Sommer Sports’ Michelle Craske’s Insights

We like to hear from people in the industry to find out more about them and how they use RunSignup’s products. Recently, RunSignup’s Steve Bingham-Hawk chatted with Michelle Craske with Sommer Sports to get some inside scoop. For those of you not familiar with Sommer Sports, it is an established race management company located in Clermont, Florida. It’s founder, Fred Sommer, is highly regarded as one of the long-time substantial influencers of the triathlon industry and helped the industry transform throughout the years. He has also continued to stay abreast of changes in the industry to continue to provide a sought-after race experience. Fred has also been a valued customer of RunSignup and uses its many capabilities to support the events they manage and the participants and volunteers who take part in in them.

Fred Sommer and Michelle Craske – Sommer Sports

About Sommer Sports

Sommer Sports is a multi-sport, event timing, and management company with a rich history of awards and designations that line the walls of the corporate office located in Clermont, Florida. For 39 years, the company has has been producing a wide variety of events, including triathlons, endurance events, 5k’s, and marathons. The company offers comprehensive services from ordering shirts and medals, to creating event websites, to timing the race.

Sommer Sports’ president and founder, Fred Sommer, remains at the helm ensuring the mission of the company is met and quality standards maintained with more than 40 events annually.  

Progressive thinking and true passion show through with no resting on laurels. Year after year Sommer Sports continues to receive accolades and earn Top Race designations in independent surveys and publications.  Sommer Sports is one of the most respected names in the event industry. 

Approach with RunSignup and Race Clients

Michelle Caste is Sommer Sports’ Vice President / Race Director. Michelle reports that their team offers full turn key operations for their race clients as well as hosting their own operated events. When she began working at Sommer Sports she was new to the industry and was thrown right into the thick of things and had to quickly learn the ropes. The Great Floridian Triathlon was her first race to provide event management services for and it was challenging given the complexity of the various event types. The event hosts 12 different types of events, including individual and team relay options for triathlon, duathlons, open water, half marathon and aquabike (swim/bike combo) courses.

With this, Michelle had to learn RunSignup’s tools on the backend. She shared she found them to be user friendly and easy to navigate. She recognized her RunSignup account manager, Matt Sinclair, for his help and and shared she was impressed with his responsiveness and willingness to help work through any problems. She is now well versed in the technology and able to confidently help their clients.

When supporting their race clients, Michelle will typically do the initial setup in RunSignup’s race wizard for registration and other features. If the event wants to change things after it is set up, like the race logo, she points them in the right direction so that they can make changes directly. If needed, she will send them links to help files available on RunSignup’s website. Also, Sommer Sports shares RunSignup blogs with its staff to encourage them to learn new features, like with the CheckIn App, to make sure everyone is up to speed on the technology that can then also be forwarded to clients as needed.

RunSignup Highlights

Michelle communicated some of the more advantageous aspects about RunSignup, including:

  • Backend account management review
  • Help files
  • Reporting and analytics
  • RaceDay CheckIn app for race day efficiencies

The Sommer Sports staff appreciates that RunSignup’s account management team is proactively reviewing things with a close attention to detail so that all succeed. The team receives alerts of potential setup issues so they can quickly be addressed. They also make full use of the many Help/Support documentation and videos to understand how to correctly setup the many features and functions available on the platform.

Michelle also shared that RunSignup’s reporting and analytics are very helpful in managing things. Sommer Sports is able to determine differing demographics for the various types of events, like triathlons versus 5Ks, and they are able to determine where their participants are coming from before accessing their event pages. This all provides them with insightful information in terms of effective marketing efforts.

Sommer Sports recently started using the RaceDay CheckIn app and have been using it to check-in participants and for USAT verification, which has also greatly streamlined the process. In the past they would print a roster of one-day license codes and verify that against driver’s licenses which was inefficient and time-consuming. People would get frustrated if they didn’t have their ID or the correct code. By setting it up to have it in the CheckIn App makes for a better race experience. Also, the CheckIn app’s reporting helps Sommer Sports to manage appropriate volunteer staff levels and modify as needed. This has been much appreciated addition by their volunteers. Michelle points out how important it is to keep your volunteers happy to ensure their continued support of your events. The CheckIn App ensures people are processed quickly which provides a positive experience for both participants and volunteers.

Fundraising Side of Things

Michelle shard the insights she has received with the expanded focus RunSignup has had on the fundraising side of things. She shared that it was definitely a desired feature that participants request. Sommer Sports worked with the Special Olympics this year and Special Olympics Florida is their charity partner for their Cool Sommer Mornings Triathlon 5k series (sponsored by AdventHealth). Sommer Sports used RunSignup’s fundraising features so that people could donate during registration and also through a “donate” button on the website. This was helpful for the Special Olympics since they did not have to create a whole separate donation functionality on their website and they were able to direct their customers or their friends and family who may not be doing the event, but wanted to donate to the event (as shown in above photo).

Above is an example of the registration options they offer for their Cool Summer Triathlon series that also help to raise funds to support triathlon experiences for members of the Special Olympics. We thought we’d share this as a great example of creative course types and bundling discounts that can be applied to encourage increased event registration and participation.

About Michelle Craske

Michelle shared her background, with like many in the industry, had began with having nothing to do with the endurance market. Michelle is military ex-army and was in computer repair services. She also has a master’s degree in sociology. What drew her in was the stories behind the participants and the reasons they provided as to why they were completing the race that she was able to read on the backend of RunSignup’s registration system. After connecting these stories with the people she saw crossing the finish line, she was hooked! For example, at last year’s Great Floridian Triathlon (a full Iron distance) the Sommer Sports team read about one of the people still on the course who was very overweight was doing the Great Floridian because he wanted to show his daughter that anything was possible. After a 17-hour race-day the team was exhausted and when he crossed the the finish line he fell and just sobbed and Michelle and the Sommer Sports team held him and cried with him. It is powerful stories of people showing inner strength that compels race organizers like Michelle to keep the Finish Line open so that each person can achieve their goal.

Michelle has now been with the company for more than seven years and has become a valuable partner to Fred. She shared that her military background is something that helps her through those high adrenaline race days and her sociology background probably helps interacting with different types of people. Thanks, Michelle, for your service to the industry and for sharing a bit of your story with us!

Race Management Services

If you’d like to know more about Sommer Sports and the services they offer, feel free to contact them here.

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