Alumnus Chris Moulton collaborates with business faculty to investigate economic impact of local track and field festival
Throughout his career as a varsity athlete and coach, University of Guelph commerce alumnus Chris Moulton has gained a strong understanding of what it takes to compete at the national level from the perspectives of a competitor, trainer and organizer. While a coach working jointly with the university and Speed River Track and Field club, Chris has been a part of 21 national champion teams, organized national cross country championships and helped develop the Speed River New Balance Inferno Track and Field Festival held each summer in Guelph. Since its inception, the Inferno has become very popular among competitors and has signed sponsorship agreements with New Balance, Scotiabank and Nestlé.
This past summer, Chris worked with a team of researchers, including School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management professor Marion Joppe, to create a report on the economic impact of the Inferno on the Guelph community. In this Q&A, Chris discusses the research findings and how they will be used to enhance the annual festival.
What was the catalyst behind the study on the Inferno Track and Field Festival?
The catalyst for the study was the desire to have more information and data about who is coming to our event and whether we are serving them well. We didn’t have a lot of information on the spectators we were drawing and wanted to get more information on who was attending and whether they were happy with the product. We also wanted to get some information from the participants to see how they felt about the event. A significant portion of our revenues come from government sources, and this data, in addition to helping us run a better event, will also help with grant applications.
You collaborated with a team of researchers, including professor Marion Joppe, on the report. How did your different areas of expertise in tourism and athletics complement each other in conducting the study?
One of the great things of working with Dr. Joppe and her team was that we were looking at the same problem from different angles. For me the critical thing is putting on a good event and doing that involves having good information. Dr. Joppe’s team was able to help us develop the methods and conducted the survey to give us the information that we need to adapt and improve our event. It also served to improve our understanding of what we were trying to determine and will ideally improve our research next year.
What did your research examine?
Our research used online and hard copy surveys to examine a variety of different demographics on who attended the event, what their feelings on the event were and how much money they spent at the event and during their time in Guelph. We also looked at the competitors and had similar research questions in terms of who they are, their opinions on the event and their spending.
What were some of the key findings?
There were a number of key findings, and a lot of them relate to better understanding of who our customers are. Our attendees are typically highly educated (72.2% with a university degree) and high income earners (51.7% earned more than $100,000). A large number of our attendees come from out of town. Most importantly our attendees were generally satisfied with the event (84.6% ranked as somewhat or very satisfied) and plan to come again (85%).
How do you think this study will help the Speed River Inferno Track and Field Festival?
The study has already been hugely helpful in submitting grant reports and applications. We are able to be much more specific in our feedback on these reports. It has also allowed us to have a better sense of where we should be directing our marketing efforts and how we can grow our event.
Based on the findings of the study, how do you see the Inferno developing in the future?
Our goal is to become the premier track and field meet in Canada, nothing in the study told us that this wasn’t possible. It supported what we were doing and offered some insight into how we can better serve our customers and better allocate our resources. Resources are always scarce so you want to maximize the benefit you get from every dollar you spend and every minute you put in. I am hopeful the study will assist us in securing some new funding from some granting agencies, this will allow us to do some more innovative things in attracting international fans and athletes as well as promoting tourism both regionally and provincially for the event. This will only serve to further grow the event and help us on our pathway to reaching our goal.