Keith Cunningham is a man with a plan and the marketing expertise to make it happen.
As the VP of Events & Sponsorship Sales for VAVi Sport & Social Club, Cunningham oversees the execution of innovative entertainment in our city, from the Del Mar Mud Run to the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge and the New Year’s Eve Beach Party, just to name a few annual staples. We caught up with Cunningham for an update on VAVi’s non-stop company growth, plus a sneak preview of the brand new Electric Run.
Q: It’s hard to keep track of VAVi’s expansion! How has the company grown this year?
A: It’s crazy. Our sports leagues have grown more than 20% the past 10 months. As a company, our member base went from 60,000 to over 85,000 just in San Diego right now. By the time you read this, we’ll probably be over 90,000. Our events business is our fastest growing business line right now. We’ve eliminated a few events and really focused on our big key events. Electric Run is getting some serious focus. Electric Run is launching Nov. 30 in OC, then Feb. 2 in SD. Other cities we’ll be announcing in the next few months include: Houston, Dallas, Miami, NYC, Charlotte & others.
Q: The adventure race industry is booming in San Diego! Why do you think the ‘fun run’ activity is so popular right now? Why did it take so long to catch on?
A: Everyone wants to work out and be active, especially in San Diego as everyone here looks good. These adventure runs are a great way for anyone of any age to get a little crazy with their friends, in costumes, and run a few miles in mud or through obstacles. Working out is key for a person’s well being and state of mind. If you can have such a great time working out, why the heck wouldn’t you want to get involved?
Running has just surpassed soccer as being the world’s most popular sport. So this is right in line with that statistic. We’re ahead of the game with these runs in SD. There are tons of mud runs, but not as many ‘fun runs’ that VAVi produces.
Q: How did this year’s Del Mar Mud Run compare to last year?
A: It was more organized. This was our 3rd year, so the 3rd time’s a charm. We had softer mud, better showers and a better operational plan. Based on customer feedback, this was our best Del Mar Mud Run yet. We always learn from past events and take feedback very seriously. That dictates our next moves. We don’t decide what’s next; we ask what people want next.
Q: How will the R.O.C. race be bigger and better next year?
A: We’ll be releasing some new ‘INSANE’ obstacles that have never been created in any obstacle races in the world. Last year was such a big success that we know the word of mouth is going to naturally take 2013 to the next level. We’re giving the word “ridiculous” a new personal meaning for people who participate. The race literally is ridiculous!
Q: What’s all the buzz we’re hearing about the Electric Run?
A: Electric Run is going to be ‘the next big thing’ in our eyes. It’s a night 5k fun run. Everyone will come decked out in neon, glow in the dark, glow sticks, light up LED shades, disco ball helmets, etc. Beyond the racers decking themselves out, our production of Electric Run is going to blow everyone away. This isn’t just a night run with people wearing glow necklaces; it will be a masterful piece of art with hopes of one day being inducted in the National Art Institute.
Our production team has had some of their experience from working with Disney, X-Games, Dreamworks and Coachella to name a few. To say the least, they are the best in the business. The entire course is going to be turned into an electrical universe with major light shows, artistic lighting elements and never before seen lighting effects. OC launches Nov. 30. In the first week we sold 3,700. That’s a company record even for us. Before the end of the year, we’ll have other cities announced including Houston, Dallas, Miami, NYC, Charlotte & more with sights on producing 15-30 in 2013. We’ve hired a full team for this project as we see this being the next big thing in entertainment.
Q: At the core of VAVi are social sports leagues. Most popular leagues for fall?
A: Our core sports are always the most popular and the leagues are always full and hard to get into. They’re softball, soccer, kickball, volleyball and Marathon Running Club. All are on fire right now. If anyone wants to train for a marathon, VAVi is the best bet in town. If anyone wants to get in a fun sports league, plan it at least 4-5 weeks in advance as all our leagues fill up.
Q: What big events do you have coming up for NYE and the winter season?
A: Electric Run OC will be going down on Friday night Nov. 30. A week after that our Ugly Sweater Holiday Bar Crawliday will be taking place on Sat. Dec. 8, which is benefiting AJ’s Kids & Rady Children’s Hospital.
NYE is always off the hook as well at the Catamaran, as it’s the only big hotel party in PB. It’s also all-inclusive, AKA ‘all you can drink’ so people have a blast. At Catamaran we don’t only take over the entire hotel, but we also have a VIP Party Boat upgrade where you can party on Mission Bay on their William D. Evans three story boat with casino tables and bumping DJ’s.
Into 2013 we’ll have SD Electric Run on Feb. 3, then our 4th Annual Snowboard & Ski Trip to Mammoth Mountain March 8-10. We’re expecting over 300 people this year for that. We have something for everybody during the winter season.
Q: Explain VAVi’s company culture in five words.
A: Fun. Active. Innovative. Social. Giving.
Q: What are three fun facts we don’t know about the behind-the-scenes life at VAVi?
A: Don’t be fooled by all the TV’s, ping pong tables, pop a shot basketball hoops and games when you walk in our office, our entire team works their butts off at VAVi. No we don’t just have fun all the time. Our team has put in a lot of effort over the past few years to get us to the point we’re at.
No, we’re not a small kickball company ran out of a garage (anymore). So many people are surprised when they walk in our awesome office and say: “Wow, I had no idea you were a real business like this.”
Be careful during your birthday week, you could get (Smirnoff) “Iced” (if you’re 21 or older that is) or pranked on some level!
Q: When you’re not working, where can we find you in San Diego?
A: For many years you could find me downtown. Now I’m more in PB as our offices are in PB and I’ve stepped a bit away from the nightlife scene I was in for many years. I love to travel and usually bounce out of town at least 1x per month. My favorite bars are Sandbar in Mission Beach (my old hood) and probably Craft & Commerce downtown. They have style. I like things with style. I’m also super into hip-hop so you can find me at an underground show. I also like to kick it with my fiancé every night, and play soccer and tennis when I have the time. But time is limited lately, as VAVi has a majority of my focus.
Keep up with VAVi sports leagues, social events and fun runs online at govavi.com