Episode number 138

Peter Abraham | The Power of Niche Sports — Freetrail Friday 8/5

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Dylan Bowman (00:15): Okay. We are live. Hello everybody. And welcome to free trail Friday. Hope everybody is having a great end to their week here. I'm very happy to have an awesome guest to join us here today. Somebody who I've wanted to record a podcast with for a long time. Mr. Peter Abraham is here broadcasting from Los Angeles, Peter. Hello, how's Friday going for you.

Peter Abraham (00:36): Hey Dylan. Thanks for having me. I'm having a great Friday, actually. So I'm super happy to be here. I've been a fan of yours for a long time, and I'm excited to have a conversation with you.

Dylan Bowman (00:46): Well, the feeling is mutual. I've been a long time follower and admirer of yours. And I think, uh, going back to memory, I think it was, uh, Mario FRA linked to your article about the 2016 Olympic trials marathon in your hometown of Los Angeles. And I think we'll get around to talking about that, but ever since he linked to that article, I've been in a rabid reader and, and follower of yours. And we met in person a couple of months ago where we talked about, oh, we gotta do a podcast together. You recently wrote an awesome article that I wanna sort of use to frame our conversation today. And for our viewing audience, I'd link to that article in the chat here on YouTube. So if you haven't gotten around to reading, it just takes you a few minutes to read, but it's jam packed with, uh, I think useful information on the current sports media landscape, something that Peter and I both share a passion for.

So we'll get around to talking to Peter in just a second. Of course, we have to give a big thank you to our sponsor, that being aura and the aura ring. You guys know how much I love this great piece of wearable technology. They're now integrated with Strava. You can monitor your sleep, your readiness, your heart rate, your heart rate, variability, and, uh, you know, even sort of like use it to track your, your fitness and, um, all the various, you know, pieces of data that come out of being, uh, a science experiment, uh, as a human being and as an athlete. So big thank you to aura for being here and also want to plug here on the front end, our new podcast, part of the free trail network, that being trail running radio hosted by our good friend. The producer of my show, Mr.

Ryan thrower, the creative director here for our company has another creative endeavor where he is partnering up with Hannah Allgood to, uh, provide a music oriented audio experience for trail runners to go check it out. It's Spotify exclusive. So you can only listen to it on the Spotify platform because of the music rights issues. But we are happy to have a third show now in our little portfolio as our small media company, and maybe I'll lean on Peter to give us some advice here during the course of our conversation. But, uh, yeah, just wanted to say thanks to aura. You can get a six months, uh, free subscription with a purchase of the new ring link is here in the description. And then also once you're done with today's broadcast, go and listen to trail running radio over on Spotify. Okay, Peter, welcome to the show. Now that we have the administrative stuff out of the way, I want to tee you up to just provide a broad introduction to who you are, what you do and sort of what put us together.

Peter Abraham (03:25): Well, uh, Dylan, I guess I would have to say I'm a storyteller at heart. That's really at the foundation of who I am. I currently, um, and have been for many years based in Los Angeles. Um, I have a marketing consultancy here. I work with all kinds of brands between tech, um, sports, healthcare. Um, and, but I started, you know, like in college I discovered filmmaking. I came to UCLA cuz I had to be near Hollywood. And I, I worked in film production as a producer, mostly on television commercials, but also in some documentary films for, um, you know, many years, probably almost 20 years. And I, um, produced a really good film about Wilco. Um, the kind of the Wilco film, if you like the band Wilco and thousands of television commercials, but I was always an outdoor athlete. Like since I was born, I grew up skiing my whole life.

That was like religion in our family when we were in high school, my dad and my brother and I moved to Charmane to ski because we were so serious about it. And that experience changed my life. Being able to drop into another culture, go to school, learn the language and kind of build a community of friends around a deep love of mountains. And um, so then, you know, high school, I got into bike racing and um, raced in college and still skied competitively. And then, you know, lots of running and triathlons, everything. It was a cons, an ongoing theme in my life. And in 2003, 2004, I had to close my production company. There was sort of little mini advertising recession. I owed a lot of money. It was a very difficult period in my life, took a couple directors to a friend of mine's company.

So I didn't really have to run a business. I could just manage a couple directors mm-hmm I realized I could do that in sort of four hours a day. What was I gonna do with the rest of my day? And this is like the beginning of social media blogs were happening like technology. This is like right after the initial.com meltdown. And then it started to build back again. This is like the beginning of Facebook MySpace. Yeah. And I became fascinated by tech. I had always been interested in technology and I sort of gave myself, um, you know, a graduate degree on my own by going to conferences and reading blogs about how techno, how marketing could actually be a service. And that was coming from somebody who had just been producing content like one project after another. And I mean, I'd been producing, I, I, you know, Coca-Cola, I actually once did a cigarette commercial for Japanese cigarette brand.

um, you know, McDonald's, I mean, a lot of things that like were absolutely not in line with my values. And so I decided to start a running event that would benefit a local environmental group here in LA, where I was on the board and immediately got a Nike and red bull as sponsors. And so I just started going into Nike and red bulls offices here in LA every week. And like learning from them about the craft of marketing. How do you write a brief, what are you doing? How do you, you know, uh, and sort of, and then a friend of mine, um, bought the LA marathon and he said, Hey, why don't you come be the chief marketing officer at the LA marathon and we'll rebuild it together and I'll buy your event. So he did. And he and I, Russ pillar we're so aligned on kind of how, um, you know, we wanted to build that business.

And we were not the only ones that was a head of operations and a really great, um, head of sales, Dave Cohen. And we, um, really built that the LA marathon rebuilt it around a mission of inspiring athletes and connecting communities. And we would lead with that every time we met with a brand partner or a sponsor and, and, or a city government, a mayor, and we built it, you know, bigger than it had ever been. And with more sponsor dollars than it ever had ever been new route and everything. And then the, uh, the main investor, the owner of the Dodgers went into bankruptcy, divorced. The whole thing kind of fell apart. Um, and you know, for the last, you know, eight to 10 years, I've been, I've had some CMO marketing roles. Um, and, but working with so many different brands and increasingly over the last five years, I've been doing a lot of work in the cycling space because I have been riding and racing bikes for decades myself.

So, and that, and that's where we are now. And you, you mentioned some of my writing, you know, I, I started because Russ pillar at the LA marathon encouraged me to start a blog and start kind of finding my own voice. And so I have since then been blogging regularly for probably 12 or 13 years now. Yeah. And I just like to share my ideas. I have a unique perspective in endurance sports and running because I have so many outside experiences I'm able to bring those, um, you know, to what I see. And it just gives me a different perspective and I, you know, what really kind of crystallized, um, my thinking on that was two years ago, I read David Stein's fantastic book range. Yeah. Which I highly recommend. And you talk it's called how generalists will rule the world. And that that's really, a good title for me as a generalist, cuz I've done a lot of different things within marketing yeah. And different kind of sports, but it, in some ways it becomes an advantage. So

Dylan Bowman (08:35): No doubt. Well, yeah, thanks for the intro. And you definitely have a wealth of knowledge and experience across advertising, marketing events and brands work. And so I want to sort of dive into each one of those if we, if we can, but you know, it seems like now you sort of do a lot of consulting for brands on content marketing. And I think this is maybe a fun thing for you and I to riff on a little bit because, and it's sort of in line with the article and what I want to talk about, what I, you know, want to sort of have as our macro theme and just like the importance of sports media in terms of telling stories. And so going back to the question of content marketing now, as you are consulting and advising brands, are you sort of bringing that argument to them of like, no, you need to own your story. You need to be producing your own content. You need to cut out the middleman, go direct and develop a relationship and engage your customer more directly through media and content.

Peter Abraham (09:35): Yeah. But that's not the whole story. I mean, I think that is a subset within, you know, my kind of overriding philosophy when it comes to working with, I mean really any business, how it operates is to bring value to current and potential customers. First of all, don't yell at them with pointless ads. Um, you've gotta bring value to your community and it's, it's incumbent on the business or the brand first to bring value to their customers. And then their Val, their customers will reciprocate not the other way around mm-hmm so that's number one. And I would say what is also important right now in 2022 and honestly has been, you know, probably for the last 10 years is a brand is, um, defined not by a logo or one piece of content or even a product, a brand is defined by the hundreds and hundreds of touchpoints that it has.

And it could be, you know, social media, retail, the product, you know, how it answers the phone at headquarters, how it treats employees, all those things like a brand is really what, what makes up a brand is like a a hundred or more touchpoint. So then within that, I believe brands absolutely should be executing at least pretty well across a number of platforms in a particularly digital platforms in terms of, I mean, so many brands I, I work with, they just, just like, let's just get like a basic website for you that is functional and basic email communication that is not trying to sell discount now 40% off, don't be something really stock with that. And so I just try and get 'em into that. And lastly, what I think is incredibly important that, um, still surprises me cuz I don't see it enough is that every brand needs a point of view. And so when I work with startups, which is all the time or big brands, I'm like, you guys gotta articulate your mission statement, like who are you? Mm-hmm and I think so many brands are trying to be all thanks to all people rather than like just let's just serve one community or a few communities and be amazing for them. Let's just start with that.

Dylan Bowman (11:43): This is perfect. It's the ation, isn't it? Yes.

Peter Abraham (11:47): Yeah. And, and I think brands are terrified to do that and it, and if you think of the brands you love, like a lot of 'em are like, they're not trying to be all things to all people and they are really, you know, serving you between the product and their marketing and how they speak with you. And so yeah, that's kind of how I look

Dylan Bowman (12:06): At it. Yeah. Cool. Well again, yeah. I want to sort of make the core of our conversation about the article that you wrote recently called the nitrification of sports and everything in parenthesis. And uh, I thought it was a, an awesome articulation of things that I had been thinking and feeling myself for a long time. And you started the article by describing the sports media ecosystem of your childhood. So I figured maybe I'll let you sort of provide a description for those who haven't read the article yet of what that ecosystem looked like, just as a way of drawing a contrast to what we all enjoy today in terms of sports media and, um, you know, broadcast opportunities and things like that.

Peter Abraham (12:47): Yeah. So I'm in my late fifties. So I really like came of age as a kid in the seventies. Okay. And so in the seventies you had really, you had three channels like that was at ABC NBC CVS. That was it. And there was a thing called the fairness doctrine there and that affected how they broadcast news and things. So it was not sort of skewed. I ideologically like you see now and what you got to watch in terms of remember, this is pre-internet pre YouTube, but like you had magazines. Okay. You had the daily sports section. And like when I grew up there was the, you know, there were sort of like two types of men. It was very much a men's thing. The sports section, those who read the box scores on the baseball teams and those who didn't. And I was absolutely passionately into reading the box scores every day.

And I look at the standings and it was easy to follow sports because how many sports were there? There was like NFL major league baseball and the NBA, maybe hockey, but growing up in California, hockey was not really a thing. So like there weren't that many sports to follow. There's like one sports section, a few magazines, like that was the extent of your sports fandom. And then on the weekends you could watch sports on TV, you know, maybe, uh, like a Laker game or a Dodger game or something was on during the week at night in those days. But I'm not sure on the weekends was like, you could watch NFL games or, you know, major league baseball game of the week with Joe Ola and Tony Kube, you know, I'll never forget it. And there was like wide world of sports, which had everything, it had ski racing and rugby. Yeah. And I, you know, all kinds of weird sports that like, um, you know, and then there, there was like once a year you could watch, if you like car racing, you could watch the Indy 500 or, uh, you know, the Kentucky Derby. But those were like unicorn annual events that you like, you, you couldn't really be a fan all year in those days. So yeah, it was just so limited and it was served to you like you had, you didn't have a choice on what you wanted to watch. Yeah.

Dylan Bowman (14:51): And if you were into things like ski racing or bowling or something like that, it was such a precious opportunity whenever you had the chance to actually see your sport being played. And actually this has been the case up until very recently. I mean I'm 20 years younger than you, but this was the case in my childhood too. I grew up playing lacrosse and Memorial day weekend ended up becoming a sacred time because it was when the NCAA division one lacrosse tournament was broadcasted on ESPN. And that was the only time of year that I was ever able to watch like the best players in the world play lacrosse. And so of course I would record the games on my old VHS at my mom's house, you know, and then have those recordings to watch throughout the year. But other than that, I didn't know how to connect to any of the athletes.

I didn't really, aside from, you know, in the early days of the internet, being able to kind of check the scores of the games, you weren't really able to find that niche to find that culture and to really feel like totally embedded with a particular sport, if it wasn't one of those core three or four that you mentioned NFL NBA NHL. I also remember too, that the way I got introduced to endurance sport was the Ironman broadcast that they did every year on NBC. And that was like a once a year thing, right. Where they would do some reruns, but that I think was kind of responsible for the phenomenon of Ironman, turning into a, a worldwide sporting ecosystem anyway. Um, really interesting and just like how the internet is gone from centralizing our attention to three or four different sports to really being able to, uh, go really deep on any number of thousands of different sports and sporting cultures.

So, um, anyway, so I was kind of introduced to your writing back in 2016. Like I mentioned, I'm pretty sure it was Mario Fraley who linked to it the first time. It was an article about the Olympic trials in LA. And in that article, you, one of the points that you make is an argument for transitioning from a broadcast to a live stream. So here's a point at which we can draw the contrast between the sporting, uh, media ecosystem of our childhoods to what's available now. So maybe just talk about, you know, what streaming in your view brings to the fans of various sports and why you think more sports like running and like trail running should be emphasizing it.

Peter Abraham (17:32): Yeah. I mean, there, there are a few, um, interesting data points about streaming. So one is for the younger consumer, like if you look at kind of people who watch media under 40, okay, cable subscriptions are just going down like this mm-hmm like, and so first of all, if you want a younger demographic trying to get to 'em through a cable subscription is probably not the right way to go just right off the bat. Okay. Number two, you look at sports like that, like the more smaller, uh, you know, the sports not named the NFL or major or, or, or NBA you have, what, what I would call a wide and thin, um, fan base, which is like a mile wide and an inch deep, they're all over the world. They're not millions of 'em in any one place, but when you add it up, it is quite a big number, but it's, they're, they're distributed all over and why not make it easier for this wide pool of fans to watch your sup sport on demand when they want, how they want, as opposed to requiring that they have some kind of, um, you know, a cable subscription or, you know, um, even access to NBC, whatever it is.

And so that's, that's, um, I, I think the most important thing, and I could see that happening in, I'll tell you when it, when I really started to see it was, I think it was the 2012 Olympic marathon trials in Atlanta when they did, was it tape delayed? It might have been tape delayed, like three hours. Mm. So any of us on Twitter or online of course knew the, knew the result before it was over. And I remember in a, in Atlanta that year in 2012, they forbid any, they tried to forbid journalists from tweeting out any kind of results, the results in the middle of even I'm like you, that was USA track and field trying to make that I'm like, you guys have to be kidding me. This is like, they, like, they're literally trying to rewind the clock 30 years and I just felt it was insane. So, um,

Dylan Bowman (19:43): So why hasn't this happened sooner? Like, is it the economics of a network broadcast? Like why doesn't the NFL go direct and stream on YouTube and then capture all the ad revenue itself? Is it just a matter of manpower and investment that they'd have to put into standing up the operation to do the broadcast itself? It's easier to off or to outsource that to Fox or NBC or ESPN?

Peter Abraham (20:08): You know, these things are what I would call classic examples of Clayton Christensen's innovators, dilemma, where a large entrenched, incumbent refuses to disrupt their own business to, to like shift over to a new one, you know, and, and, you know, live sports on TV. The big ones are still so hooked on the crack of, um, you know, network, TV, money, and add money. And the money that comes from cable subscriptions, there are still maybe not a hundred million, but 80 million cable subscriptions. You know, that where people pay, let's say they get a hundred stations, cables, you know, every on their cable they're watching like five. Yeah. Okay. But they're paying for a hundred. So it's an incredibly inefficient system that is gradually eroding and crumbling, but still there's so much money transacting through there. Furthermore, for the networks like live sports is like their last gas, but trying to hang onto that customer. And so for something like the NFL, they can command an incredibly, uh, lucrative deal, you know, from ESPN or whatever the network, um, in the way that like the Olympics have been able to cuz the sort of like, I guess must see TV, but it's changing. And I also find it's um, you know, it's, it's still out of alignment with where so many of the customers are and you're, it is starting to change now, like you saw apple just did a deal with major league soccer.

Dylan Bowman (21:41): Yep.

Peter Abraham (21:42): Um, I think Thursday night football is gonna be on Amazon, Amazon, right? Yeah. So like the, that the, there are chins in the armor and it's definitely starting to change.

Dylan Bowman (21:52): Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. So like your argument is that streaming on the internet is more or less made people instead of being general fans of like several sports to being like rabid fans of one or two different sports. And you use the example of how you follow the tour of France and the article. So maybe use that as a illustration of, you know, new fan behavior and why the nitrification of sports is so powerful that way.

Peter Abraham (22:23): Yeah. I mean like, okay. So I was talking about the tour France year and how, you know, if I rewind, like I remember in the eighties, there would be one weekend broadcast of the tour de France, like a summary of all the stages with John Tess's like way overly dramatic music. And it was sort of like a very, um, vague summary of the week. Like you got like an hour to a week on the weekend on CBS or NBC, that was it. Like you couldn't even, even a magazine that would cover it, that wouldn't come out till a month later. And then the, it, you know, it was too, um, esoteric still for like, you know, maybe the sports pages in the United States, like the LA times or whatever wouldn't cover the tour of France. So you really, like, you were absolutely in the dark short of like calling somebody in France, you, you had no way of knowing what was going on in that race.

I mean, no way. Okay. So now here comes the internet. You know, I mentioned in the article, I mentioned, um, you know, Chris Anderson's visionary book called, um, the long tail where he talks about how, and this is in 2006 and I remember reading it going, man, he's making a lot of good points about how the internet is gonna change everything into a thousand different niches from a few blockbusters. Yep. And you can see that playing out in sports. So what happens is now due to the proliferate per excuse me, proliferation of media channels, we can cover, we can learn about any sport, be it, um, you know, trail running or ultimate Frisbee or cycling or whatever. Like you can go so deep, right? So there is traditional media coverage in a lot of cases of some of these things, even if there's not, there's a live stream, there's YouTube, all kinds of angles on YouTube there, everybody's got a social media platform from journalists to brands, to athletes in the event. So you learn about it there. And then, and then there's podcasts, there's blogs. There's like, so, you know, Instagram, I mean, TikTok, there's so many ways that you just don't have the time now. Like, like, you know, in, you

Dylan Bowman (24:34): Almost can't be a fan of more than a couple of sports anymore. You don't have

Peter Abraham (24:37): Time. There's just no way, you know, in the old days, like you'd skim through the newspaper in the morning before going to work like 20 minutes. Like yeah, you couldn't spend any more time than that. And now, you know, so is it, it's not only that you can, um, go so deep, which is great for fans. Um, but it is also, I think in some ways limiting, cuz you literally just don't have the time to follow. Yeah. And you, if you talk to people now, like they'll go, they'll go, they'll kind of tell you. They'll like, oh yeah, I'm super into F1. And I'm really into English, premier league soccer or not even, even I'm really, really into Manchester city. That's my team.

Dylan Bowman (25:17): Yeah. Yep. Yeah. So in the article, I'm just gonna read a quick paragraph here cuz I think it's awesome. And I identify with your behavior patterns here, but you say the, the result is that fans can go way down the rabbit hole in a sport. They follow I'm into cycling. So I watched the tour of France on peacock, but not the NBC feed. I tuned into the global feed with a different announcers and no advertising as a true fan. I'd have my pro cycling stats live dashboard open for up to the minute data and then follow Twitter for live fan commentary each evening. I'd listen to the cycling podcast in depth for indepth analysis and the, and by uh, sorry for in-depth analysis, by the most experienced English language cycling journalists, I was able to take a huge take in a huge amount of information every day about the event and like totally identify with that too, during the tour of France and the other sort of sports that I follow most notably in trail running.

Right. And I have been lucky to do commentary and sort of host broadcasts for a number of races. And, but I'm sort of doing the same thing that I would as a fan. You know, even though I'm doing the commentary, I'm like watching the feed myself, I've got Twitter open, I'm seeing what other people are posting, checking out the hashtags. I have the historical splits open on my computer and I'm doing the analysis and comparison between the current performances and how they map against, uh, past generations and things like that. And you just use the phrase, um, you know, a mile wide and an inch deep and I'm actually working on writing something about this now that I think is fun to maybe have you riff on as well where I use the analogy of an inch wide and a hundred miles deep in reference to our business and free trail.

Yes. In that like we have very much identified and embraced our niche, that being trail running, like we don't cover road racing. We didn't cover the track and field world championship. You know, we do trail running. So in some ways it feels limiting, right? Because like we're not reaching out to other audiences who would otherwise maybe find our content, um, you know, insightful or compelling in some way. We've like really backed ourselves. Not necessarily backed ourselves into a corner, but embraced our niche. So maybe if you could provide, uh, your perspective on that, um, sort of phenomenon of, are we limiting ourselves in terms of being a niche media brand or is there power in that

Peter Abraham (27:48): There's there's power in that for sure. I mean, if you try and you know, like one thing I see with certain startups that I work with or media platforms is they're trying to serve, solve too many problems at once. Like, can we be relevant for this community and that community and that community? No, you can't actually particularly at the beginning. Okay. Like once ESPN got really big, they could have the soccer division and the golf and the, you know, but like starting out, you gotta be great for one community to start, but you could think about growing beyond that, don't worry about that yet. So I think it's an opportunity to be amazing for one group like you're doing. And I, I, I love that and that's why I'm a fan. You know, I, I like, I, I remember being into running, like I was running a lot in the nineties, ultra running was like, it was, I, I know it technically existed back then. You didn't ever hear about it ever. Mm-hmm then you get into the early two thousands. Maybe that was like the Scott Eck era. Mm-hmm in the beginning of, um, Dean Cornas you started to hear about a little bit, Dean comes out with his book. Um, was it Ultraman? Was that the name of his

Dylan Bowman (29:00): Book? Ultra-marathon man. Yep.

Peter Abraham (29:02): Ultra-marathon man, which was like, kind of like, I would say like a tipping point in the, kind of in the lore of ultra running, whereas that like, that brought ultra running to a mainstream market. And I,

Dylan Bowman (29:14): That was my era. That's what brought me into the sport more or less. Yeah.

Peter Abraham (29:17): I don't, I don't think Dean gets enough credit as the guy who made ultra running a household word. Yep. He is the, really the person who did it. And then, and then like, and then like Western states used and, and um, you know, uh, you know, um, death valley, you know, all these, all these races, like then you start to hear more about 'em media's changing, changing. There are blogs, um, late two thousands, you know, Scott, DKS books come out, um, now you got Twitter, then you get to like, I run far, which really like they were the first people to cover ultra run ultra events live. Right. Oh, that was, and, and even like four or five years ago before Western states had any kind of a live thing, I was like, somebody's gotta fix the live thing because otherwise you're just, depending on I run far and a few people who were like at the forest hill aid station, like tweeting, you had, otherwise you had no idea what was going on at Western states were any ultra event.

Obviously it's really changing now, but I, I, and I still think there's so much farther. We can go. And, and like I mentioned, pro cycling stats, like I think that is the, um, cycling website with the most views of any cycling website in the world. And it's all data and results. And like, I've been publicly complaining for several years that the running world, like why is there no results database for running and or ultra running? I just find it to be ridiculous that nobody has picked up on that. It's an obvious business opportunity. And I like, you know how hard it is to find results sometimes. Yeah. Like I just, I can't believe how hard events

Dylan Bowman (30:58): Make. Yeah. There's a, there's a couple resources, but you do have to kind of be in the know, you know, you have to be in the niche in the culture to, to know where, to where to go. But I think this is maybe also a fun thing to hear your perspective on because race day broadcasting has now arrived in trail running. Yeah. And it feels to me like this is a major sea change and a massive opportunity for us, especially in the greater context, greater ecosystem of endurance sports. And it feels to me that as we advance in this direction and as more and more people are exposed to things like the ultra trail to Mont Blanc, which is coming up here very soon, which has a fantastic live stream operation for basically an entire week. Yeah. When you see the landscapes, you see the views, you'd start to learn a little bit more about the challenge and the athletes and things like that.

That it's massively compelling, especially when you compare it against things like, you know, the Boston marathon or Ironman, Kona, or things like that, where you don't have the same, like visual majesty of it. And there's something about just that outdoor feeling and that simplicity of doing it on your, under your own power, just on foot where obviously like an iron man, you gotta have a bike, you gotta go to Hawaii. You gotta learn how to swim. Like all those things. I don't know. I think all of that creates a recipe for trail running specifically to continue to go up into the right. Do you agree with me on that? Or you wanna make an argument against it?

Peter Abraham (32:23): No, no, I totally do. I mean, first of all, as you mentioned, there's a simplicity to running that is just so beautiful. Um, I was like, whenever I travel, I run and I all over the world, man, you just bring your running shoes in a pair of shorts and you could do it anywhere. And there's a beauty to that that I love. And with trail running, you're talking about it mostly happens in these amazing, beautiful areas. And I think that's an opportunity for the ultra and trail broadcast. Like if you think about the tour France, I mean literally half the interest of the tour, France broadcast is seeing these unbelievable helicopter shots of like over the castle as they approach the Alps, like it's magic. And that, that the whole tour of France kind of broadcast empire, a lot of it is just a travel log about France. And I think there's tremendous opportunity for ultras to start to integrate more of that kind of, particularly in the drone world now, like to start to bring in that beautiful adventure photography and take people along on that journey, you know?

Dylan Bowman (33:25): Yeah. And the mountain stages in the tour France are probably the most viewed stages throughout the course of that three weeks. And there's a reason for that. It's like, you know, these, these mountain races, there's something about it that speaks to the human spirit. And of course, trail running has that in spades, which is our competitive advantage. Yes. I wanna hear you talk about the current, maybe bigger picture situation in media right now. Uh, there's like this bifurcation between institutions and individuals, right? Where like it's going from the New York times to sub stack writers. It's going from NBC news to, you know, random political commentators on YouTube. And one of the sort of insecurities that I have right now is like, we're trying to start a media brand at the exact moment when media institutions are sort of turning into, you know, the dust bin of history in favor for individual creators, any comments there, or do you want to ease my ease, my mind that we're not heading in the wrong direction. There,

Peter Abraham (34:33): There are a few things going on. And I, I think it's a good topic to explore. So number one, quality does matter. Like people will be attracted to high quality content, whether that's writing video. I mean, you look at like the YouTube creators, like Casey iStat or Marqui Brownley who have built these storytelling empires based on whatever their little thing is. And they have like 10 million, um, you know, followers, subscribers. That's like, that's like bigger than a lot of networks, you know, that you get on cable. So there is that if your content is really engaging and really good, you can do it on a niche basis, you know, or, or just as a solo, you know, a solo storyteller on the other hand, distribution still does matter, like things like cable television or the New York times do give you scale. I mean, and so there is kind of like, um, also, so there are different stories going on in terms of the scale and distribution.

Um, you know, there's a little bit of a, a winner take all thing going on. You're like you look at newspapers right now or, and the digital versions of it's like the New York times has really gotten huge with a subscription model. They've like kind of transitioned Washington post is big wall street. Journal's pretty big. And then like after that, there's almost, they're almost no newspapers left, you know, like LA the Los Angeles times one of the biggest traditional newspapers in America has just been struggling for years to transition to digital and like GE as a, in the new era of digital subscriptions. What do I really need to subscribe to the LA times if I can subscribe to the New York times where the writing is better? So I think two things are going on scale does matter, but you can also build in your own storytelling niche if you want.

Dylan Bowman (36:23): Yeah, yeah. Again, it's something that's on my mind all the time of like, well, is it better to, you know, build a, a media brand with various different creators right now? Or is it better for all the different people that we have sort of within the free trail network to be on their own? You know? And I wanna be able to Del to deliver a value to the community, but also like give people a reason to be within free trail. And so I guess it does come down to just making sure that we improve distribution and always provide good quality. So,

Peter Abraham (36:56): Yeah. And, and I would say also, it just, it takes time to build an audience, you know, like you and I were talking about, um, last week, I think after the world championships. And I mentioned this in my article, how, you know, Chris Chavez and Calber and insidious magazine have really, like, I find I, and I've been a supporter of theirs since Chris, I met him when he was in college and he was like a excited young track journalist. And I, I, I feel like they've spent the last five years, you know, trying to build their own platform. And I feel like at the world championships that finally arrived like five years of building a community, putting content out, covering events, you know, and really like with passion and knowledge and expertise. And, and I thought like over the world championships, it sort of became clear like, right, they're the number one kind of source of, you know, commentary information for track and field that like not flow track anymore, which had been for years, um, not, I don't know, track and field news or those old

Dylan Bowman (38:04): Traditional, so, so maybe, maybe say what you think they did great for those who didn't catch a lot of the track and field world championship. And I think Chris is a good example of this too, because he had a job at sports illustrated, I think yes, as a, as a writer, as he was building city independently on the side. And it seems like now he's made sadus his full time career and they have finally achieved that escape velocity to allow him to focus on it as such.

Peter Abraham (38:31): I, I mean, I, I think there are a few things that they, I mean, they've built up an audience along the way, and I think Chris was smart. Like he kind of learned his traditional journalist writing craft a little bit while he was at sports illustrated, got to kind of like learn from Tim Laden, some other kind of luminaries there. And then, you know, I, I think like bringing on Kyle was really good, calmer, who is himself an elite athlete and, but is really good on camera. And I think what, like they really did right at the world championships is they had a daily, YouTube wrap up show, like a YouTube live thing, kinda like we're having. And they would interview. I mean, the people they got, um, you know, for interviews were like, um, I just like, you know, Sebastian co from world athletics, Shelly Ann Fraser price, the world's greatest sprinter.

Uh, they got amazing people and they had different people coming in and interviewing them based on their area of expertise. And it was just really good. And it was sort of like they found the right mix of like, it was fun. Like I thought it had kind of a youthful appeal, but it was, it was, you know, they were still knowledgeable. And, and, and, and they've really gone out to all these like smaller track meets around America, which are really like, they're interesting in their deep fields. And they bring them to you. And like, like, I mean, here, here's an example. There's a, there's a series of meets called sound running, which kind of came up over the pandemic. And they'd been having some of them an hour south of here in orange county. I went to one in March where they, I would say conservatively, it was the best 10,000 meter field ever assembled.

That was not in the Olympic games of Los Angeles or right. I mean, it was, it was the best field certainly ever, ever assembled in the United States. It was like, almost like the world championships. I would say optimistically, there were 200, 250 fans there at a high school. It like the high school, the little tiny high school football stands were like 30% full. And I just found it to be like, and I'm not, I'm not blaming Jesse. The promoter he's doing the best he can, but like, man, the world needs some like expertise in media event production to like, you know, Jesse has put together this amazing meet, but there's nobody there to see it. Mm-hmm now he does have a live stream, but like, man, we need, like, there are like 28 things that should be happening with that meet in terms of content, production and advanced notice and community management going out to every and like that it, it was in orange county, which was a hotbed of high school distance running. I mean, they're really, really top, top high school distance running teams within 20 minutes of there. None of the kids are nobody

Dylan Bowman (41:20): Is there. Yeah.

Peter Abraham (41:21): And so there's, we got a long way to go.

Dylan Bowman (41:24): Yeah. Yeah. So at the beginning of our conversation, you said that at your core, you're a storyteller and I know you've done some work with the Hoka, a Z elite group. I know you also maybe informally advise some athletes as to how they can tell their story better. Maybe for the athletes who are listening here or people on the brand side, how can they do a better job, you know, engaging their audience.

Peter Abraham (41:52): Um, okay, great question. So, yeah. So as you mentioned, I'm on the board of directors of Hoka and easy elite. So I have worked since the beginning with Ben on, I guess I would call my role like the volunteer chief marketing officer with that team. And, uh, by the way, we just signed for,

Dylan Bowman (42:08): Can you be the volunteer chief marketing officer for us to,

Peter Abraham (42:12): I'm happy to help any time, you know, how to reach, call

Dylan Bowman (42:16): Anytime I'm pinning you down here on the podcast.

Peter Abraham (42:18): And, and so I have collaborated very closely with Ben trying to tell our story and here, just, just for context, like here's an example. Okay. We, we started working six months before the 20, 20 Olympic trials in Atlanta. Like, okay, how are we gonna tell the story? What are we gonna do? Okay. We know it's on NBC. Okay. Let's make some videos about the six athletes we have going before we get there. We can start putting those out. Let's rebuild graphics for every athlete that we can put up, like on Twitter and Instagram during the event. But we'll have, 'em already built, well, we want to engage fans there. I'll tell you what let's. And this is like Ben and his wife, Jen, and me just like riffing. And some of the people from Hoka, like, Hey, what if we did, like, what would be the equivalent of a high school football pep rally the night before?

And we invite all kinds of fans, we take over a restaurant and then like during the race, let's get a restaurant on the course. We can have all the Hoka sales reps in there. You know, what else would be good the day before? Can we do a shakeout run with a bunch of fans, like 400 people showed up for that 500 people for the pep rally? Like, so we just like started figuring out like, what can we do and how can we maximize our impact? And I would say with any athlete or team that I work with, and I work with, have worked with so many dozens and dozens of runners, um, you know, many, many cyclists and what I, I ask them to think about themselves as a tech startup or a startup, like, okay, what do you stand for? What is your mission?

And I ask every athlete to really kind of think about what it is they want to communicate about. Like, why should I be a fan? You know, like when I work with a new, uh, new brand, I'll go, why should I buy your product? And you would be shocked at how many leadership teams of huge brands, like billion dollar brands. Can't really answer that question. Huh. And so you gotta be differentiated as an athlete, just like a business does. So like, why should I be a fan of yours? And you wanna be able to say like, and if you look at, like, I think some athletes have really built interesting brand personas around themselves. Like you look at Kelly and JNE with his like multidimensional S Schmo, you know, trail running, ultra sky, running mountain climbing, you know, like unbelievable. There's nobody else that does what Killian does. Like he does it and he's good at all those. Or like Jim's Jim Walmsley, just the way he, uh, races. So aggressively all the time, he can take that to different places. Like Jim was in the Olympic trials marathon in Atlanta. And he was one of the most interesting stories. Yep. From that Olympic trials leading into, it was like, how's Jim

Dylan Bowman (44:57): Gonna do? Yeah. He had the New York times profile on him before the race .

Peter Abraham (45:02): And so, first of all, with any athlete or team that I work with, it's like, what do you stand for? Who are you, what is your mission, your, your purpose. Like, we did a lot of work with N a Z elite. Like let's create a mission statement for ourselves. And it was, um, train fearlessly, race, hard, share every part of the journey. And so it's that share the part of the journey that, you know, uh, lights look at, like Bowerman doesn't have that. Um,

Dylan Bowman (45:25): What about the tin man, guys? They freaking crush it. Don't they? Yeah. Like I feel like this is the model

Peter Abraham (45:31): They're doing pretty well. I will say they don't even have a website live right now. And there was an article in the New York times about them and on running. And I'm not, I'm not disparaging them. I'm fans of a lot of, a lot of their athletes, but like talked about how on running is creating all this on content on running, which by the way, they have amazing athletes like Joe clicker, but they don't even have their own Instagram feed. They're just part of the on footwear, Instagram feed. Right. They don't even have their own website. That's, they're just like a page one page on the on website. So, I mean on has, you know, their strategy getting into running is a different conversation, but I would say that like, one thing that we have really doubled down on is really experimenting and trying all different kinds of media from writing books to, um, uh, you know, all kinds of different video content to magazine features, you know, partnerships with like, like the wind magazine, which is a really cool, awesome, yeah.

Running magazine. And so we're really experimenting and trying different things and they don't always work. Um, but we try things, you know, and try and live up to like always go like, wait, does this live up to our mission of train hard race fearlessly and share every part of the journey. Yes. And that allows us to hire athletes who are excited about that mission. Yeah. Rather than have an athlete that are all over, like, you look at an athlete, like Gaylen rap as good a runner as he is. He would never fit under our team structure because he's in hibernation.

Dylan Bowman (47:00): He doesn't share the journey. Yeah.

Peter Abraham (47:02): You know, runs a 2 0 6 marathon and then goes back into hibernation, which by the way, that's okay. Yeah. It's just not how our team works.

Dylan Bowman (47:09): Yeah. Well, that's a great answer. So maybe going back to the events subject here, you mentioned, you know, a couple of times that you were part of the LA marathon for a while. Yeah. And it seems like events are still something that you care about a lot as you sort of describe that sound running meet as well. How do you think niche sports can better activate a community around events and maybe specifically trail running? Because of course that's gonna be the audience that you're speaking to.

Peter Abraham (47:37): Okay. So what we tried to do at the LA marathon is like, go from a three day engagement for people in their year to like, how can we like do a 365 day a year engagement with people so that involved, like, okay, let's have a training program. Okay. Let's bring the brands along with us in the training program, let's start creating interesting video content. Let's get into all the businesses that are along the route. What can we do for them? How can we bring them into it, the churches, the charities, like we started layering on like different people. And, and how could we, again, I would go out to whether it was running shops or churches or charities or running clubs. I mean, I built relationships with like every running club in LA, large and small. And I'd be like, my point of view is like, how can I serve you?

And so I think like ultra events just need to think about like, given their community, how can they serve their runners? How can they serve them better and deeper? Okay. Things like media in a live webcast, which I understand is expensive. And sometimes, you know, beyond the means of like a small ultra event that has like 97 participants, I get it, but you can still do it with, um, you know, just like, literally I will tell you, I went and worked as the head of marketing at a gravel race last year in, in Idaho, which there was no cell coverage anywhere on the course. But we, where, like, I was like, my challenge was like, how can I create a live broadcast out of this? Mm-hmm is just like an ultra. Okay. So on the lead motos, the men's and women's, I put like a Garmin in reach communication device and we could embed the garment map.

So you could at least see dots on a map where the leaders were. Yep. Then, um, at certain aid stations that had cell coverage, we would kind of up, you could, somebody could upload a video or a report from there at the finish line, I put an iPad, logged into YouTube live, and we embedded that YouTube live in the homepage of the website, along with all this other stuff, the map. And you could see the finishers crossing the line, and this was done at a cost of basically zero. And we just like kind of, um, MacGyver our own live broadcast. And so I, I think these things are possible if you are crafty and resourceful. And then I just think like more information, more media telling the like, first of all, I don't see enough events, whether they're marathons, bike races, track meets telling the stories of the interesting people who are in the race before the race to build interest.

There should be like a three minute or two minute video profile of all the top athletes. You know, when I look at like friends of mine who are running ultras, like Devin, Crosby Helms has been a friend of, of mine for a long time. Yeah. She's so interesting with, you know, her and Nathan had the bakery and I mean, you know, like she's a chef and like so many interesting stories yeah. That like, there's so many good stories to be told. And why not tell those in advance? And does it take the resources of hiring cameramen and a photographer? It does, but in the big scheme of things, then, you know, raise your entry fees, $20 each to cover it or whatever yeah. Ask for, or build a brand partnership with your sponsor and have whoop or whomever sponsor all of that content. Yeah.

Dylan Bowman (50:59): It makes me wanna ask you as somebody who's kind of an expert in both the running and the cycling world. I'm sure you've been a interested observer to the me York rise of gravel in the cycling category and industry. And it is I think, a little bit analogous to trail and its rise within the greater running community. Is there anything that trail running can learn from gravel in the gravel, uh, business that, uh, may help us capture a little bit more market share and trail? Yeah,

Peter Abraham (51:33): I think there are actually, I mean, I would say, so I've been racing in gravel events since 2017. I did the first Belgian waffle ride and I came right back and I wrote a blog post that said I've seen the future of bike racing and I could just see how it fit into the marathon and ultra-marathon business model or kind of like you can have Olympians at the front and you could be anywhere from right behind them to hours and hours behind. It didn't matter. Everyone was cool with that felt safer, uh, than traditional bike racing. And there's this kind of like in very relatable to ultras and big city marathons, you can, you know, there's kind of like a small town takeover kind of thing where everyone can, the whole community converges on some town often in a beautiful place yeah. Gets together for the weekend.

And I think, you know, one of the most important things about gravel races is the sense of community. And like I'm going to do SBT gravel in Steamboat Springs, Colorado next week. And I'm just so looking forward to seeing friends and the funnest part of the weekend is not the race day. But the day before when we do a shakeout ride, like 500 people show up for 25 easy miles of pipeline, smiling and fist bumping. And I think, I think ultra should. And, and I saw this at the Atlanta Olympic trials marathon when we threw our like, you know, we had our shakeout run and we had our, our, you know, pep rally party. Like man, people just wanna hang out. And the more that ultra, I don't go to too many ultra events, but the more the ultra events can build in kind of the party vibe and the hangout and the shakeout run and the socializing the better, because that, I think that is one of the key difference makers for gravel.

Dylan Bowman (53:13): Yeah. Maybe final question. Before we wrap up here, it's also in the cycling realm, I've read another one of your blog posts this morning as I was just kind of poking around through your medium page about Bentonville Arkansas. And I thought it was fascinating right. Of just like what they've been able to build there around cycling and, and I think specifically, or at least mostly off road cycling. Yes. And it makes me want to kind of try and create something similar, you know, a trail town for trail runners, more or less where you have different businesses, institutions that you build community around and are in a place where you can really dive into a niche sport in this case, cycling and Bentonville. So, so tell us about Bentonville and what makes it special.

Peter Abraham (54:00): I, I think it's a great point and I'm glad you brought it up. Bentonville is fascinating. And just to give listeners background in case they have not been there. Bentonville Arkansas is in the Ozarks is in the Northwest corner of the state bordering on, um, Oklahoma and Missouri. Missouri is above. Oklahoma's just the west. It's up in the corner. Um, university of Arkansas is just down the road in Fayetteville. Um, and there's some other businesses like JB hunt transportation, which is, is huge, is there. And so it's sort of the wealthy liberal corner of Arkansas and does not fit into kind of, I think people's popular conception of Arkansas and two of the heirs of the Walmart family, that grandsons of, um, Sam, Walmart, Stewart and Tom Walton who are worth billions and billions each, they are absolute cycling freaks. So they started 10 or 12 years ago, building mountain bike trails there.

They had a vision for like, could this be like a ski resort town, like park city, but for bikes. And that was their, that was their kind of template. And they started building trails, building trails through their Walmart family foundation. Then along the way, they started investing in bike brands. They bought Rafa, they moved Rafa headquarters there. And now there are I think 12 or 1300 miles of, um, bike trails in the whole region going out like a spider. And you have to see it to appreciate, it's not like just some random trail through the woods. It is, these are manicured. They bring in the best trail builders from all over the world. Like they'll bring in a stone Mason to spend three weeks on one corner. It's nuts. Yeah. Every little bridge over a little ravine. That's like 50 feet across. It could be made out of plywood. Oh no, no. They're gonna fly in, in an artist from New York and he is gonna do this whole rusted metal swooping curving it's AB there's a coffee house is the biggest fanciest coffee house. I is

Dylan Bowman (55:51): This is this meteor meteor.

Peter Abraham (55:53): No, no meteor is great. I mean, there are like eight coffee houses in town that are by theme that are fancy, but there's one out in the Kohl mountain bike preserve that is like a, um, modernist Japanese architecture. It looks like a tau Hondo designed it. And it's, uh, a coffee house just for bikes and runners. Yeah, literally you can't get there by car. So, and, and, and so now it's like there are bike themed office buildings, every bike brand is, you know, sending, uh, representatives there. There are multiple events there. I'm going there for the bicycle leadership conference in October, along with, um, you know, the big sugar, gravel race. And it's just picked up steam. And I think your point is great. And I think like you could do it in ultra at a place where you had a big event, like maybe squa valley. Maybe it'd have to be somewhere in the mountains. I'm not sure. Like you have like, there'd have to be event or a series of events like UT M B takes over shaman. E

Dylan Bowman (56:51): I think it would be like Marin county, California, right. Where you have abundant trails, uh, but where community already exists, but where you can take it to 11, you

Peter Abraham (57:00): Know, I think, I think that's a good point. Yeah. And so you'll have to partner with the San Francisco running company. Yeah.

Dylan Bowman (57:06): Those are my, those are my people anyway. I mean, they've got, got trophies on the shelves still over in San Francisco running company as

Peter Abraham (57:13): Well.

Dylan Bowman (57:14): Well, Peter, it's so awesome to connect with you, man. And I hope this is the first of many. And, uh, I appreciate you lending your, you know, part of your Friday afternoon to sharing your perspective with a trail running audience. I think we can learn so much from other sports. And I think your article is really timely in that, like, we should really embrace our niche, embrace our power as a community. That's right. And use what makes us special and shout it from the mountain top. So thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Peter Abraham (57:44): You're welcome. Thanks Dylan. Talk to you later.

Dylan Bowman (57:47): Thanks everybody for watching. Hope you all have an awesome weekend. We'll chat soon.

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