Event Promo Ideas from Alan Dorfman of the Michigan Winter Dog Classic

We spoke with Alan Dorfman of the Michigan Winter Dog Classic to learn more about what he does to promote the shows to exhibitors as well as the local public. 

Check out the interview below: 

Please tell us about your show or cluster. What is your average entry, what events do you host for the general public, etc.?

We draw a little over 2,000 entries a day at the Michigan Winter Dog Classic (http://www.themichiganwinterdogclassic.com/). We offer conformation, two obedience and rally trials each day, agility, the 4-6 Beginner Puppy Competition, the National Owner-Handled Series, Bred-By groups, Puppy groups, dock diving with North America Diving Dogs, and Barn Hunt (a whopping 800 extra entries above the 2,000 this year).  Other activities include duck herding with Border Collies, Meet the Breeds, Police K-9 demonstrations and weight pull.

How do you encourage the general public to attend your show/cluster? Do you have a way to track attendance?

An event for the general public that’s been huge for us is AKC’s My Dog Can Do That!, which we offer for free. Since we started offering the event in 2013, we’ve set records every year. We had 504 dogs go through the course this year.

People love their dogs, whether they are purebred or not. Our belief is that great dog owners make for good dogs, so our aim is to educate owners and give them a good time with this event so that they can’t wait to come back next year. They also get a free photo of themselves with their dog after going through MDCDT as a souvenir.

We want to give people the opportunity to show off their dog. We also refer the owners to other events they can try, like dock diving and Barn Hunt.

AKC’s My Dog Can Do That! is also a big draw for gate. We’ve calculated that approximately 2.6 people come through the doors with each dog that enters the building. We let one person per dog in for free, so we’re getting admission fees for approximately 1.6 people per dog. We charge $10 per ticket.

How has your club successfully increased show entries?

We cater to the exhibitor as well as the general public. We try to make the show as exhibitor friendly as possible, offering bathing areas (no one wants to go outside in January!), pre-paid grooming, ready rings, large rings for big breeds, and easy access to the show hall from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm, with 24-hour security.

We also offer competitions like the AKC National Owner-Handled Series and the 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy competition.

Our vendor mall is extensive – if you put all the booths side-by-side, the vendors would be three football fields long. We try to give exhibitors something to do when they are finished showing, and our vendors are very popular.

We also offer live streaming of groups and Best in Show, and some breed judging throughout the day, on our website. This has been extremely popular. We take breed judging requests and try to fill all requests as best we can. One of the best stories I’ve heard is of an owner who was in the hospital and had never seen her dog in ring. With the live streaming, she was able to watch her dog win the group and Reserve Best in Show from her hospital bed. I thought that was very touching.

Who in your club handles public relations and/or advertising activities?

I handle most of the PR and advertising activities. FOX2 news is our media sponsor, so we include their logo on all of our posters and collateral. We have advertisements on electronic billboards around the city, so we’re able to change the message leading up to the show to reflect the date: “2 Weeks to Go,” “1 Week to Go,” “2 Days to Go,” etc. We have a drive-time radio sponsorship that starts two weeks before our cluster. About a week before the shows, I do an in-studio interview with FOX2 news and WJR radio. Several high school journalism classes will come to the shows to interview people and take photos, so we also get promotion on school radio and TV.

What are your best tips that could help other clubs to grow their show?

Nine years ago, our cluster drew entries of around 1,000 and we’ve managed to take it up to 2,000-plus dogs. It can be done! I encourage clubs to keep an open mind and to not be afraid of change. Find another club that you can work with to team up for a four-day cluster and select judges that will draw majors.

Do the little things to make things easier and more enjoyable for the exhibitor and attendee. We offer air blowers for dock diving so that dogs can dry off quickly. Visitors can drop their show ticket into a bucket to be entered into a drawing for giveaways. We’ve offered 40” TVs and tablets as prizes, but it could be anything. We try to give them something a little extra for their entrance fee. Our show also usually falls on a divisional football playoff weekend, so we put several TVs up so people can enjoy the games.

Make yourself available. I put my cell phone on our cluster website and starting about 2½ weeks before our show weekend, I start hearing from people. By the time the show is over, I get about 600-800 calls. It can be a pain in the butt, but it is a personal touch and well-worth having a human talk to them.