Friday, June 17, 2011

Disappointments and Brand Damage

The inaugural Ironman New York 2012 is sold out. There have been many sold out Ironman races in recent months. IMNZ and IMWA sold out within a matter of days; hesitation led to disappointment. Boston Marathon 2011 was sold out in 8 hours 3 minutes! As such, the new system for registration will be in three tiers, subject to how fast the Boston Qualification (BQ) timings are. The faster your BQ time, the earlier you can register and therefore assure a better chance at registering successfully for the 115-year-old marathon.

Then, there is the case of Ironman China being cancelled in stages. Despite refunding the race fees, and promise of free entries in other races the damage was severe. Participants lost time, money and effort preparing for the race; most of all, their goals were affected and schedules thrown into disarray. Ironman Korea was revived, and some resigned themselves to a new race and promise of a new experience and a free slot. Fingers are crossed that on race day the swim will not be cancelled as it was in 2006 due to inclement weather and strong waves.

Perhaps the trend is strongly in favour of endurance sports and a fitness lifestyle. Hopefully, this trend survives and is sustained by other factors instead of earning pure ‘bragging rights’ or ‘attempting the impossible’. Also, capping the numbers may impinge on profitability, however safety considerations are paramount when hosting physical activities and sporting events. Although liabilities are reduced when participants sign waivers or consent forms, a death or injury reduces the event organisers’ reliability. Minor glitches are still a reflection of lack of thoroughness or carefulness. We cannot veer from our core values that we seemingly live with and for.

Of course, there is the Scarcity Principle at work. Robert B. Cialdini’s landmark work ‘Influence – Psychology of Persuasion’ described in detail with research, that people on exclusivity. Scarcity is about rare, and rare increases the perceived value of an object, event or service.

The down side is disappointing others. When you qualify for the Boston Marathon and fail to sign up online due to choked lines, the perception of the brand becomes tainted by negative emotions. Through time, the event, its brand name and reputation become tarnished and diminished in value. Less may not be best.

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