I have always loved change.
It’s terrifying, usually, but mostly that just adds to the excitement. Watching something evolve beyond what you have always known into something that could (and should) outgrow you is the most incredible sense of accomplishment. As a parent, my job is to teach my kids well enough that they no longer need me. And as an entrepreneur, my job is to create a business that will also, eventually, outgrow me.
My original vision was for one huge contest. It was going to be massive, bigger than the World Yo-Yo Contest or the European YoYo Championships or the Asia-Pacific Challenge. It was going to be hugemongous! But the thing is….there are already huge contests. And while I’ve got my issues with Worlds, I really don’t have any issues with EYYC or AP. So there wasn’t really anything there that needed to be what I wanted to create. Could I list out what I would like to change about those events? Sure. I’m obnoxious like that. Do any of those changes REALLY need to happen? Debatable.
After talking to several friends in the yo-yo community and extensively with Seth Peterson, I decided that what yo-yo contests needed was a series of events that went the other way. See, nearly all yo-yo contests are designed for the players. They are mostly held in private venues in whatever city the organizer lives in and the amount of press or media attention is negligible at best. They are events for yo-yo players to get together and hang out, and don’t serve much purpose beyond that. And it always bothered me that yo-yo companies would sponsor these events…who was the sponsorship supposed to advertise to? The only people that saw the even were yo-yo players…and they already know everything about your brand!
Skating has tons of events like this…but they also have the X-Games. And a whole slew of other huge, public events that are tailored more towards the hobbyists and general public than to the die-hards. But the die-hards show up because it’s a good way to keep their contest routines sharp, there are big cash prizes, and it’s a chance to hang out with your friends AND perform for huge crowds. It’s a best-of-both-worlds kind of scenario. And I wanted to create that for yo-yoing.
So I roped in Seth Peterson (co-founder of Save Deth) and Andre Boulay (fellow National Yo-Yo Master and owner of YoYoExpert.com) and we dove, headfirst, into creating something so ridiculously large that at least once a week someone told us we were out of our minds.
This first year of the Triple Crown of YoYo was an exercise in how much we could do without any real resources. Sponsorship was really limited because, being a new event, no one really wants to go all-in to support it yet…they want to see if it’s going to grow legs and really take off. We really underestimated the amount of time it would take to lock down the size of venues we were going for…working with venues that estimated tens of thousands attendees for our contests was a huge learning experience! But after many months of work, we were able to get three amazing venues: Washington Square Park in San Francisco, Faneuil Hall in Boston, and Millennium Park in Chicago. Projected turnout for all three events: 70,000+ people.
So then we turned out sights on the contest format. If we wanted to show modern yo-yoing to the public, we had to get rid of the dull parts. Goodbye, prelims! We split each contest in to two days to keep prelims separate from finals, guaranteeing only the top freestyles would be on the main stage in the big venues. Guess what that also accomplishes? It doubles the cost of your contest.
We simplified the judging system, too. Because we feel that if you can’t explain to someone in 2 minutes how the contest is scored, they ultimately aren’t going to care. So we specialized everything…instead of many judges all expected to score the same thing at the same time, each judge only scored one aspect of the freestyles. Two judges handled positive technical points, one judge handled negative technical points. One judge scored originality, and a non-yoyo judge with heavy performing experience scored performance. Simple, elegant, and beautiful…and even better, you can explain it to a reporter in under a minute without having to repeat anything or show them a spreadsheet. Hooray!
For the press, we sent out press releases for two full months before each event. Releases went out every Monday morning, followed up by phone calls on Wednesdays (a traditionally slow news day) to try and secure TV appearances. Oddly enough, we had a hard time getting some of the press we thought would be the easiest, and the more elusive PR opportunities just dropped in our lap. For example…we absolutely could not get on a single morning talk show, but we managed to get the International AP Wire to cover two of the events which led to TV coverage in a half-dozen countries. Why was that easier to get than “Good Morning Chicago”? Who knows? But we’ll take it!
And our last order of business was prizes. Pretty much every contest gives out yo-yos as prizes. Why? We have no idea. But when you give out yo-yos to a bunch of yo-yo players, guess what those yo-yo players do with them? They sell them and buy different yo-yos. *facepalm*
So instead, we went for cash. Big cash. Over the course of three events, we gave out $6,000 in cash and another $2,000+ in prizes from companies like Vannen Watches, Mimobot, and Rotofugi. NON yo-yo companies!
That’s probably our proudest accomplishment, is the amount of support we got from non yo-yo companies…including major sponsor Rotofugi who is also producing a designer vinyl toy of the Triple Crown mascot! YES! We’re actually going to have limited edition vinyl toys of the contest mascot! The mascot was designed by monster-maker and fine artist Chris Ryniak, so it makes sense that it would be turned into a toy…but how many other yo-yo contests have ever done anything like that, ever?
The first year of the Triple Crown was a huge learning experience for us, but an overall success. We learned some valuable lessons, we learned to always rent a covered stage (thanks, Boston) and we managed to show off the best yo-yo players in the country to more than 30,000 people in-person, and millions worldwide.
And just wait until you see what we have in store for next year. The events will continue to evolve to better suit the needs of the players and the interests of the spectators. Bigger sponsors are on the way, which means even more prize money.
We just won’t be happy until the day we can write a yo-yo player a check for $10,000 for a single division!
Andre, Seth, and I are absolutely committed to this contest series. We know that we can continue to improve it and we know that we have tons to offer the yo-yo community. And we know what we want to get modern yo-yo play in front of more people than any other event in the world….and get modern yo-yos into the hands of more new players than any event in the world.
Keep an eye on www.triplecrownyoyo.com to learn more about the events, and for details on next year’s contest series. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
It’s been an amazing ride so far….can’t wait to see what change the new year brings.
- Steve Brown
National YoYo Master
Co-Founder – Triple Crown of YoYo