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Color Run CEO Travis Snyder: It obviously does resonate well across Asia, and in China

By By Yutang Sports, assisted by Jonathan Powell in London 26 May 2016

Travis Snyder/ Photo taken from Zimbio

Travis Snyder is the founder and CEO of The Color Run, currently the largest running event in the world. After competing in the Ironman triathlon at age 19, he embarked on a love affair with fitness and the events world. This journey led him to 2011, where Mr Snyder developed and directed The Color Run’s successful growth from a start-up to more than 200 annual events and more than two million yearly participants in countries throughout North and South America, the UK, continental Europe, South Africa, UAE, Australia and Asia. In 2015, he was selected as one of the 50 most influential people in running.

Yutang: Can you describe how your event has grown so rapidly, and what makes it so appealing?

Travis Snyder: “Our growth has been 100% fueled through consumer demand. We’d only been going six months, when I saw a Tweet from a teenage girl in Singapore saying: ‘ I want to do the Color Run so bad, I can’t believe it hasn’t come to Singapore yet.’ At the time, I was so busy already, I was thinking ‘my hair is on fire, as it is’.  So, when you see something like that, you just want to give them the product. So you figure out a way.  As an entrepreneur, I’m not inherently aggressive, but I am tuned in with the consumer.”  

Yutang: Is the growth going to be fast in China, like it has been in the USA?

Travis Snyder: “Out first event in Beijing got 10,000 people, and the next one got 30,000. It is growing rapidly there. We just opened registration there for the next one, and it is almost sold out already. We’re going to seven cities this year. Beijing is the main one. That’s our flag in the ground. Our colourful flag.”

Yutang: Are we right to anticipate something unprecedented in China with mass participation sports events?

Travis Snyder: “Absolutely, everything about China says that it’s a country and a culture that loves sport, and that they want to watch it, engage in it. I think the Chinese market is really a beautiful one for our event.”  

Yutang: Is there something special about the Chinese and Asian market that suits your event, something that resonates with the audience there?

Travis Snyder: “The proof of that is in the results we have had there already, it obviously does resonate well across Asia, and in China. The Beijing event, at 30,000 entries, was our largest event. Our Paris and Beijing events are now trading the largest figures. It’s about the most we can do, without the quality suffering.”

Yutang: Where did the idea for throwing colored paint at people come from?

Travis Snyder: “I live in California, and I’ve got three young boys. We we’re at Disneyland, and Disney put out a new show called ‘world of color’, which was fountains that were lit up with different colors. I was fascinated with Disney’s investment, and I did a little research on how much they spent on consumer research about this. I thought it was beautiful, and really visual. At that time, I was producing triathlon and running events, and I thought how you might marry a color experience with a run event. So I thought, you shorten it to 5,000metres, so it is more accessible, and just add color to it.  At first I was looking at liquid paints. Then you learn people don’t want to get hit with something wet in cold weather, and there was issues with people slipping over. So I was looking for different colour options, and I did see the festivals in India where they use powder. But anything involving colour is going to look similar to those festivals.”

Yutang: Did you have any doubts that your idea would take off, and work well?

Travis Snyder: “I’m pragmatic, I thought this could be one of the dumbest ideas ever, or it would take off.  It would flop, or be big. But I had no idea it would be this large.”

Yutang: How did you come across this idea, and did you develop this kind of creative mindset from studying business?

Travis Snyder: “I’ve met a lot of MBA’s who don’t think that way. It’s just the way I am, since I was a kid, I would be analysing billboard ads, thinking ‘why did they use that picture, or why that copy?” All entrepreneurs really want to do is find something that isn’t being delivered, to the market place, and when they find that, the market place responds by buying it.  I just realized that people wanted an event that was more inclusive, that still had health and fitness as a backbone, but maybe not all of the pretentious, intense, serious aspects to it.”

Yutang: How did you handle setting up the first event in China, and what challenges did you face?

Travis Snyder: “China is a challenging market to get into, with language and cultural barriers. We have great partners through IMG, who have done a lot of the heavy lifting with the permitting and the on-site work with the Chinese government. They’ve worked in China for many years with triathlon, so they had a lot of those existing relationships.” 

This article was assisted by Jonathan Powell, contributing writer of Yutang Sports at The Telegraph Business of Sport Conference in London.

Tags: sport events
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