A Featured Lane Q&A with Sports Event Organizer Rasmus Johnsen
The Cold Hawaii team pictured clockwise from the bottom left: Rasmus Johnsen, Roberto Hofmann (live commentator), Richard Page (PWA tour manager), Duncan Coombs (PWA head judge), Hugo Lewis (PWA event manager), and Robert Sand (project manager, KIA @coldhawaii PWA World Cup). (photo courtesy of Rasmus Johnsen)
Rasmus Johnsen is working to create a new kind of experience for the sport of windsurfing by bringing fans inside world tour events as they unfold through social media. Johnsen took some time from his busy post-Cold Hawaii schedule to talk to me about how he got into event organizing, explain some of the theory behind his disruptive plan for bringing Long Tail Sports to the forefront of the new fan experience, and share his thoughts about the potential for Memolane in this mix.
1) Can you tell us a bit about how you got into organizing events and describe your position with the PWA and Cold Hawaii?
I have a special connection with Cold Hawaii because I am a windsurfer myself, and helped create the basis for a Danish version of the PWA World Cup.
My involvement with the Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup came about through a series of projects I have worked on centered on Event-Based Innovation. This is the concept that the attention an event generates and also creates awareness of the innovations used to publicize it, creating a perfect marketing platform for new products and services, and allowing for instant feedback. I have been leveraging sports event organizing to determine solid procedures, and devise new forms of planning and collaborating with new media tools.
I work on innovating ways of disseminating sports with the ACTIVE Institute. I’ve developed the concept Sportcasting 2.0, a combination of ‘sport’, ‘broadcasting’ and ‘Web 2.0.’ Sportscasting 2.0 builds on the explosion in the capacity to register, process, store, and present data made available through the emergence of the Internet and new media.
Previously the exposure of sport has been restricted to sound, (live) images, text or a combination of these forms, but recently the data sources available to us, and the amount of data they produce, have grown exponentially along with the tools for presenting data in new ways that give increased insight and create opportunities interaction and sharing.
This has major relevance for the world of Long Tail Sports. These are sports that have an audience, but not one that is large enough to reach the mainstream media.
2) What are some of the challenges that you face in organizing a windsurfing event held in a small community like Klitmøller, Denmark, with sometimes unpredictable weather?
Disseminating sports has always been a matter of how to make them viewable, understandable and sharable. Everything else is based on that fundamental task. This meant one thing in the pre-internet era, but it means a great deal more, and in some cases something entirely different, in an internet-connected world.
First of all, the PWA needs to accept that trying to reach the mainstream viewing public is a non-starter. The way forward is to find new ways to gather and utilize a global core audience through new technology, and to a large extent, social media makes that possible.
Second, they need to appreciate that the biggest challenge is how to make a windsurfing wave performance competition not just spectacular but also understandable – even to its core audience.
Prior to Klitmøller 2011, each sailor’s score was awarded by a panel of judges on a piece of paper that was later thrown away. In other words, no-one except the judges and, in some cases, the riders saw the score sheets.
This is simply not good enough. It’s akin to watching a football match without seeing the goals, and only being told after the match who won. That was why we introduced the Cold Hawaii scoreboard in Klitmøller. The scores were still given on paper, but they were digitized immediately afterwards by dedicated tabulators via a specially designed system. This made it possible to present all counting scores just three minutes after each heat, through an app right next to the live streaming.
This procedure wasn’t intended as a solution, but it proved that it is indeed both possible and feasible to digitize and present scoring from a windsurfing wave performance competition.
By doing that, we’ve hopefully marked the beginning of a new paradigm for how to disseminate a PWA event. The next obvious step would be to introduce a system that digitizes every score from each individual judge as they are made available.
This would bring a whole new dimension to the dissemination of the sport, and create an entire new basis for making the sport more understandable and easier to share.
3) How are you using social media and Memolane to tell the story of Cold Hawaii?
New media is the core of the Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup media strategy. First of all, we use WordPress as the backbone of everything we produce and Bambuser for our live streaming. We use Chatroll for live chat, YouTube for our videos, Flickr for our images, and Twitter for short text output.
We gather all the content together in a live mashup, which then becomes the center of all our content and thus the thing you watch when you want the perfect overview. Alongside all that, our mascot, Cold Hawaii Penguin, has his own Facebook fan page.
We consider Memolane an easy-to-use archive of everything published during the event. Memolane was, and still is, an easy way to recap what happened both during and especially after the event. As such, we consider our memo a major part of the online legacy. We really like the timeline in Memolane: it adds big-time to a great overview and to the understanding of the event chronology.
We miss better sharing opportunities, though. For example, it was no problem for us to persuade the sailors to sign up for a Memolane account, and to connect their other social accounts to their Memolane account, but no-one used it to contribute to our shared memo, which from our perspective was the whole point.
As I understand it, you are working on that. Basically, I agree with all the new features you plan to roll out, and we need them to be able to really take advantage of Memolane.
There’s just one extra thing that would make Memolane an even better service: if you could build in a smart and easy-to-use/understand space dimension. I mean, you have the time dimension already, and the missing link is the space dimension. I’m already tracking my every move with Google Latitude – so it should be fairly easy! ;)
4) What social media services are most vital in promoting sporting events right now, and what services do you see becoming more important in the near future?
It all depends on the situation. Analyzing and understanding the needs of the situation is one of the things I’m helping with at the Danish School of Media and Journalism.
I’m not able to point to a single vital service, or only a few vital services, in promoting sports. Different services are good for different purposes.
In general, we need more easy-to-use services through which it’s possible to aggregate and present different coverage that – depending on the sport and the situation – will make a sporting event viewable, understandable and sharable. Memolane is a very good example, and we can expect much more from this.
Far more than just new services, though, we need strategy and experience in how to use social media to engage and retain audiences. We need to move beyond the early stage of feeling smart and new-fangled to dealing with how to get the best out of social media.
5) In your opinion, what are the key components in creating a great Memolane for a sporting event like Cold Hawaii?
First of all, you need great content. Second, you need perfect timing. You need to post in chronological order, as things are happening to create the perfect Memolane. It sounds trivial but it’s not.
For instance, before an event like the Cold Hawaii World Cup, we prepare all the basic tweets and when and/or in what situations to tweet. The same thing goes for all other content, too.
When you roll out the new features, new things must be taken into consideration too, but great content and perfect timing still applies.
6) Is there any song that would inspire you to ‘friend’ someone on Memolane if you saw it in a Last.fm memo on their lane?
No, not yet! :)
7) Where can the Memolane community find out more about Cold Hawaii and the PWA, and check out the sights and sounds of the event?
Let’s stick to the Cold Hawaii World Cup:
8) Could you share with us what you are listening to now (with link)?
“Happy” by Medina Spotify | Last.fm | YouTube
This blog post is part of our Events on Memolane series, highlighting event organizers and promoters creating great things with Memolane.