Little Tahoe company goes big on alternative sports
If adulthood were like grade school, and James “Woody” Woodruff and Chris Schuster had to give a report on what they did last summer, the pair of local entrepreneurs would undoubtedly have some of the best stories to tell.
As the founders of Tahoe City-based Global Event Management, Inc., Woodruff and Schuster have been traveling all over the globe organizing and marketing events for the likes of Red Bull, the Winter X Games and ski resorts for the past 11 years.
What sets Global Event Management apart from the other promoters out there is their experience in dealing with alternative sports, such as skier/boardercross, slopestyle competitions, freeride mountain biking, street luge and more. And it’s been their ongoing relationship with Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull that has allowed them the opportunity to be involved in many of those events.
The first event that Red Bull sponsored in the United States was the 1998 Tahoe Fat Tire Festival ” a gathering of mountain bikers from all over the country that Woodruff and Schuster worked on, Woodruff said. Since that first event, Global Event Management has produced other Red Bull events from the exciting San Francisco street luge races to the Red Bull Flugtag contest ” “sort of a soap box derby for engineers,” said Woodruff, in which contestants fly homemade planes off a barge into the San Francisco Bay and score points for style and distance.
Global Event Management will also organize the Red Bull Air Races in San Francisco this October, which figures to be their largest event to date with more than 70 people on staff making sure everything runs smoothly.
“It’s just been a fun eight years of watching them grow in the United States,” Woodruff said of Red Bull. “And working for those guys has been completely educational. They teach me so much … They don’t do a traditional marketing campaign, they don’t buy a lot of advertising, they pretty much put their money into events, and obviously that’s good for us.”
At about the same time that Woodruff and Schuster were first getting hooked up with Red Bull, another major partner ” ESPN’s Winter X Games ” came calling.
“The Winter X Games was basically a bunch of kind of silly made-for-television events ” modified shovel racing and that kind of thing,” Woodruff said. “And in the middle of the Red Bull Tahoe Fat Tire Festival, we get a call from Ron Semio, who is the creative mind behind the X Games. He called me up and said ‘Hey Woodman, I hear you guys are doing these skiercross things. I’d like to know more about it. We’re trying to make the X Games more legit.'”
Woodruff and Schuster ended up putting together a proposal to include skiercross in the Crested Butte Winter X Games that year and have been sport organizers for the annual extreme winter sports festival ever since.
“It’s been a fun progression to take these alternative sports and turn them into mainstream lifestyle sports,” Woodruff said, adding that they’ve gotten to see young athletes such as Tanner Hall and Shaun White go from punk kids to household names making millions of dollars per year.
Running events for companies such as Red Bull and ESPN requires more than just your average organizational skills, as television crews need to be coordinated with athletes, sponsors need to feel well represented, spectators have to be accommodated, and the venue has to be assured that the whole thing is going to go off without anyone getting hurt ” all details that can take up to a year of planning for the Global Event Management team.
“We obviously spend a fair amount of time at our desks here planning and on the phone coordinating and what have you,” Schuster said, “but we also spend a fair amount of time out doing the operations. And I like the mix of those two things. I like the fact that I’m not always in the office, and the fact that you’re always doing something new generally.”
Schuster said that as Global Event Management has grown, they are focusing more on bigger, once-a-year-type events versus the ongoing tours on which he and Woodruff got their start.
“For five years it was just Chris [Schuster] and I, and we did a lot of events,” Woodruff said. “We would travel, either in my Volkswagen bus or in his Rabbit, and we’d go everywhere … And now we’ve surrounded ourselves with some amazing people, so it seems like we’re less busy. So we’ve got a lot going on, but we don’t need to go to every single event anymore.”
But even though Woodruff and Schuster might not be on the road as much these days, Woodruff said they still work a pretty intense schedule, especially during the lead up to big events.
“Everybody is usually in this office from 9 a.m. to who knows when, five days a week. And then on the weekends we’re doing events. So it’s a pretty brutal schedule, and it’s not as glamorous as people think it is,” Woodruff said.
“I haven’t skied with Chris in three years, and we used to ski together every day,” he said. “Now we pass each other in the airport.”
But while they haven’t skied together in years, both Woodruff and Schuster agreed that the friendship that spawned Global Event Management back in 1994 is still what keeps the company together today.
“The key to our business is the people who work with us,” Woodruff said. “Our clients are great ” Red Bull is super cool, they’re fun, they’re creative, and they keep it exciting for sure. And the core of people from Tahoe that we can pick from and go out and have an event and have laughs and drink beers afterward and be proud of the job we did is what made this business successful. And I don’t think I could have done it in a city ” it needed to have this kind of love for where you live in order to really make the business work.”
Global Event Management is located at 2690 Lake Forest Road in Tahoe City. For more information about the company, see their Web site at http://www.globaleventmanagement.com.
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