Gears + Beers = Event Success
Words by Sophie Hamdorf, Photo Credit: Beardy McBeard
Introducing Phil McIntosh, Gears and Beers Event
Through dedication to brand integrity, the drive of raising funds and having a super tight and innovative event concept, the Gears and Beers event has seen incredible success attracting riders from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and beyond. We recently caught up with event founder, Phil McIntosh to learn more about how you take a really unique event concept and translate it into what Gears and Beers has become just 4 years into its lifecycle.
Like the conception of many great event ideas Phil and his son, Nathan McIntosh were kicking back on the verandah enjoying a lazy beer one afternoon. They were pretty pumped, having just watched the culmination of the Strade Bianche road cycling event in Italy.
At the time Phil was President of the Rotary Club of Wollundry Wagga Wagga, so they were throwing around a few fundraising event concepts. Cycling was obviously high on the agenda and if you’ve ever been to Wagga Wagga you would know that local bike culture is fierce, front of mind and often ventures to Northern Victoria to make the most of the Bright Brewery post ride! Cheers to that.
So cycling was top of mind, as was the idea of being able to enjoy a nice, cold brew after the event - not just packing up the treadly and heading home… Another thing that they had seen in the Strade was this incredible “gravel” element - literally taking the road racing off-road!
Nathan puts in nicely in his article One for the Road: A celebration of cycling, cider and craft beer, (2006) “it was the beginning of spring. The beer was great and the barbeque was cooking on the verandah. It was here that the Dirty 130 and the Gears and Beers Festival were born. The ride would take in quiet country lanes and be segmented by four gravel sectors, and the festival would be the joyful finale worthy of previous hardships on the bike”.
BOOM! Light bulb.
And so the Gears and Beers event concept was born. The next steps in developing this great idea into an actual event were crucial and there were several key elements that set the tone for this exercise from the get go.
1. Having a team of local and talented people behind the event
Behind every event there is a team of very hard working people and despite this being a charity event - ie everyone volunteers their time and works for free - the workforce and skill set behind this event is absolutely next level.
With Phil’s own son sitting behind him creatively since their initial arvo beer and thought session this event has grown from strength to strength. Also being backed by the support of the many selfless and talented Rotary members has made this event more collaborative than most.
2. A watertight event brand guide
There aren’t that many charity events, nay even professional events, that we have seen that have a sense of brand integrity as strong as Gears and Beers and if you jump on any of their communication channels or social feeds you will see the sheer effort and planning that has gone into giving their audience a real taste of what the event looks like, feels like and even sounds like it. It’s sensory marketing 101 that gets word of mouth and peer to peer promotion flowing.
This has come about in a few ways, but right from the outset Phil and his team knew that the key element of this event was going to be about protecting the local community and independent suppliers, staying fiercely true to the brand guide and listening to the participants and their needs.
A great example of this is the festival atmosphere after the event, pretty early on the team learnt that participants weren’t really interested in listening to sponsor announcements, events wrap ups or any of that usual post event stuff - so they have none! Literally just bands and the fun stuff. You would be pretty hard pressed to find another event in Australia that follow this same format, but it just works.
3. A partnering sponsor that was involved from the earliest days
This quiet confidence in giving the punters what they wanted and delivering a super strong brand was backed by one event sponsor that really helped the Gears and Beers team to better understand their audience, their product and how to sell a really special, bespoke event.
Being involved from the beginning, Rapha was incredibly influential in getting the event off the ground, particularly influencing the event marketing in the earlier days. Above all things from the partnership with Rapha the most important learnings have been in how to tell a story.
Marketing events is all about imagery - people want to know what the event will feel like if they do it and what kind of emotional journey they can expect to go on. At the end of the day events are all about the experience and if you can give your audience a small taste of this then they are probably going to want more.
4. The support of local craft brewers, coffee makers and artisan foodies
Bringing the brewery to the people after the event was always going to be the true cornerstone of success for Gears and Beers - I mean with a name like that you can’t really not! So early on Phil sat down with some local independent brewers, coffee makers and general foodies to explore what was going to resonate and work to get the festival element off the ground.
It has been absolutely instrumental that the festival concept remain local, independent and bespoke - always back to the all important brand guidelines! Despite being approached by some pretty big multinationals to join the mix several times already over the past four years, their fierce protection of the brand has been maintained and the festival continues to grow from local strength to strength with bands joining the festival atmosphere and the addition of a “pre” party the night before in 2018.
So where to next?!
There is no doubt with a blueprint such as this that the Gear and Beers event will continue to grow from strength to strength. And with people continuing to flock from far and wide to Wagga Wagga to embrace this awesome festival and it’s causes, it is fast becoming one of the premiere tourism event for New South Wales.
We asked Phil what drives the success of this event: “we got onto dirt at just the right time”. The unique concept of people riding on dirt roads in mud, rain and crazy terrain is incredibly exhilarating for riders and completely takes them out of their comfort zone to embrace the experience.
Going forward Phil and his team are determined to maintain their control and focus on brand integrity and the decisions made in the background. Being a Rotary Club fundraiser, the brand is also dedicated to maximising the support on the road through using their own members and reaching out to other clubs.
With the primary motivation of why this event began being fundraising for the Rotary Club - it has always been about giving back “it’s all good fun, but it’s also hard work and everything goes to charity. I think that is our true point of different, that drives people coming to the event and motivates us to deliver”.
To learn more about this event, or follow Gear and Beers on Social Media (they have some seriously cool content!) jump over to the event website - https://gearsandbeers.org.au/