Heidi Myers – Rasputitsa Gravel Race

Rasputitsa in Russian means “muddy season.” The Rasputitsa Gravel Race is a gravel road race that takes place in April every year in Vermont and the race name is perfectly fitting as a descriptor for what participants can expect on race day. Everything about this gravel road race supports the brand name this race is based around. A couple weeks ago we sat down with Heidi Myers, one of the founders of the race, on The Active Lifestyle Marketer podcast to hear how her and Co-Founder Anthony have made Rasputitsa one of the most recognized gravel road race names in cycling in just 4 short years. During our conversation Heidi shared her experience  and expertise building an incredibly recognizable brand so quickly and today I want to expand on some of the things we discussed in the episode. As we’ve been interviewing active lifestyle brands on the podcast, there’s a consistent trend we’re seeing with many of the most successful brands. There’s a consistency with other successful active lifestyle brands behind why the Rasputitsa Gravel Race is seeing so much success. First and foremost, Rasputitsa is creating an unforgettable experience for their participants, and secondarily they’ve created a brand that’s driven by purpose.

Purpose Driven Brands Like Rasputitsa Win

Let’s start this conversation by discussing the purpose behind the Rasputitsa Gravel Road race. We think the purpose behind this race is one of the reasons Rasputitsa has seen so much success in it’s short run. When a contestant signs up for this particular race they know that all of the proceeds from their entrance fee will go towards one of two non-profit organizations, Little Bellas, or Jam Fund. Jam Fund and Little Bellas are organizations that are built to help foster the growth and popularity of the sport of cycling. Ultimately, my entrance fee as a participant in Rasputitsa is an investment in cycling. The Rasputitsa brand name has become and will continue to grow as a name synonymous with the growth of cycling.

Heidi and her team at Rasputitsa have created an event that offers participants the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and the story those participants have the opportunity to tell is incredibly powerful. “You’ve got to come do this race! It’s a blast, it’s challenging, and al proceeds go towards these two incredible organizations.” Heidi and her team have created an opportunity for participants to advocate on their events behalf because their event is driven by something bigger than the event itself. It’s a story that people want to share. We wall want to be a part of something bigger and more important than us, and when brands bring people that opportunity it can be incredibly powerful. But, it’s got to be heart felt and sincere. Do something like this as a gimmick and you’ll cause far more damage than if you or your brand had never tried to enter that “purpose driven” space. This isn’t the only way Rasputitsa is communicating their purpose though.

Rasputitsa is completely and honestly “ALL IN” on growing the sport of cycling. They are so invested in this pursuit as a brand that they’ve taken this “purpose driven” approach even further than investing all proceeds to non-profits created for this cause. Rasputitsa is an annual event. So, during the off-season the Rasputitsa brand will support and push other gravel road races. Rasputitsa will actually market and promote on behalf of other races within the same gravel road race space. If that’s not communicating to the cycling community that Rasputitsa is truly invested in growing the sport of cycling, I’m not sure what else they could do to convince that community. These are some of the reasons Rasputitsa has seen such significant success over the last handful of years. The cycling community loves what Rasputitsa is doing for the sport, and they want to be a part of that story. This is not the only thing that’s the cause of their huge success, Rasputitsa is still making sure they are creating an unforgettable experience.

Rasputitsa is still creating an unforgettable brand experience.

In a digital age where consumers have endless access to brands and information literally in the palm of their hands, being driven by purpose or a “why” is essential, but you still have to offer an incredible product, service, or experience. We’re getting closer every day to a reality where having one or the other isn’t enough. Yes, Rasputitsa is driven by real purpose. They are obviously and wholeheartedly sold out on the pursuit of growing the sport of cycling, but they are still creating an incredible experience. An experience that their participants can’t forget.

Active lifestyle consumers, especially consumers in the endurance sport space, tend to be attracted to a challenge. They want to push their bodies to the limit. The desire to see how far the human body can go is a real desire and pursuit. If you’re one of those people, you know that family and friends tend to think you are a little crazy, right? The Rasputitsa Gravel Road race is an experience that keeps that in mind. They understand their audience’s desires. The race is fun, but it’s also challenging. The Rasputitsa team understand that endurance athletes want a challenge, they want to compete, and so they haven’t skimped on delivering an experience that delivers in that area. The Rasputitsa team also understands that the sport of cycling has a strong sense of community built into it’s DNA. So, they’ve made sure that the post race event is a fun, friendly, community-driven atmosphere with great food, music, and apparently an occasional unicorn (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to understand that piece).

Yes, Rasputitsa is driven by a desire to grow the sport of cycling, but they haven’t forgotten that participants want a memorable experience as well. The purpose simply drives home the incredible experience. When you’re brand has both elements, amazing things can happen and consumers/participants/audiences/whatever you want to call them, will advocate on your behalf. Now, it doesn’t stop there. You still have to communicate your purpose and offering. Your audience will never know how purpose driven you are as a brand if you don’t communicate your purpose. “Your story structure is a catalyst that carries your brand beliefs.”

“Your story structure is a catalyst that carries your brand beliefs.”

The creative storytelling element is what we’ve built our entire business on at Tiger Creative. Once you’ve got a well crafted message, a purpose-driven belief at the core of your brand, and you’ve built a product, service, or experience that your audience can’t forget, then you can and must story-tell and communicate those things to the world. Your story structure is a catalyst that carries your brand beliefs. Communicate your purpose, tell the world why you do what you do, be true to yourself and your brand, and  you’ll begin attracting an audience with the same beliefs who will advocate on your behalf.