When FISE Montpellier was cancelled due to COVID-19, action sports were in deep trouble.

Losing an event that attracts over 650,000 fans left the organisers (Hurricane Group) and their digital agency (Redtorch) needing to act … fast.

The solution? E-FISE Montpellier by HONOR. The world’s first action sports event 100% online.

Boasting a prize pool of over €150,000 and taking entries from 85 countries, it was the biggest competition of its kind in the world … ever.

But what made is so special?

E-FISE enabled FISE to continue supporting their loyal athletes and fans during tough times. Every stakeholder was catered for. Not only were riders invited to compete, but elements of the live event were brought to a virtual stage. Awesome for fans, sponsors and partners.

Webstivals (online festivals) provided performances, rider interviews and music live from host city venues and streamed live on Twitch. The live awards ceremony generated over 200k views from die-hard action sports fans.

Thousands of athletes entered – from 7 sports and 12 disciplines – making E-FISE ground-breaking for the entire action sports community.

Setting the scene

Fans were encouraged to vote for the competing riders, and everyone was invited to engage in numerous digital activations over the preceding 4 months.

Some key numbers so far:

  • 85 – countries from where athletes entered the competition
  • 2,000,000 – website visits
  • 500,000 – fan votes
  • 20,000,000 – video views

Having been FISE’s retained digital agency for over 6 years, we’ve built a client/agency partnership built on trust, passion and innovation – 3 traits that would prove crucial in the remote management and successful delivery of E-FISE.

6 key things we’ve learnt as an agency delivering our first online sports competition….

1. Authentic branded content adds value

Learning: Investing time in your sponsors pays dividends. It nurtures strong and lasting relationships and helps you to be financially viable.

Building (and maintaining) partnerships is fundamental to live event longevity.

Many brands are struggling during this pandemic. Fact. This made FISE’s approach of sponsorship activation even more impressive. Acutely aware that sponsors have diverse needs, FISE created a bespoke commercial structure to provide appropriate ways for organisations of all sizes to partner with E-FISE. From branded content to individual hashtags, each partnership was unique.

Five of the 7 sports got title sponsors. Pretty impressive given the current climate. Brands (eg. @handle.magazine, @fujiinstaxfr) and National Federations (eg. @worldskateofficial, @figymnastics) saw the value of E-FISE, as did regional partners from host cities (e.g @laregionoccitanie, @MontpellierMéditerranéeMétropole). Their support, wider audience reach and sharing of E-FISE content added huge substance to the campaign.

In return, sponsors gained exposure to FISE’s 1.4m followers, new audiences, and some of action sports’ biggest stars. Here’s an example: BMX legend Logan Martin shared his #EFISEBYHONOR entry with his 367K followers, generating 53,974 likes on just one post. Great exposure given that thousands of riders entered. We’ll let you do the maths!

Activation didn’t stop there, however.

For the first time ever, FISE utilised Twitch to reach younger audiences – a key sponsor objective. Through Webstivals and an Award Ceremony, FISE owned the digital stage and offered their partners unique access to global audiences.

2. The importance of building a legacy with host cities

Learning: Continue to build a legacy and partnership with your host cities, even if a physical event won’t take place there.

Montpellier has been the hub of this festival for 23 years.

This city has the largest crowds and the most competitions in the World Series and is synonymous with FISE. It was crucial to show that E-FISE could offer equal value to the live event.

E-FISE continued the Montpellier legacy, ensuring athletes and fans could take part while not being able to attend in person.

And there was lots of added value for the city: from the Occitanie Region’s title sponsorship of the Scooter and Roller competitions to Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole’s sponsorship of the E-FISE BMX Park competition and its hosting of 4 Webstival livestreams in local bars which helped support and promote the local economy. We think that’s pretty cool.

3. Using paid media pays off

Learning: Paid media will make a difference, so make every coin count.

E-FISE demonstrated the power of paid (media) and how small budgets can make a BIG difference.

KPIs were set at the outset, meaning Redtorch could focus on generating thousands of rider entries, votes and video views.

With our in-depth knowledge of FISE audiences, new fan insights and minimal spend, we generated 200k views on the live Winners’ Ceremony alone. And over 7m video views across the competition.

We targeted new fans.

Using our specialist paid media expertise, we developed a flexible and collaborative strategy, identifying and targeting new audiences as well as current riders and fans, adjusting spend where appropriate.

The Skateboard Street video above had €7 of paid, with the objective of video views and conversions to website. It achieved 257k views.

4. Channel-specific content increases reach

Learning: Live events generate large volumes of content. As platforms are suited to different types of content, build a platform-specific strategy. Don’t feel that everything has to be shared everywhere.

Certain content performs better on certain channels. It’s not one size fits all.

We utilised each platform for different purposes, e.g.:

  • Stories for ad-hoc posting and time-sensitive content such as ‘last day to enter’ and coverage of livestreams
  • Instagram and Facebook main feeds for sharing E-FISE mash up edits, key E-FISE information and the top 3 qualifiers or winning runs
  • YouTube and DailyMotion for the results hub, where top 8 qualifying entries (pro), top 3 qualifying entries (amateur) and 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winners were posted in specific playlists

5. Maintaining clear and constant communication is vital

Learning: Keep a constant stream of communication open with your client. You are an extension of their team and you are both striving to achieve common goals. Message, email, pick up the phone … just ensure you’re always up to date with what’s going on in each other’s world.

One result of COVID is that many people have had to work remotely.

This has highlighted the necessity for clear and effective communication: internally, of course, but for your audiences, too.

A project manager (PM) is crucial for any global campaign – whether live and/or online – to ensure all members of the teams are on the same trajectory and to keep communication open between various sectors of the campaign.

To put this into context, E-FISE needed:

  • 140 hours of project management
  • 400+ WhatsApp messages
  • 2,400 minutes on calls
  • 2,000+ emails
  • 600+ cups of coffee

With so much content created and posted during E-FISE, a content planning tool was essential for a successful campaign.

Monday.com provided this for Redtorch. Fully customisable and clear, with the option of multiple editors, it made for seamless collaboration between the Redtorch and Hurricane teams. From file sharing and downloading to copywriting, it’s a must-have for an event like E-FISE.

6. Don’t be afraid to mix culture and sport

Learning: Never underestimate the power of building on your brand’s existing culture when creating an online event.

FISE is known not only as a sports competition but also as a festival of culture and lifestyle.

Live performances, graffiti displays, and local initiatives all have a part to play in building the FISE culture – and E-FISE was no different.

We believe the culture and lifestyle of FISE is incredibly important and wanted to transfer them to the online version. This was done in various ways, including:

(i) Webstivals

4 Webstivals were hosted by E-FISE on Twitch.  Sponsored by RADAR, an organisation dedicated to supporting up-and-coming music acts, they were perfect to help instil some FISE culture.

The Webstivals included a variety of content including rider and influencer interviews (Joe Atkinson, Aurélie Godet, José Garcia), live Breaking performances, live DJ sets and performances from the likes of DJ GETDOWN, BRÖ and N’SEVEN7.

(ii) Awards Ceremony

The E-FISE winners were announced on a livestreamed Awards Ceremony. A male or a female winner from each E-FISE category was interviewed to get some behind-the-scenes info and hear what it takes to become an E-FISE champion.

(iii) Inside E-FISE

Inside E-FISE was an Instagram Live takeover activation that ran in the build-up to discipline entry dates.

Well-known discipline commentators and judges hosted the live @fiseworld and invited some special guests to join them to discuss all things E-FISE as well as what it’s like to be an action sports athlete.

Hosts included Skateboarding’s Tomas Vintr and Flatland commentator Claude Hickman, with guests such as Nils Jansons, the Jumelin family, Mery Muñoz and Ke’Chaud Johnson.

Moving forward

E-FISE was an innovative and exciting project which Redtorch, FISE and their partners approached head on. And what an achievement it was.

While we can look back and revel in how far we’ve come with this new event format, the FISE World Series needs to keep moving forward. With momentum behind us, we can learn from this event and build the E-FISE brand while continuing to support action sports athletes and fans along the way.

Want to take your events online? Get in touch 👉 hello@redtorch.co.

Read our E-FISE case study for more insight to our challenges and solutions.