ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — More than 1,000 cyclists, from casual riders to serious racers, will descend upon Cattaraugus County this summer for Centurion Ellicottville. Thanks to the efforts of a graduate class at St. Bonaventure University, the inaugural event figures to get off to a flying start.
The Ellicottville event, scheduled for Aug. 17-19, is the third in a four-race summer series; two events are in Ontario, two in New York state (Ellicottville and Lake George).
“It was a pleasure to work with the MBA students at St. Bonaventure over the last few months,” said Krista Flanagan, director of marketing for Centurion Cycling. “Having the opportunity to engage them in our efforts to market Centurion Ellicottville and build plans for engaging companies, nonprofit organizations and other entities in Western New York was very beneficial. Working with them, I found a high level of energy and enthusiasm for the project as well as a great work ethic and output.”
Students taking Dr. Michael Russell’s Contemporary Marketing Strategy class this spring were challenged by Brian McFadden, executive director of the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, to help develop the marketing and communications plans to promote the inaugural event.
McFadden said the Centurion event offers regional organizations and nonprofits the opportunity to revitalize charity bike races that had become too onerous and expensive to conduct. The MBA students contacted business and organization leaders to gauge their interest and shared these “warm leads” with Centurion’s marketing specialists, McFadden said.
Because the Centurion events are so well run, local charities and nonprofits can operate their own race within a race and not incur all the expenses related to cycling event management, McFadden said.
“We wanted to invited the cause rides because we knew this would be a very inexpensive way to create a fundraiser for them,” McFadden said. “But how could we best get to those groups? That’s where the students helped. Through their contacts and research, they would find business leaders and what charities their companies tended to sponsor. It would have taken us (the Chamber) two or three years to get the list they provided.”
McFadden said Centurion officials were “ecstatic” with the efforts of the students and with the level of detail they provided to enhance participation in the race.
“I believe the students enjoyed having the opportunity to work with us in an environment that allowed them to play a role in building an event that will have positive economic and social benefits for the area for years to come,” Flanagan said.
The Centurion series was the brainchild of Canadian Graham Fraser, longtime owner of North American Sports, which conducted all Ironman events in North America until 2009. The series is an attempt to create a world-class experience for even the recreational rider, McFadden said.
“This will look like a stage of the Tour de France,” he said. “Not every race has a chase helicopter just to shoot video.”
The Sports Network of Canada is already working with race officials, said McFadden, who expects between 1,500 and 2,000 cyclists to take part this year, the first of a five-year contract with Centurion.
“This was another opportunity to showcase the skills of our students in applying what they learn in the classroom to a project that benefits the economy of the entire region,” said Russell, chair of SBU’s marketing department.
The students in the class were: Amber Ciesiulka, Philip Penepent, Kaci Anderson, Sarah Babcock, Elissa King, Rachael Thompson,Samuel Giordano, Nicholas Maurer, Joseph Mazzaferro, and Sean O’Neill.
For more information on the event, go to www.centurioncycling.com/ellicottville.
About the University: Inspired for more than 150 years by the Catholic Franciscan values of individual dignity, community inclusiveness, and service, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them
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