How to Host a Successful Social Climbing Competition

Social climbing competitions have gained immense popularity in recent years, drawing climbing enthusiasts from all over the world. Whether you’re a seasoned event organiser or a climbing gym looking to host your first competition, there are several key elements to consider to ensure your event is a success. From timing and theme selection to sponsorships and marketing, each aspect plays a crucial role in creating an unforgettable experience for participants and spectators alike. ICP has had over a decade of experience in running competitions and we’re here to share what we’ve learned with you.


Timing is Key

Choosing the right time to host your social climbing competition is essential. Consider factors such as the climbing season in your area, other local events that may compete for attendees, and holidays that could affect participation. Aim for a date when climbers are likely to be available and enthusiastic about competing. Weekends are generally preferred, as they accommodate participants with busy schedules and allow for maximum attendance.


Picking a Theme and Event Format

Selecting a theme adds excitement and personality to your competition, making it more memorable for participants. Whether it’s a costume party, a retro-themed event, or a charity fundraiser, a theme can help differentiate your competition from others. Additionally, carefully consider the event format, including the types of climbing routes, a scoring system, and any additional challenges or activities you want to incorporate. Lighting can also be used in creative ways as a theme, including blacklight or head torch events.

Create a mix of physical climbing challenges and social interaction tasks. Physical challenges can include traditional rock climbing, bouldering, or obstacle courses. Social tasks might involve role-playing scenarios, teamwork exercises, or networking games. Balance is key; ensure that both types of challenges are engaging and accessible to all participants.

Implement a clear and fair scoring system. Points can be awarded for completing climbing routes, solving social challenges, and demonstrating teamwork and sportsmanship. Make sure participants understand how they are being evaluated to encourage fair play and friendly competition.

Keep in mind the skill levels of your participants and strive to create a format that is inclusive and engaging for everyone.


Registration Fees & Sign Ups

Setting appropriate registration fees and creating an efficient online registration process will help you track how successfully your event is being marketed and help fund the event. Choose registration fees that are affordable and reflect the needs and financial capacities of your target participants, potentially offering tiered pricing or early bird discounts to encourage early sign-ups. Develop a user-friendly online registration platform where participants can easily sign up beforehand, providing all necessary details such as personal information, climbing experience, and category selection. Ensure the system is secure and capable of handling payments smoothly. On the day of the event, streamline the check-in process by using digital tools to confirm registrations quickly, reducing wait times and allowing climbers to focus on the competition. By making the registration process straightforward and accessible, you enhance the overall participant experience and increase the likelihood of a well-attended, smoothly run event.


Put Together a Comprehensive Sponsorship Plan

Sponsorships play a vital role in funding your event and enhancing the overall experience for participants. Identify potential sponsors that align with the values and interests of your target audience, such as climbing gear companies, outdoor retailers, or local businesses. Offer various sponsorship packages or tiers that provide value to sponsors while meeting your event’s financial needs.

Crafting a compelling sponsorship proposal is essential to attract potential sponsors. Highlight the benefits of sponsoring your event, including brand exposure, access to your target audience, and opportunities for onsite promotion and sponsor stalls. Provide detailed information about your event, including anticipated attendance numbers, demographics of participants, and marketing initiatives to promote sponsors before, during, and after the competition. Sponsors are also a great way to source prizes and appropriate branded merchandise from your sponsors helps promote their interests.

Collaborating with other organisations and businesses can help expand your event’s reach and enhance the overall experience. Consider partnering with local climbing gyms, outdoor clubs, or community organisations to co-host the competition or promote it to their members. Collaborate with sponsors to create interactive activations or workshops that add value for participants and spectators alike.


Design Engaging Challenges

Create a mix of physical climbing challenges and social interaction tasks. Physical challenges can include traditional rock climbing, bouldering, or obstacle courses. Social tasks might involve role-playing scenarios, teamwork exercises, or networking games. Balance is key; ensure that both types of challenges are engaging and accessible to all participants.

Plan additional activities during and after the competition to maintain engagement. This could include raffle prizes, giveaways, a social mixer, or an award ceremony. These activities provide opportunities for networking and fun, enhancing the overall experience.


Safety is Paramount

Safety should always be the top priority. Conduct a thorough risk assessment of the venue and challenges. Provide necessary safety gear and ensure that all equipment is in good condition. Have first aid kits and trained personnel on-site to handle any emergencies.


Offer Attractive Prizes

Offering attractive prizes is a great way to incentivise participation and reward top performers. These could range from climbing gear and gym memberships to related workshops and classes. Consider partnering with sponsors to provide prizes such as climbing gear, gift cards, or exclusive experiences. Cash prizes will be the biggest draw card if you’re looking to attract climbers from interstate. Additionally, reward participants across a range of different skill levels and backgrounds to encourage inclusivity and celebrate the achievements of all competitors.


Foster a Supportive Atmosphere and Promote Inclusivity and Diversity

Creating a welcoming and supportive atmosphere is crucial for a successful social climbing competition. This involves promoting inclusivity and diversity, ensuring that every participant feels valued and respected. Actively encourage participation from climbers of all backgrounds, skill levels, and identities. Use diverse promotional materials that reflect a wide range of participants and emphasise that the competition is open to everyone. Begin each event with a welcoming speech that underscores the importance of camaraderie, respect, and encouragement. Ensure that staff and volunteers are trained to support and assist climbers, creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking for help and cheering each other on. Consider implementing adaptive climbing categories to accommodate climbers with disabilities, providing necessary resources such as specialised equipment and trained support staff to ensure all participants can compete on an equal footing.

To promote inclusivity, ensure that registration fees are affordable and offer scholarships or reduced fees for those who might otherwise be unable to participate. Create opportunities for social interaction and networking by arranging social mixers, team-building activities, and informal gatherings where climbers can share experiences and build connections. Highlight and celebrate diverse achievements, showcasing stories from a variety of climbers to inspire and motivate others. By fostering a supportive atmosphere and promoting inclusivity and diversity, your social climbing competition can become a beacon of community and empowerment, encouraging climbers from all walks of life to participate, connect, and thrive.


Creating Hype and Setting a Vibe.

In the lead-up to your competition, it’s important to create hype for it within your local climbing communities. To maximise excitement, educate your climbing gym staff to actively promote the event to your patrons, encouraging them to spread the word and build anticipation within the climbing community. Run climbing comp workshops in the lead-up to the competition, allowing participants to hone their skills and get a taste of what’s to come. Additionally, ask your setters to create competition simulation problems throughout the gym, providing climbers with a realistic practice experience.

Creating an electrifying vibe is essential for a successful social climbing competition. Start by hiring a DJ to play high-energy music, keeping climbers pumped and energised throughout the event. An MC can further enhance the atmosphere, building hype and engaging the audience with lively commentary. Live streaming the competition is also a great way to get people involved, even if they can’t physically attend. This combination of high-energy entertainment, staff engagement, and practical preparation will ensure your climbing competition is a memorable and thrilling event for everyone involved.


Marketing and Promotion

Effective marketing and promotion are essential to attract participants and generate buzz around your event. Utilise a mix of online and offline channels, including social media, email marketing, community boards, word of mouth, local media, posters, and flyers to reach your target audience. Create engaging content, such as teaser videos, athlete spotlights, and behind-the-scenes footage, to build excitement leading up to the competition. Encourage participants to share their excitement on social media and offer incentives for referrals or early registration.

Insights from Core Climbing Gym Manager Ian Gilmartin

Ian Gilmartin from Core Climbing has been in charge of running the very successful, annual competition series “Bouldermania”. He shared with us some valuable insights on promoting climbing competitions and emphasised the importance of utilising various promotional methods:

Social Media and In-House Promotion:
“We promote through our social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Eventbrite. We also create custom videos with fun twists to keep the promotion engaging. Social media is crucial for reaching our community and keeping them informed about upcoming events.”
Collaborations and Partnerships:
Ian also discussed the value of partnerships in boosting event attendance. “We work with industry partners like ICP, Redbull and various climbing brands. These collaborations help us attract a wider audience and provide additional value to our participants.”
Timing and Coordination:
Ian highlighted the importance of timing and coordination with other gyms. “We start planning pretty much as soon as the previous event ends. About three months before our competition, we really start hyping it up. We also coordinate with other gyms to avoid scheduling conflicts to ensure maximum participation.”


Tracking Attendee Numbers for Future Events

Tracking attendee numbers and gathering feedback is crucial for evaluating the success of your event and informing future planning efforts. Backing your event with proven numbers will also help you secure sponsors for future events. Utilise online registration systems to capture attendee data and monitor registration trends leading up to the event. Gather feedback from participants through surveys or post-event evaluations to identify areas for improvement and gather ideas for future events. Maintain communication with participants and sponsors to nurture relationships and build anticipation for future competitions.


By carefully planning and executing each of these elements, you can host a successful social climbing competition that engages participants, delights sponsors, and leaves a lasting impression on everyone involved. With attention to detail and a commitment to creating a memorable experience, your event is sure to become a highlight of the climbing community calendar.