ARoundWithRog - name it, market it, sell it
Early in the plans for this fundraising, I was sure that to market the project, it would need a name. Something catchy that would capture the essence of what I was doing, that was descriptive, memorable and would help to promote the activities I was planning to undertake. A 'nice to have' would be a strap line to follow the name, but I was less sure whether this would feature in a major way.
As everything else had been logged on a spreadsheet, it was time to create the worksheet to capture these ideas as they popped in and out of my head. The names I came up with were: Rogerontour, Rogontour, 360 around the UK, 360 of the best, Endurance360, Onborrowedtime, Givemoneytoborrowtime, Rogonborrowedtime, Givetoborrowtime, Givemoneyfortime, Givefortime, Timeforcash, Timeformoney. Clearly, there were recurring themes, 20 rounds of golf would mean 360 holes of golf, which conveniently equalled the number of degrees in a circle, so that somehow needed to come into it, as I would travel all around the UK. The donating type of references seemed necessary to log at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, seem rather inappropriate, as if I told people my charity project was 'x', then all these references would be utterly obvious.
The straplines I was thinking of also seemed to follow a pattern, linking my tall frame with the significance of the challenge I was taking on. 'Giving it back' seemed particularly good as I had long suffered with lower back problems - a side effect of being 6'8'' tall, yet seemed to sum up my wish to give something back to those who had provided me with this opportunity for extended life due to their focus on developing improved treatments for diseases in recent history. 'Giving it Large' seemed to sum up my general approach to life - if I do something, I tend to do so to the best of my ability, but it still somehow missed the mark. A man on a mission, A man on his bike with his club, Playback time, etc were all on a similar theme.
Discussing this very naming problem with my sister-in-law Jools, saw rapid progress. Overnight, she had come up with Game on Rog, but while I thought it was good, it was not my donation that would allow people to play at these fantastic courses, it also had connotations of game shows which cheapened the impression and would struggle to link with the motorcycling aspect of the challenge. When I fedback to her, the following day, she came up with the answer - ARoundWithRog. It explained the tour all around the country as well as had the golf connotation. What I suspect Jools didn't know was that there used to be a TV show called A Round With Alliss, where the seasoned golf commentator would describe how to approach playing at different challenging golf holes around the country. Without further ado, following my immediate affirmative decision, Jools had registered the domain name and offered her web building skills in order to launch a website for the event. We then brainstormed and came up with the strap line 'Giving it tall' to brand and personalise the event further, while catching the charity essence. This is now seen on all pages of my website. Before long, I had the bare bones of the site populated, which provided valuable credibility and saved a lot of time, saving the need to regurgitate the same spiel every time I was asking for people's, golf clubs' and companies' generosity.
This all then convinced me of the need for branding the event. Brian is a cartoonist who had recently drawn some excellent caricatures of my friends and me for a t-shirt design for our Endurance Tour. Contacting him and telling him my story led him to say how touched he was and honoured to be able to give something of his time to support such a fantastic cause. Brian and Dennis, a recently retired computer savvy neighbour of his, set about creating the design and making it work in the modern world by creating pdf files, something that was new to them both. A superb design which captured the 'circum UK riding' nature of my event, the 360 holes as degrees of a circle plus the golf on a motorcycle image was duly produced and has featured on my website, on Ebay, on Inter-bike's website (see later in this article) and has been used to create a personalised embroidered panel on a donated golf bag plus golf towels, perhaps with other personalised merchandise to follow.
It was not long before all the rounds of golf had been donated and I was facing the challenge of deciding how much to charge, how to sell it, what other routes may there be to market etc. At about this time, I met a chap through an 'away' tennis match who suggested that Ebay may be useful. He also effected an introduction so that a member of their staff was assigned to assist in making it possible to sell my charity wares through the site. This being an auction site seemed to solve the problem of pricing,as I would always receive the highest bid. Only problem was, that with a little digging, I soon determined that Ebay didn't seem to be the meeting place for philanthropists, so back to the problem of price, as having taken so much to get to this stage, I really did not want to give these prize rounds of golf away for less than they were clearly worth.
So, armed with the prices the golf clubs would charge, I added approximately 20% to account for the reclaim a higher rate taxpayer would be able to receive back from Inland Revenue when making a charity donation and drew up a table of prices and labelled them as minimum bids. Several others that were particularly noteworthy or tricky to get onto, I adopted more of a finger in the air approach, trying to determine a different price point for those who wanted or perhaps needed an excuse to give more. One problem - Loch Lomond is a private members club and have no published greenfee (price to play as a non-member). Before long, I had published my list of prices and invited emailed bids until I had Ebay set up. My personal network was buzzing with the project that I had dreamt up. Universally it was being hailed as a fantastic idea that would raise a lot of money. However, conjecture was all very well, but I needed sales. Many 'I am interested' noises were being made, but the very decision to invite bids was making people cagey and made them want to wait and see. Clearly, this approach was not likely to deliver, so to create some urgency, I decided to sell complete 'games' if the minimum bids were offered for all three proposed participants before a future Ebay start date.
Quickly seven rounds were sold, with many more being worked on by groups to tie up committed dates in diaries and travel plans contemplated. Advice from some of my golf club playing partners, where there was considerable interest in the rounds, was to organise a dinner and then auction the games off at that function. Whilst this seemed a perfectly good idea, my wish to organise more functions to support the main event wasn't filling me with glee, especially as it would require me to use organisational skills that do not come naturally to me - short timescale planning, attention to detail, organising people to be somewhere, dealing with issues last minute etc. Also, as the rounds would be on specific dates and specific times, I felt that people may feel the need to consult diaries beofre they bid freely. Fortunately, with time on my side, I had the luxury of choice on how and when to sell my prized games. All but the two Northern Irish courses had been sold by end of February, with the vast majority completed a month earlier, the game at Royal Aberdeen being the onle one sold through Ebay.
The only exception to this sales approach was Loch Lomond. The rarity value of the opportunity to play led several groups to start to email me their bids, starting at £600 per head. It wasn't long before I realised that rather than getting these bids to cancel each other out for the sake of a few hundred pounds, if I could get access to more golf opportunities to play Loch Lomond, the overall sum raised would likely be considerably higher. Unfortunately, whichever contact I tried, it just could not be made to happen. Issues with diary dates clashing with business commitments started to surface so I decided to simplify the process, up my minimum bid to £800 per head and sell to the first gent and friend who had wanted to secure their places on the tee for this game. I only had two places to sell for this course, as the club insist on a club member or staff member accompanying any guest who visits the club.
Needless to say, stories abound about people playing the course and being told by the caddy, 'that is Bill Clinton in the group ahead' followed by 'Clint Eastwood is following us around today'. With this course in particular, I relish the thoughts of the scenery, the luxury and exclusivity, but more than any of these, seeing the reactions of people seeing me arrive by motorcycle to play it! I suspect that in its relatively short history, I will be the only one!
In the background, I was needing to publicise the event. Press releases were composed by the charities' press officers and distributed to all local newspapers and radio stations in the areas I would be visiting. Several local papers immediately covered the story as well as a local commercial station plus two BBC stations. Being interviewed on live radio was quite nerve wracking, but also a little frustrating as because they ask you the questions, it is difficult to get all the points across that you would like to make. A particular interview on BBC Berks fell into this category as they focussed almost entirely on my cancer experiences. By keeping in touch and armed with the news of the success of the fundraising side, however, a follow up interview was arranged and I managed to plug all the things on my communications agenda!
My bike dealer has been very supportive in helping with my initiative. Even to the point that they mentioned my plans to another of their customers who runs a web site called www.inter-bike.co.uk . He contacted me and offered as much free publicity for my event as I wanted - a kind and sincere offer that culminated in it being featured on his 'feature news' page for more than a week.
The final part of my communications programme was the printing. Having sold into this sector for many years, I had plenty of contacts who were willing to support. However, I needed professional quality photographs for the flyers, An old squash pal was duly contacted and with suggestions from another who was used to taking pictures that attract major newspaper publicity, we took my bike and golf clubs out onto my home club, the Lambourne Golf Club in Burnham, Bucks and sought the perfect picture. Riding one handed on greasy fairways, holding a driver out in front was not easy, but the desired effect was achieved after a 60 pic photo shoot.
My printer organised the design of the flyer, using the elements I had offered, including the jealously guarded resources of the charities (to avoid their fraudulent use I expect) and came up with a printed result inside of 48 hours. All very inpressive. It was also very helpful in communicating what I am doing to all and sundry, leaving these flyers in the golf club, giving them to contacts to distribute as well as leaving some in the reception of my osteopath, to whom I have unfortunately been a regular visitor with my long suffering lower back.
By now, the money was starting to roll in, with the totals on my online giving pages jumping up every few days. Quickly, I formulated a spreadsheet to start to track all the receipts as well as giving me the feedback that my targets were being approached, reached and finally exceeded as each week rolled by.
While hotel sponsors had been quick to offer nights in their hotels free of charge, there were areas in the country where this was not happening. It turned out thet there was a large golf tournament and a half marathon all taking place at the time I needed to be in town. So, while possibilities existed to sell rooms on the date required, free rooms were understandably not a probability. Quickly totting up the costs that could accrue, the biggest single one of which was the fuel, I started to approach the major petroleum companies. However, it would seem that they were not willing to support for whatever reasons, so it came to a personal contact, who has built a business selling used Volvo estate cars into the biggest independent Volvo trader in the UK, to come to the rescue. Thanks Dave, much appreciated. All contributors were offered a contributors link on my website to divert interested traffic to support their business objectives.
The remaining costs, it appears, will be met by the sale of my articles outlining our escapades on our motorcycling trip around Europe immediately following my first chemo plus a specific follow up of the golf event, written with a motorcyclists' interests in mind. Hopefully, these will be sufficient to cover the few hotels needing paying for as well as make a useful contribution to the 'food on the move' requirements. These will be published on Writebuzz in due course, once they have appeared in print. For those interested in seeing the articles and pictures in print, they will feature in Motorcycle Sport and Leisure Magazine over the coming weeks. A link to their website can be found on the contributors' page on www.ARoundWithRog.co.uk.
With the various merchandise I had been donated, mindful of their limited value when selling on Ebay, I decided to use them where appropriate to access a wider sponsorship audience. An old colleague of mine, who took over my relationships with customers has been offered a donated £150 golf rain suit if he can raise £3,000 in sponsorships from old colleagues and customer contacts that he still has frequent contact with. I suspect that if he does a good job and doesn't quite make the £3,000 target, he will get his prize anyway. This way I can communicate what benefit to the appeal the donated suit was worth, without actually having sold it! Sponsor forms have been given to friends and relatives, as well as people who have contacted me through writebuzz , Ebay or my website, to do their bit in asking their contact network to donate to my appeal. This has been done by those who have expressed an interest to help, or have simply been affected, or had someone close to them affected by these diseases.
In all, the experience has been heart warming in seeing how people want to give to support my appeal in whatever way they feel able, be it registering to be a bone marrow donor, giving time, skill, merchandise, services, rounds of golf or hotel accommodation. To a man, none have been interested in self publicity, but clearly this is something I have offered to generate momentum for new donors to help in whatever way they can.
To sum it up, in keeping up with progress reports to my friends and family, my brother Andy came out with a great quote about me which stuck in my mind the moment he uttered it. He said 'You can take the man out of marketing, but you cannot take marketing out of the man'!
Please check out my earlier contributions to www.writebuzz.com and also www.AroundwithRog.co.uk for the bigger picture.
Published on writebuzz®:
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