The three blingiest races this year for me have been Liverpool Rock n Roll, Rock n Roll Dublin and English Half Marathon. There’s one commonality shared by these race weekends, the race organiser. Contest Sports & Media Ltd organise all three events and are responsible for some pretty amazing medals. The medals for Liverpool alone in 2015 were so great that I had no idea how they were going to top it. I was therefore beyond giddy when company director and fellow tourist (and also one of our very own stars of Behind the Medal) Rob Griffths invited me to the medal concept meeting for the 2016 Liverpool Rock n Roll marathon weekend. Medal Watch gets to help design medals, how cool is that?
Now, we have over 900 medals in the Medal Watch gallery so far. 171 are Rock n Roll Marathon Series medals and that’s just the tip of a massive medal heavy iceberg (a few of those Heavy Medals could sink a ship). They are some of my favourite medals (and are really why I started Medal Watch, people kept wanting to know what medals they could earn at RnR Liverpool and Dublin) because they are both individual to the location where the race is held and yet still remain true to the brand. If I cover the logo on any Rock n Roll Marathon Series medal I can still tell that it is a Rock n Roll medal. I now know, thanks to my sit down with Rob and Dan, that they manage to achieve this by putting a lot of thought into their medals, and I mean a LOT! Since starting medal watch I’ve come across some race organisations that are really medal conscious (White Star Running, How Hard Can It Be Events and Saxon Shore to name a few) but they are a minority in the UK. To most race organisers the medal often seems to be an afterthought, like an added bonus that is not as important as the route or race experience, but at Rock n Roll Marathon Series medals are and are made to be an integral part of the race. The Rock n Roll ethos of “Miles, Music, Medals, Moments” tells it all really. It’s a level of medal dedication that is mostly reserved for Virtual races which have to sell themselves on the medal design alone.
If you want to see how much they take medals seriously just take a look at the inspiration for the 2016 Remix Medal:
Design Inspiration: The 2016 Remix Medal design is an evolution of the framed souvenir pic medal from 2014-15. Now, Remix Challenge participants will take home their own souvenir guitar, complete with guitar strap ribbon. Color palettes have been created by putting a retro rock ’n’ roll spin on current event colors/themes. By definition, a remix is “a piece of media that has been altered from its original state.” That is what the remix challenge has done to a traditional race weekend, and the new remix medal design symbolizes that.
Remix Challenge Story: We’ve put a new spin on Rock ‘n’ Roll and rearranged the traditional race weekend! Take on the Remix Challenge and complete two-days of running, action-packed with live music and entertainment. You’ll walk away with countless memories and jaw-dropping stories to tell, as well as your very own souvenir.
Remix Challenge Tagline: One weekend. Two days of running. Three times the bling.
The remix medal is earned by completing two races over two days, usually a 5k followed by a half/full marathon but it depends on the location. This is in essence an extra medal, or bonus medal if you will, so it would be completely understandable if less emphasis was placed on this medal than the actual race ones. With Rock n Roll Marathon Series that is never the case. It’s more than just a concept, there’s a story and a purpose. Some may not agree with bonus medals (We personally love them) but you can’t deny the level of depth and detail that has been put into the design. I’ve had a preview of the one for Liverpool and I seriously love it but knowing why the decision was made to make it the way it is adds a whole new dimension. It’s not a superficial bit of metal, it means something to the people who designed it and so it means something to the people who earn it too (They’re earned, if you don’t think they are then we stick our tongue out at you). It’s is also so so so so pretty. I seriously can’t wait to get mine because it’s pretty epic and they’re similar across all Rock n Roll races, with each location getting its own colour. I love the consistency of this across the brand especially since the US tends to have much better bling than the UK generally, it’s nice that Rock n Roll treats us all the same regardless of location.
Whilst the Remix medals are designed to a set criteria, there’s a lot freer reign over the other Rock n Roll Liverpool medals. Just looking at the array of medals that were displayed in the office showed the range of what is possible. It was very interesting to watch Dan and Rob thrash out their ideas, using past medals for inspiration whilst keeping to the story that they wanted to medals to tell. We looked at other Rock n Roll medals, the feedback from runners of Facebook, what they would mean for people of the local area, how they would promote the location to people travelling from further afield as well as what was doable both physically and legally (Don’t even ask for a yellow submarine). I’ve never been in a medal brainstorm before but it was pretty amazing to watch something go from a concept to a tangible idea that would really work and I might have even influenced it a little. I can’t give too much away but by the end of the meeting Dan had pretty well developed ideas for all of the medals and was going away to sketch them. From there the medals will go through a design process, the sketches are turned into a design by the medal design company, this will go backwards and forwards a few times until finalised. Then, once the design is approved, a mould is created to produce a sample medal which again has to be signed off before our race bling is mass produced and shipped for us all to collect on race day.
It’s a long, drawn out process and when you have the blingiest race in the UK that’s quite a few medals to get sorted. Not counting the World Rocker and Heavy Medals (Which are controlled centrally and are unlikely to change for the next year) there are seven medals for the 2016 race weekend. They are 5k, half, marathon, Remix, Fun Run, Encore (For completing 2015 and 2016) and a new medal for charity entries (Will let you know when there’s more details). I’ve seen the sketch designs for all seven (They could change of course, they still have a long process to go through) and I think people will love them (You can never please everyone of course but I think the designs are strong enough to appeal to the majority). I can’t reveal any more but once the medals are out in the public realm I’ll be doing another article with the original sketch design and more detail about how the ideas came about. I also found out some interesting stuff about Rock n Roll Dublin too so exciting stuff coming soon but I ain’t saying anything.
There’s a graph on the office wall showing number of race entries year on year. In 2015 there was a spike of entries after the Remix medal for Liverpool was announced. I’ve been saying for many months that medals can be used to boost race entries (See my letter to Race Directors) and now I’ve seen proof that backs up what I’ve been saying. My point is that race medals can be a massive marketing tool, not just the design but when the images are released to the public. Contest Sports & Media Ltd and Rock n Roll have realised this, that’s one of the reasons why I was at the design meeting. We might be biased, because we are a little medal obsessed at Medal Watch, but we wish that every race organiser put as much thought and attention into their medals as these guys do. I can’t wait until everyone gets to see the medal reveals.
Thank you very much to both Dan and Rob for inviting me to be part of the process.
You can keep up with the medal reveals and news at the Liverpool Rock n Roll facebook page or twitter. You might also want to keep and eye on Dublin Rock and Roll too, facebook or twitter will do, because some interesting stuff is a coming.
Author: Sarah Matthews
Date published: 01/12/2015