Muddy Marketing Mess

May 3rd, 2012

Two weekends ago, I ran the Rebel Race, a military style obstacle course and trail race. Compared to other mud races, such as Tough Mudder, McGuire Mud Run, Rock Solid and Rugged Maniac, this event did not live up to the company’s hype, as there was a discrepancy between what was advertised and what was delivered.  As a result, hundreds of unhappy participants slogged to the Rebel Race’s Facebook page, causing a tremendous amount of social media mudslinging.

According to the company’s marketing materials:  

The Rebel Race Series is designed for people feeling the urge to tackle intense obstacles. From start to finish, Rebel Race’s military style obstacles will have you dashing, barricade-climbing, mud-crawling, rope-swinging and fire-jumping. Our grueling course forces each rebel to test their physical toughness and mental endurance. Cross the finish line and bask in the glory with tons of beer, food, live entertainment, and many new friends covered in mud. Earn the bragging rights!

Sure there were obstacles, barricades and fire, but based on the Facebook feedback, the course was not grueling and lacked mud, a key ingredient for these types of races.  One racer commented, “Definitely a disappointment!!!!!! Very misleading Web site…. we made our own fun, but the race and camping situation was totally not what was advertised!!! Never doing the rebel again!!”

Another summed up the experience with the following, “Having done a few of these, this race was by far below par. I would not sign up for it again, nor would I recommend this race. You can identify all the logistical issues you want, but at the end of the day, we all paid for a race, and we did not get what we paid for.”

When formalizing your marketing and content strategy, it is important to carefully articulate what the customer can expect.  Overstating a product, service or experience will only lead to disappointment. Had Rebel Race framed its event as an entry-level obstacle course, it may have tempered the expectations of the participants, thus eliminating most of the scrutiny and social media backlash that took place.

Check out my follow-up post this Monday about how Rebel Race handled the crisis and what they could have done better.

Domenick Cilea

Domenick founded Springboard in 1995. When he is not working on marketing, PR, branding or content strategy, Domenick can be found in a gym, on the road or pool training to survive his next triathlon.

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