Laurie Foster | Fans want a little more than the competition
The 2019 staging of the Gibson McCook Relays, with the stellar event having now completed its 43rd edition, has passed into the pages of history. What remains riveted in the minds of even the casual onlooker is the enormous talent the local track and field programme continues to unearth. No matter how high is the perception that a particular top-level school sends a weakened team or that some are holding strain because of supposedly more important engagements coming up, the facts are incontestable. The relay carnival continues to be a showpiece of the intensity of effort and commitment to excellence on the part of the organisers, coaches and, not least of all, the athletes. However, there is one element in the mix which is not living up to the legitimate expectations of the conceptualisers.
Not that long ago, there was a time when the Gibson McCook could command capacity crowds. Recently, one is viewing from a ringside position or on the television screen, what may be regarded as a paucity in attendance is easily detected. The awesome talent on display, which contributes to the spirited rivalry for top honours, including cash awards, demands that the attendance should be brought up to par with the spectacle. How to make this happen ought to be the question asked and tackled by the organisers for the 2020 staging.
The chairman of the organising committee, and Kingston College old boy, Professor Rainford Wilks, was featured on television during the event. To his credit, he brought up the point about the event not receiving the expected crowd response. He seemed at his wits’ end to address it in a manner which would guarantee the turn-around in fortunes with this aspect of the presentation of the event. What was eventually said, using different words, is that the advertising may need to be ramped up to bring about the desired crowd turnout. Foster’s Fairplay does not necessarily agree that such a move will, by itself, address the shortfall in attendance in a meaningful way. It is felt that there should be a multifaceted approach. It should not be that a single suggestion is seen as the path to the mushrooming in attendance which is required.
From where this columnist sits, the remedy should be at least twofold. First, it is suggested that there should be a change or better put, a tweaking of the advertising strategy. On the world stage, there has been the introduction of street promotion. This is where the organisers, instead of depending solely on electronic media and the press, a part of the promotional action is taken to the public thoroughfare, like shopping malls and major civic centres. This is seen with the immensely popular 5K road races, where the public at large is involved in the spectacle. Motorcades could also be an option, provided the cost is not out of reach. This should go a far way in making the fringe supporters feel a part of it.
There should also be a greater menu of sponsor giveaways at the event, again a way of involving the persons who come out to support. Traditionally, there is prepaid cell phone credit, but that is added to their phones. Something tangible which can be taken away from the venue could be an added incentive. As exciting as it may be, patrons tend to want a little more than the competition, if only to say, “This is what I won at the Gibson McCook Relays.”
Foster’s Fairplay is in total agreement with the professor. The crowds could take an uptick in numbers, but will the suggestions here provide a significant difference?
Reminiscing on a commercial of 1960s vintage, Foster’s Fairplay urges, “Try it nuh.”