Usain Bolt, the adidas Grand Prix & Option-it: How Technology will make our sport more attractive, by Larry Eder

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It was announced early in February that Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, and, by himself, responsible for the fourth largest television viewing audience of 2009 (over 100 million people on a global basis), will be running the 2010 version of the adidas Grand Prix, in New York's Icahn Stadium, located on Randall's Island.

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Usain Bolt, photo by PhotoRun.net

On June 12, 2010, Usain Bolt will make his first appearance in the Big Apple since he set his first world record, after a thunderstorm, In 2008. What Bolt has done since then, has been pure sports history. In Beijing (the 100 meters (9.68), the 200 meters (19.30), and the 4x 100m relay (37.10), Usain Bolt set three world records! In Berlin, in August 2009, he ran 9.58 for the 100 meters, and 19.19 for 200 meters. He was victorious in the 4 x 100 meters, but, alas, no world record!


Usain Bolt, by himself, would probably come close to selling out the adidas Grand Prix. However, a new option from the meet managers-the option of buying a ticket option through Option-it, has ticket sales way above plan and if my hunches are right, could revolutionize how we sell our sport, and to whom! Read on, gentle readers!

It is obvious that Usain Bolt is like no other athlete, in ANY sport, of his generation. Wallace Spearmon, Jr, himself a veteran of the sprint wars, told RBR last Monday about how Usain has brought fun back into the sport, and how he keeps the normal stress of a world class event down, just before the starts!

Bolt has not just enthralled track fans. He has made a connection with young athletes, young people, and the general sports fan. A case in point is my son's band. I remember getting a phone call in Berlin, from my son Adam, just checking in on Usain Bolt. " Hey Dad, you think Usain will break another world record? Craig (their guitarist) wants to know?" These guys are the farthest from track fans.

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"The biggest problem with professional track for the average sports fan is, what happens when an top athlete gets injured? "
noted Mark Mastalir, President/CEO of Optionit, a very innovative sports technology company. Optionit (www.Optionit.com), allows the sports fan for a nominal fee ($6 on a $20 ticket, for example) buy an option for a ticket to the adidas Grand Prix on June 12, 2010. They need to exercise the option by May 15, which should give the sports fan a good idea of who will be there and who will not. The option holder can then either buy the ticket or not exercise the option. If they decide to sell their tickets, Optionit will allow them to do that as well (Optionit and meet management get a service fee, again, pretty nominal).

For Mark Mastalir, who has spent much of his life in our sport, first as a top junior (FootLocker Cross Country), then a top miler with his twin brother at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, CA. After running and matriculating at Stanford, Mark worked for, among others, Nike sports marketing, Reebok sports marketing, the NBA & Wrigleys.

" Our new service is a great benefit for pro sports, like basketball, baseball and hockey, but the opportunities in track & field and marathoning are endless!" noted a very enthusiastic Mr. Mastalir this morning.

What is fascinating to this writer is that the adidas Grand Prix is the first track meet to use the service. Currently, the San Jose Sharks and the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the Boston Celtics use Optionit. Those groups use Optionit as a way to control scalpers and also make some money in the very lucrative secondary sports ticket market.

For track & field, this could be a very good way to attract tertiary fans, who are interested in a top athlete, but do not want to shell out a lot of cash at first. Writing off $6 or $10 for a modest ticket is not a big deal. Neither is deciding a month out from an event if one really wants to go! (Note, the option price does go up as the price of the ticket moves up the food chain, but it is still, by any standard, pretty modest pricing to
option a ticket at a major event.)

In visiting the Optionit websites, I found adidas Grand Prix, and I was able to pick the seats that I wanted, from the available options (there were many). The ticketing option is easy to follow, as is the option menu. What is fascinating to this writer, was the observations of Rich Kenah, from Global Athletics, who noted to me about how the track & field consumers were using Optionit. "Many are not only buying the option now, but exercising their option for the tickets at adidas Grand Prix , right now, and not waiting for the option
period! "

In speaking to Rich Kenah, partner in Global Athletics & Marketing, Option-it has pleasantly surprised them. " We sold out of our quote of Option tickets in about a week. Yesterday,
we opened a few more tickets for Option-it and they are flying out of here!" Please note that regular ticket sales start on Monday, February 15, 2010.

RBR encourages everyone who can go to get tickets now! Usain Bolt will be a huge attraction, but last year's meet was the best ever, and the appreciative crowd, and less than a three weeks before the US champs. Last year, Tyson Gay, Anna Pierce, Bernard Lagat, among others, entertained the SRO crowd of 11,000 plus.

How fitting it is, for the first Diamond League meet in the new world, June 12, 2010. Usain Bolt will be there, as will over a hundred of the world's best athletes in our sport! Option-it gives you a low-cost opportunity to pick up an option on a ticket now, and decide in Mid-May, whether you want to see
one of the best meets in the world!

Where else could this technology be used? Think about it, for marathons (athletes get sick, they could option their number and cut down on the average of 10-15 percent of no-shows on
a marathon race day!)

Global Athletics' Rich Kenah is very positive about Option-it and how it is indicative of the effect that Usain Bolt, and a few other stars have on our sport. Perhaps the damning injury that athletes not showing up at meets have on sport, can be alieviated with Option-it. The adidas Grand Prix will show us, if sports technology like Optionit, can help grow our sport! Time will tell!

We do know one thing! Usain Bolt will be running fast in 2010, and we hope to see him at the adidas Grand Prix in June!

Full release on adidas Grand Prix and Optionit:


NEW YORK - Jamaican born sprint sensation Usain "Lighting" Bolt will compete in the 100 meters at the adidas Grand Prix in New York City on June 12th, organizers announced today. The adidas Grand Prix, formerly known as the Reebok Grand Prix, will be the fifth stop on the inaugural IAAF Diamond League circuit and will be held at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island.

Usain Bolt, the reigning triple-Olympic Champion (100m, 200m and 4x100m) and triple-World Champion, is one of the most popular and sought after sports personalities in the world. A showman both on and off the track, Bolt shocked the world in Beijing in 2008, not just by winning the 100m gold medal but by doing so in a never-before-seen dominating and entertaining world record effort. He followed up this victory just days later with another historic world record at 200m (19.30) and again in the 4x100m Relay (37.10).

In 2009, Bolt outperformed the world as well as his own seemingly untouchable world best marks with two more records (9.58 for 100m and 19.19 for 200m) at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. Ranked #1 in the world at 100m and 200m in 2008 and 2009, Bolt was also named Athlete-of-the Year by the IAAF in both years.

The adidas Grand Prix will be Bolt’s first competition in the United States since he set his first world record at this event in 2008. “New York was the site of my first world record, the track is lightning fast and the fans, well, they sat through an entire thunderstorm in 2008 just to watch the 100m so I know they appreciate speed,” said Bolt. “I am looking forward to returning to the Big Apple in June.”

Organizers also announced today an agreement with OptionIt, a leader in the next generation of ticket buying for sports and entertainment events. Despite the addition of more spectator seating in 2010, organizers expect demand to outstrip supply. Beginning today, fans can purchase an option, through OptionIt.com, for an adidas Grand Prix ticket. Concerned about resellers and scalping, organizers believe this alliance with OptionIt will allow fans who are likely to purchase tickets to buy an option to hold those seats until an assigned date, when they can then exercise their option and purchase their reserved ticket at face value.

OptionIt currently has similar agreements with organizations such as the Boston Celtics, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks.

For more on the adidas Grand Prix, please click on
www.adidasgrandprix.com

For more on Optionit, please click on www.Optionit.com

For more on Global Athletics & Marketing, please click on www.globalathletics.com.

For more on our sport, please click on www.runningnetwork.com

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