 – It ain’t what it was because of the scheduling around it is completely different.
    2 – It was NEVER intended to be an Interbike in the sense of Industry big deal stuff. The expo was to be customer, and shop employee focused. Besides, everyone just got back from Taipei talking about ’08 products anyway. Not much more needs to be said in Monterey regarding it.

    I hope this little background info was helpful.
    - Ryan
  5. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 6:34 AM  
    All- good comments! Thanks for stirring the dialog. This is exactly what I was hoping would happen and I hope this keeps rolling.

    Ryan- Buddy, you'll get no argument from me on your points. I've never met Ric, but I have a ton of respect for the guy and the work he has done. I have no beef with the race itself, though I would personally like to see more road events added (like the old downtown crit). I believe the event and the feel of the event is awesome. I love that... no probs with that.

    My point is with the new partnership with the folks from Eurobike who did, in fact, bill this as an event to be as big as Interbike but geared towards consumers. For this, they raised exhibitor costs through the roof.

    I have no problems with the race itself, my "bone of contention" is with the expo side of things. If I had a complaint about the race, it would be the entry fees which were pretty insane ($65.00 for the SS race). The venue is awesome for a mountain bike race and the community behind the event is very strong too.

    Again, thanks to all of you for the comments. Looking to see more from my fine colleagues. I see also, from my visitor tracking, that the folks of Eurobike have been by to visit a few times- please comment and lend your side of the story. If you wish to comment privately to me, you can reach me at tjackson(at)masibikes(dot)com.
  6. Blogger jill hamilton posted at 7:16 AM  
    I have to admit that from both an exhibitor's and an athlete's standpoint, this year's Sea Otter was pretty disappointing.

    Just as Tim said, the fees are outrageous. For us exhibitors, our expo space fees nearly doubled. Sorry, Sea Otter people, but check out some industry stats like a BPSA report. The industry just isn't growing at that rate. Heck, it's barely growing at all. The increase in fees isn't commensurate with what's going on in the industry.

    And yes, like Tim said, organizer presence was non-existent. In fact, even as an exhibitor for many years who has purchased a pretty large plot of temporary real estate in the pits, I was never contacted and made aware of the "Sea Otter Daily" and the fact that I could have placed a little blurb in it each day announcing autograph sessions, drawings, and other events that might be happening in my booth.

    Race fees were through the roof. $55 fee to race, $10 late fee, and a $5 one-day license fee brought the cost up to nearly $70. What?!? Yes, the course is great...yes, the prizes are really nice if you're lucky enough to make the podium, but come on. My main decision NOT to race this event really boiled down to the fee. Not that I couldn't afford it, but it just seemed like a LOT of cash to put out for something I was sort of lukewarm about participating in. If the fees were less, I probably would have ponied up and done it.

    I've attended Sea Otter nearly every year for the past 10 years. The cool thing about this event is that it's been very inclusionary...the big vendors and little vendors attend as well as racers and non-racers. Everyone has a great time for that reason. My message to the organizers is don't give people a reason NOT to attend your event. This year you gave a lot of people a reason not to attend. Sure, you still had a ton of vendors, athletes, and spectators, but think of how many more you would have had if the fees been a little lower.

    (OK, I'm climbing off my soapbox and going to work. Looks like I'm going to be late.)
  7. Blogger Ryan posted at 7:12 PM  
    Sorry for for getting passionate about your post on the Sea Otter Tim. I just wanted to make sure everyone understands who built the largest, most successful bicycle event in North America, but things changed back in 2005. It is very clear the event is now basically living on it's reputation and not on what it now delivers.

    To be honest I agree with your points, but there will need to be scheduling changes to really get the event to what it was back in the day. I feel, they will need to locate the race just after the Tour of Cali..

    I agree, the booths are stupid crazy expensive and what you get is very debatable.

    How many fans would have gone to the race just to watch if it was raining? Remember, every couple years it rains the whole week, and it just plain sucks. Costs need to be geared to make those crappy days still justifiable to everyone.

    But remember, this is not an Interbike! Until that is recognized, and events are geared to attract more people who are not there to race, to work, or watch a friend / family member race, this event will always cost too much for what you get out of it.
  8. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 11:36 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  9. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 7:38 AM  
    Phil- I agree that they are likely testing things out to gauge interest. On the heels of the huge splash they made over here with their initial announcement of Eurobike-Portland, it just seems like a pretty weak attempt.

    Smithers- Dude, sorry we couldn't hang out. I totally understand though- trust me. As for your letter, I'm certainly willing to sign on, so send it on over when it's ready.

    Sedrik- Your comments are all pretty spot-on. (Who are you with, anyway- if you don't mind saying?) Fees are outlandish- for what you get, based on what was "promised". It just wasn't as "big" as they claimed it would be.

    Jill- You're right Bike Biz Babe. The whole thing was just not very well tied together. There was poor communication from the event organizations and no "outreach", as far as I have been able to find out. Pretty interesting that you got an email from the organization addressing this issue after you posted your comment here... hmmm....

    And the fee for racers is stupid high. Fees for spectators? At a bike race? C'mon! This ain't NASCAR folks... not even close. They don't even charge a fee to see the Tour DAY France!

    Ryan- Buddy, we're in the same camp my friend. I agree that the event is a premiere event and that it deserves the reputation it has with the racers, fans and industry. I just argue the cost structure and question the event organizers. The race itself is one of the best I've ever attended. The linking of road, mountain and even BMX is unheard of (to my knowledge) anywhere else. And as Jill pointed out, it also allows the many different parts of the industry to get together and hang out in the rain, wind and mud. It's fun to stand in the bitter cold, while the rain washes your stuff away and have a beer with one of your industry comrades and laugh at it all. Seriously- I love that part.

    Bike Industry- I know you're out there reading this, so please keep bringing more comments. I know that there are lots of readers from Messe-Friedrichshafen reading this. I've already gotten a few emails from a few other folks in the industry. Let's keep this conversation rolling!
  10. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 7:39 AM  
    Oh yeah- I deleted comment #8 because it was stupid spam. I swear I'm not hushing anybody's opinions. The day I do that, you can have my blogs!
  11. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 3:43 PM  
    Tim, Here's another take from a first timer and a "media" wonk! (Boy, does that sound weird to me!)

    I have to take issue with Ryan to the degree that he states that Sea Otter is not an expo and not for the industry. Well, yes....originally that was obviously the case. However; the landscape has changed and it is an expo in as much as the company that runs it specializes in this sort of thing.

    As far as I was seeing it, the media was treated well. We got the information packet as we checked in which had the schedule of events and press release information. I was surprised to hear that the vendors didn't recieve the same sort of information as we did.

    The expo area could have done with signage, or directions of some sort. It was confusing unless you had the map in the program we recieved handy.

    As to the prescence of Eurobike people, I too did not see anyone associated with the event outside of the Media Center.

    Tim, and Jill: It was great to meet you! I had a great time. Hopefully we'll be seeing each other come Fall.
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