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 Dwindling spectator/media interest in sprints
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Obsessed Musher

Canada
58 Posts

Posted - 03/04/2007 :  11:31:49 PM  Show Profile  Visit Obsessed Musher's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I know this is not the ultimate answer, however, in dealing with time constraints and fan excitement/involvement there is one thing I feel could help. Mass Starts! (I know not all mushers like this type of race) It has to be staged in an area where people can watch the start of the event and then have the race follow a route that people can actually follow the race on. Busses could be used for larger crowds etc. When the race is over, the fan knows who won, end of story! The time to run the event is cut down dramatically. It works wonders in Manitoba and Saskatchewan for community support. Some races use the weekend to fundraise for other community events which helps get more volunteers and involvment. Something to think about.

Fred Hems
Pine Ridge Sled Dog Ranch
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Bobs Wife

USA
6 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  09:33:43 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
One of the clubs I belong to is having major problems. Not only has the race participation dwindled we can't find people to run on the ballot for election to official positions. We might loose the club due to lack of interest. This club has been around for many years starting with some locally famous people. Part of the reason for less participation is lack of raising funds for prize money. Raffles don't do well, bazaars and swaps bring next to nothing. We used to have auctions but interest waned there too. I don't see a lot of promotion put out to the public and feel this could be improved with flyers on bulletin boards, announcements in the paper, and stories turned in to magazines, etc. We need to promote ourselves to get attention. Local merchants have been swamped with requests for sponsorships. Some are tired of giving because they don't get much benefit in a small town. Some decide they don't want to choose who to sponsor among so many asking. It is difficult to find a sponsor in a small town. Other then mushers local people feel they "have been there, done that." Mushing has been around so long it is just a regular thing and not a big event. Some new incentive needs to be thought up to peak new interest.

I really agree on the appearance of the dogs thing with tourists. Just this weekend while at the Iditarod restart I heard a couple who said they were so disappointed to see the dogs. They said the dogs don't even look like mushing dogs. I've heard this a lot since the trend has been to go to the "rat" dogs as my husband calls them. We started out with Siberians, but quickly learned that the AK Husky was faster and new breeding brought even faster dogs. We loved all our dogs no matter what they looked like, but yearned for the beautiful looking team. What people don't realize is that "way" back in the old days many types of dogs were used. The Siberians were brought over in the early 1900's. Prior to that you might see a Newfy, German Shepherd or whatever hooked up. People have a "dream picture" in their minds and it will be hard to change that unless more promotion is made about the "fast" dogs of today and facts about their breeding, such as: Genetics include German short-haired pointer, which adds endurance, etc. Mentioning a race of "various mixed bred dogs" might be helpful so people know not to expect the fluffy Sibs.

I think the charity idea is a plus for clubs and charities. There are many to pick from. If our club doesn't find people to run for office, we will lose our lease on the clubhouse and track property.

~mm^
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rob

USA
27 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  10:30:15 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very well put Bobs wife,
I have been an organizer in many events in the east and have found that same thing happening in other clubs. I am putting together an outline on what is needed in order to have a successful event. The subjects that you mentioned as well as the rest of the concerns that I have read in this forum, are all covered pulse much more.
The ONLY way that WE(all mushers) will see this sport grow is to educate the public. Be an Ambassador of the sport. Get out and Talk About it. It's a blast.

Sled Dog Presentations and Demonstrations are Our Specialty.
"It's all about the dogs."

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EllieRose

USA
973 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  11:24:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit EllieRose's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Ok, I've been watching this for a while. I'm not a racer, I am however a spectator. When I first became interested in the sport the first thing I did was go to races and observe. As Bobs Wife pointed out- I went with the expectation that I would see fluffy "northern type" dogs. I had already done some research and knew not to expect Siberians but I was disappointed to see the "rat" dogs. That said I quickly adapted my vision of what racing was. The general public however doesn't do much research on this sport. They see a movie-Iron Will, SnoDogs, Eight Below and that image is ingrained into their minds. They don't accept change that well. We as a mushing community need to educate them that the differences between their vision and reality has been a change for the good. Describing trhe race as a mixed breed may help but ultimately I think that it would discourage spectators before they even get here.

Some thoughts I have are to ensure there are ways to incorporate the changes we've seen into the marketing. Posters, fliers etc should be pics of the dogs these people will actually see on the trail. It's easy to pull a file photo of what is thought to be a more typical team to boost interest. I also think that it is important that at the race the spectators have the opportunity to speak to the mushers. I realize that prepping for the race is enough to keep everyone busy but can we set up some time after the race so that spectators can ask questions, meet some dogs, see equipment etc? I don't think it's too much to ask. Frequently those of us who are pros are busy and may unintentionally push people away. We need to make ourselves accesible to the public to drive their enthusiasm. If some one takes the time to be kind, answer a few questions and make a good impression I don't doubt that that spectator will them follow that musher's season.

Since I started running dogs I've gone to a lot of people asking questions and looking for answers. Those of you who have been kind enough to take a minute and talk to me make an impression. In turn I make sure I attend races where you may be running to cheer you on and follow your progress through the season. That is true both at the race site and even here at SDC talk. In terms of the general public it multiplies- They take a shine to you, follow your season and will more than likely look at what you do, what equipment you use etc and will do the same. It builds enthusiasm for the sport, business for the suppliers and that in turn equals more sponsorhsip dollars for the mushers and the races.

I say promote that change is good and make those rat dogs look appealing to the public, and mushers take the time at some point to meet the people and tell them how wonderful this sport is, what it's done for you and creat enthusiasm. Whining gets us no where, only actions.






www.freewebs.com/briarlea

Edited by - EllieRose on 03/05/2007 11:29:03 AM
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sublunar

828 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  1:27:01 PM  Show Profile  Visit sublunar's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I was disappointed when I went to the local swimming pool and the life-guard didn't look like the girls on Baywatch. Too bad everything doesn't look like movies...
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Jen

USA
319 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  2:58:33 PM  Show Profile  Visit Jen's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Do you think--at least in the lower 48--that people have a bit of an anti-dog attitude? Particularly toward those with large numbers of dogs? This can come out in a few ways: dogs are out of vogue, people have gotten rather prissy and think of dogs as nothing but a nuisance and have made it harder for those around them to own them. Kennel permits can be rather expensive and you have to jump through lots of hoops in some places. Or, they think there's something wrong with people who own several dogs and are turned off by those who do. I get people who are positively blown away when I tell them I own 5 dogs. They freak out about the hair I must have around the house, etc., etc. One of my co-workers surprised me because she was really upset by the Today show segment a while ago where they showed a typical dog yard...she was stunned by the number of dogs and was sure they weren't cared for properly. I would imagine she wasn't the only one who saw that and thought the same--they don't understand and there doesn't seem to be any major PR being done to try to make them understand.

And yes, I think people are really thrown that race dogs aren't the cute fluffy movie dogs. I get people asking all the time on the trail if my team of 5 mals are training to run the Iditarod--that never ceases to crack me up.

Jen

Powderhound Alaskan Malamutes
See them at:
www.powderhoundmals.com
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sallydawson

USA
831 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  7:50:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This may, in some ways, be a difficult "spectator sport", but I have a feeling that really inspired and creative use of the internet could change all that! I can only site my personal nightly devotion to looking at photos and videos (FREEEEEEEEEEE) of the Yukon Quest, and I made sure my students and their families knew about the web site as well. (you can also bet your bottom dollar I am NOT paying or promoting another major race that charges you to see their "PR"!)

Sally J. Dawson and the Mushing'dales
N1BCF; "RED HAT" Musher
Live each day as if it is your last
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EllieRose

USA
973 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  8:51:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit EllieRose's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I really think we need to make all of this available to the general public. What Sally is suggesting about the internet is right- people do use it as a research tool. But I doubt that many people do much research prior to attending a race that they have seen advertised in a local paper, by poster or word of mouth other than to verify times and places. We as a group need to present the differences to the public. There are those of who do our part by educating students, making presentations and giving rides. I myself do those things but I don't really help much. I do these things with Siberians it's hard to say you won't see many of these dogs at the races and explain what they will see when I don't have it in my kennel. I think that we create the educational opportunity at the race site- recruit club members, recreational mushers etc to man a booth or walk around the grounds with the type of dog they are seeing on the trail and explain why these dogs are used instead of the huskies. There could be samples of the more high tech gear.

The spectators are going to be confused and/or disappointed by what they have seen and they will have time if they are waiting for another opportunity to see the dogs in action.So why not make it possible for them to go to someone and ask questions.

I'd be willing to put my time in!

www.freewebs.com/briarlea
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mush in quebec

Canada
136 Posts

Posted - 03/06/2007 :  08:20:26 AM  Show Profile  Visit mush in quebec's Homepage  Reply with Quote
"you can also bet your bottom dollar I am NOT paying or promoting another major race that charges you to see their "PR"!)"
Why ? why shouldn't you pay for that services ? you buy magazines, watch tv with commercials wich pays what you're seing, why people wouldn't have to pay to support an event wich they see only by internet ???

marc
www.levillagedemusher.com
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SKIJOR#1

USA
700 Posts

Posted - 03/06/2007 :  7:38:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit SKIJOR#1's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Well put Subluner. You brought a smile to my face. I love my "Rat" dogs, and so does the spectateing public when they meet them. They can see that they love what theyu are doing. Johnn Molburg

Johnn Molburg, www.arcticstarsleds.com
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northome

USA
223 Posts

Posted - 03/06/2007 :  9:17:18 PM  Show Profile  Visit northome's Homepage  Reply with Quote
When the Siberians were first introduced to Nome, they too were called rat dogs. Even though I would never willingly own one of the new type eurohounds, I really like them simply as dogs. Every time I am at a race with Neal Johnson, I always spend time hanging out with his dogs around the truck. Tons of fun.

I think in the zest for modernization of the sport, it may be that we are running away from our roots,which may be a serious marketing blunder. However, if it is a blunder that you are happy to make I would suggest that you sever the ties completely and establish a new culture, with its attendant myths and ceremony. Being the bastard child of the old ways will continue to confuse and disappoint the public. Try to figure out some heroic event and stage it with that focus. I have no idea what that might be, but it should showcase the raw speed, endurance and determination of the best of the new dogs. I have a funny feeling from what I have seen in the media lately that it might even be a dryland event. There is a grand future there.

Al Stead
Northome Siberians

Ann Stead
Northome on Windhill
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snowfoot

USA
313 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  12:24:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Jen said:
"I get people who are positively blown away when I tell them I own 5 dogs."

You can't imagine some of the things I hear when I tell people I have 10 dogs, no children and intend for it to stay that way as I much prefer dogs to children.

http://community.webshots.com/user/musherpumpkin
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Koosa

USA
108 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  12:37:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree with Al's comments and would further add that if confusion of huskies with hounds is a problem for spectators, the sport should really stop using pictures of huskies in teams to promote the sport. I even see huskies used as logo's for teams comprised of hounds. Some truth in advertising might go a long way. Moving to dryland will force that anyway.

Mike S.
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snowfoot

USA
313 Posts

Posted - 03/08/2007 :  07:14:16 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Quote-
"This may, in some ways, be a difficult "spectator sport", but I have a feeling that really inspired and creative use of the internet could change all that!"

Absolutely- That's why my team and also individual dogs have their own page on "Dogster". All the "serious" mushers can poo-poo it all they want for being cutesy and a bit trite, but as of today, pictures and bios of my team are on the Dogster home pages of over 800 people all over the world, and there are 800 people who have a better understanding of mushing and how sled dogs (and mushers) live. They also have a forum that has had many posts regarding sled dogs and have mostly ended up as positive learning experiences for most folks .
Also thanks to the other mushers who are on Dogster!! You can check out my page here:
http://www.dogster.com/dogs/2095

http://community.webshots.com/user/musherpumpkin
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northome

USA
223 Posts

Posted - 03/08/2007 :  07:34:15 AM  Show Profile  Visit northome's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I believe that there are ways to make the sport more spectator appealing. The best way that I have seen would be to copy the olympic xc ski formats. For instance, they have a team event where four or five relay teams line up and do several laps each over a closed course head to head. Each lap the spectators could see how the race was progressing, and the head to head nature of it made it much more exciting. We have a venue just north of where I live that could accomodate such a race, but I doubt very much that many would take up the challenge of running multiple loops while fending off each other.

Another example would be reverse seeding. Send the slowest teams out first so that there is a mad dash between a dozen teams for the finish. I witnessed just such a thing at the old Ely race in the open class no less. The teams had to run down a quarter mile of city street to get to the timers, and you could see them the whole way. When the open teams came in, there were up to six teams on the street at a time sprinting for the finish. You could hear the spectators lined up all the way down the street cheering like a wave as the teams came up the hill. I haven't seen anything that exciting since.

Of course this would all require stepping up to a new level as far as training goes, but it might be worth it.

Al Stead
Northome Siberians

Ann Stead
Northome on Windhill
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