Ever struggle with creativity in your job? As an entrepreneur, I know that doing something unique can be a powerful way to separate your business from others or generate new interest in a product. I’ve got to admit, I was inspired a little last week by the Drake Relays, a track and field meet in Des Moines, Iowa that has been held every year since 1910.
What did they do out at Drake University that was so different from the hundreds of thousands of other track meets that occur every weekend around the country? Aside from having Olympic caliber talent, they also put traditional events in strange and new settings. For example, they had Olympic medalists in the Pole Vault go head to head inside of a shopping mall! Now that’s a way to reach a new demographic.
As you can see in the accompanying video, the mall was packed with track fans and curious bystanders. The place went wild when Bjorn Otto broke the meet record, clearing a 19-foot jump that almost put him at eye level with folks watching from an overpass on the second floor. I’ve rarely seen such enthusiasm for the event, even at prestigious events with great track fans like the Milrose Games. I have no idea who came up with the idea, but judging by all the news coverage and excitement surrounding it, they hit the nail on the head.
Despite being a pretty straight forward sport, track and field actually has a pretty lengthy history of fun and gimmicky events like this one.
When Jesse Owens struggled because of racism to find financial support to train after his Olympic wins, he raced against horses (and won). The aforementioned Milrose Games hosted an event that pitted former NFL players against each other in a 60 meter dash. Australian distance star Craig Mottram participated in “handicap races” against members of his local track club, where the average joes got a head start and he had to run them all down. All of them were notable and fun, and while they might rankle a few feathers amongst the more straight-laced and purist track fans, I think most die-hards appreciate them for what they are: something fun to generate publicity while staying true to the ideal of the sport (testing the limits of the human body).
So the next time you’re feeling a little tired of the regular and the average, pull up Youtube and watch the Drake Relays Shopping Mall Pole Vault. Let it inspire you to your own zany idea. You never know what will work.