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Organizing and Promoting Grassroots Events

 

"Cool ifs" and "Yeah buts" drive me nuts. They appear weekly in the comments section on most ChopCult features, and big event threads are plagued by dozens of them. To the ears of anyone who has worked hard to do something unique for his scene, these pesky buzzwords are the ultimate buzzkill.

"Man, it would be cool if somebody did an event like that where I live!" Or worse, "Yeah but they should have hired better bands and provided more free beer!" Beyond sounding selfish and insulting, flippant remarks like these show a total disregard for the capital and heartache hard-working people are investing in YOUR scene.

Truth be told, I'm guilty of talking my fair share of shit on events gone wrong. To change that karmic tide, I've helped organize everything from pool parties and chopper swap meets to made-for-TV BMX races and Mexican hellrides. What I've learned in 30 years of event planning and organization is this:

Put woulda, coulda or shoulda in one hand and a pinch of dog crap in the other and you can fertilize a geranium. Talk is cheap, and usually doesn't mean shit. If you want to make a difference in today's chopper scene, try hosting your own event. With all the tools for social networking, digital photography and graphic design now at your fingertips, it's never been easier.

 

Specific among these tools is this very website. As active members on ChopCult can tell you, our calendar section and event threads are excellent resources for event promotion. With a little creativity and advance planning, anyone can throw a beer blast, bike ride or pothole social. Just ask Tyler Malinky, Blue Collar Moto and Walter at Kickstart Cycles. These guys are regular contributors to the chopper ecosystem, and events like Walt's Gypsy Run are world-class affairs. This CC member used ChopCult almost exclusively to promote his East Coast event, and last summer's GR4 was an epic adventure 150 bikeriders will never forget. Click here for tips on how to use both CC resources to promote your event.

In addition to the CC calendar and event threads, there are other great ways to promote cool chopper hootenannies. Blogs feature prominently in the promo process. When Billdozer and I launched the El Diablo Run in 2005, we built a complete website from scratch. Today, thanks to Blogger and Wordpress, no such heavy lifting is required. When we agreed to host EDR 2011 last month, Bill had a news feed and event page on Facebook running before sundown.

Think you don't have the skills to plan a cool event? All it really takes is the ability to create and stick to a written plan, and to make quick decisions during its execution. When I get a wild hair to host an event of any size or complexity, I always write down the 5 W's:

Who

What

When

Where

Why

In the case of a parking lot chopper ride, this is pretty easy:

Who: Chopper dudes and chicks, obviously, but it helps to be more specific. If the event you propose is a campout, high-maintenance honeyboys and their supermodel girlfriends aren't likely to show up. Ditto grease monkeys on chopper tours through wine country. Make sure to craft your event's vibe, graphic design and style to your target audience.

What: Give your event a name. Make it short, snappy, and try to include buzzwords that will help it show up in a Google search. "Bradenton Biker Brodown" is a good name because it includes the place, and a word for "motorcycle rider" that Google recognizes. Alliteration (recurring B, B, B sounds in this example) will give your name a sing-song quality that sticks in peoples' heads. "Ernie's Chocolate Egg" is not a good name for a motorcycle event—too cryptic and vague.

When: Pick a date. Check calendars to make sure your date doesn't conflict with any larger events. The second weekend of August, for example, is not a good time to throw an underground circle track race in Montana. Reason: Sturgis is happening the same weekend in South Dakota.

Where: Pick a venue. If your Bradenton Biker Brodown is meeting at the Vietnamese donut shop on the corner of Manatee Avenue and 26th Street, make sure there's enough parking for everyone, and that the owner and his neighbors don't mind. Once you get approval from the venue, make sure what you're planning is legal. A visit to the Chamber of Commerce website is a good place to start. If that doesn't glean results, call the cops. When you're talking to business owners and city officials, don't use words like "bikers" or "motorcycle club." Try kinder, gentler terms like "vintage motorcycle enthusiasts" and "church group." You don't want to lie, but neither is it wise to beg for trouble.

Why: Sometimes this is the toughest "W" of all. Throwing a hoedown to share the wealth, raise funds for a charity or grow your scene are good answers. If you've never organized anything bigger than your daughter's sweet 16 or your best friend's bachelor party, "doing it for the money" is not. Be true to your scene and participants will respond to the integrity of your appeal. Remember: you're asking strangers to spend their valuable time and hard-earned money hanging out with you and your crew. Don't ruin your chance of success by selling expensive wristbands, charging for shitty beer or hosting your throwdown at an uptight venue. Start small and work up. Ten dudes at a KOA 100 miles east of town is a great place to start. Billdozer calls it "eliminating moving parts," and it works. Keep things simple.

With your written plan in place, now you can now move onto the early fun of DIY events: advertising and promo. We've already mentioned Facebook and blogs, but there is another tool smart promotors are using to build momentum for their events:

ChopCult Grassroots Advertising Program

If you live in SoCal, New England, The Big Apple or the dirty south, you've probably seen banners like the ones in the photo gallery on this how-to. As a public service to the chopper universe, these valuable promo tools are available free to qualifed ChopCult member/promotors. To learn how to participate in this program, please follow the instructions in the screen grab in the photo gallery above, or see more here.

Several promotors who used this free service credit ChopCult advertising for a significant portion of their success. We're flattered, and we're more than happy to help. All we ask anyone who wants to promote grassroots events on ChopCult is this:

Plan ahead

Stay organized

Be professional

Have fun

Follow these tips and you'll be well on your way to doing something instead of merely talking about it.

Ain't nothing cooler than that.


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Comment with Chopcult (14)

Commented on 11-8-2010 At 02:37 pm
 

Great info!! Planning on making use of the promo program sometime in the next few months to help with my friends Benefit Ride.

Commented on 11-8-2010 At 05:39 pm
 

You got it McGoo, talk is cheap, there is always a lot of talk and people who don't back it up. Iit is a lot of work to follow through and make it happen but totally worth it especially if you're not in socal and there isn't an event every weekend to choose from!

Commented on 11-8-2010 At 07:16 pm
 

Awesome man. What you are talking about is about in Colorado! Run for The Hills!

Commented on 11-9-2010 At 12:36 am
 

yeah but thats alot of work, it'd be cool if instead, we used a special magical spell and an enchanted event materialized right before our eyes, complete with hi maintenance bros and supermodels.


PARTY.....
oh yeah, once again i have the slab city curse, swine flu last year, bronchitis this year. Suck

Commented on 11-9-2010 At 12:39 am
 

i like the idea about starting small, it doesnt have to be huge. just fun

Commented on 11-10-2010 At 12:39 am
 

Good read.

Commented on 11-10-2010 At 02:30 am
 

There you go again being all "Motivating!" Keep it up!!! Im not to guilty in critiquing others' work, I am a guilty of being a "Why are all the cool events on the coast!?!" douche. Looks like I need to get to work!!!

Commented on 11-10-2010 At 05:20 am
 

Nice write up, great info!

Commented on 11-10-2010 At 09:36 pm
 

so doing something in boston this year. i don't care if four people
show up. no one ever host in the city.

-burn

Commented on 11-10-2010 At 09:36 pm
 

so doing something in boston this year. i don't care if four people
show up. no one ever host in the city.

-burn

Commented on 11-12-2010 At 03:19 am
 

Every big event started as a small one (Sturgis, Daytona, Laconia,etc.) the good ones last the lame ones fade. I hope Born Free is here for the long haul.

Commented on 11-16-2010 At 03:27 am
 

These are great pointers. I was able to start a little monthly here in the tiny town of Grass Valley, CA this summer. It's been a hit with the locals, and gets the gray beards together with the vansNplaids like nothing else around. Best part is it's cheap to throw and easy to get everyone to come out and show their stuff. Here's to Throwbacks Thursday 2011!

Commented on 2-12-2012 At 02:18 pm
 

great info. thanks for the heads up.

Commented on 3-20-2013 At 09:16 pm
 

great article...i set up a Joshua Tree trip for this month and so far the feedback has been great. Write ups like this will help so much and hopefully we can see more grassroots stuff pop up

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