Spartan Race Live-Streams World Championship on Facebook Watch
Race organizer plans to offer other races, weekly workout class
A new obstacle called Monkey in the Middle was a natural place for a camera. The 2017 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship streamed live on Facebook’s Watch platform this weekend, and the organizers knew this new challenge would be “a game-changing moment,” says Keith Macri, Spartan’s director of media and content. The obstacle combined two Spartan favorites — the Twister and Monkey Bars — to create a long passage where competitors needed to rely on arm strength while grabbing handles that twisted with every movement.
For both the elite athletes and at-home viewers, Spartan’s organizers offered something special. For the first time, a global audience was able to tune in to watch nearly 15,000 competitors make their way through the grueling course in Squaw Valley, CA.
Spartan races come in three lengths — sprint, super, and beast — and the World Championship went even beyond beast length to present a 16-mile course with nearly 40 obstacles. Athletes from almost 50 countries competed in the event, which was a full year in the making: organizers needed time to scout locations and plan a championship that could satisfy adrenaline-junkie fans.
When Facebook Watch launched in August, Spartan Races was quick to notice how popular the platform was with fans. Live-streaming two events on Watch, Spartan logged big viewing numbers.
“We saw how well our live stream was performing, and we said this is a great opportunity for us to partner, because we saw the most engagement, the most reactions on our Facebook stream,” Macri says. “We had streamed a couple other places prior, but the best reach, best engagement, best views, that sort of stuff was on Facebook. So it seemed a natural partnership.”
For the Championship weekend, the Spartan team worked to make the live coverage as professional as possible. The production included 20-30 people covering the event, a satellite truck, set cameras, drones, and POV cameras. The goal was to cover the race from every angle. The race presents a more challenging setup than a soccer or football field: the athletes had to be covered along a 16-mile course.
Naturally, the live coverage included commentary. A three-person team provided in-depth descriptions and color and even interacted with the live stream’s viewers, answering questions throughout the event. Ramping up social-media engagement was a priority for Spartan, and something it hadn’t done during event coverage.
The Championship is just the beginning of Spartan Race’s partnership with Facebook Watch. Spartan will live-stream events from Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento, and San Francisco this month and next.
It will also create a weekly workout show designed to motivate people to get out and race for themselves. Over eight weeks, these hour-long workout classes will guide viewers through the movements and strengths needed to succeed at a Spartan race. People will be free to go at their own pace and get what they need from the classes. And because the videos will be live, viewers can ask experts questions about how they should be training.
With the classes and live coverage of races, Spartan Races is making a strong investment with Facebook. The audience it wants to reach is young, mobile, and spread out across the globe, an audience Facebook offers an unrivaled opportunity to reach. Streams are produced with a smaller screen in mind and feature bigger graphics, tighter shots, and emotional close-ups of eyes, hands, and feet to convey the struggle of the race. The stream also features lots of stats so that people can get up to speed. The producers want to grab the viewer’s attention and do it quickly.
“When I saw my first live race, there was a palpable energy that you could see when you were onsite, when you were on course. That’s something I saw immediately before we had this live endeavor,” Macri says. “I thought to myself, we got to get this out to people. We got to get this as a live product so people can see as much as possible what it’s like to be out here on race day. It really is just like any other sport. There’s an energy, there’s an atmosphere floating around. You can feel it, and it’s exciting. We wanted to bring that to them.”