The Tour of Utah and Mobile Survey Technology

Implementing mobile survey technology during a major event provides a new response channel utilized by younger generations. It helps separate effects of immediacy from measurable spectator sentiment, and track the effectiveness of sponsorships.

Implementing mobile survey technology during a major event provides a new response channel utilized by younger generations. It helps separate effects of immediacy from measurable spectator sentiment, and track the effectiveness of sponsorships.


The Tour of Utah (Tou) has been described as “America’s Toughest Stage Race.” High elevation, challenging climbs, diverse terrain, and breathtaking scenery make the race compelling for both participating cyclists and spectators. From its roots as a local event run by a family of cycling enthusiasts, the Tour of Utah has gained UCI status, made the National Racing Calendar, and is growing rapidly in international appeal. The rapid growth of this event has created the need for understanding the spectator audience. We used mobile survey technology to achieve the Tour’s research goals.

Despite the rapid adoption of mobile communication devices among the general population, mobile surveying remains rare. Question format limitations, survey length limitations, and coverage issues have prevented existing research methods from being ported to mobile interviewing. The potential benefits of using this new mode cannot be inored, however – especially for event based sampling.

Mobile interviewing provided immediate response during the Tour of Utah and allowed us to separate immediacy effects from measurable spectator sentiment. Additionally, mobile interviewing provides multiple response channels. This means that respondents can choose to participate in a way that they are already comfortable with. In simple terms, mobile interviewing provides immediate feedback and increases participation among event spectators.



We invited respondents by handing out cards at stations along the race route where attendance was high. Each card contained clear survey instructions and the volunteer was available to answer any questions a potential respondent may have. Respondents were invited to take the short survey by SMS text, mobile web survey, or standard inbound IVR and could choose their preferred method of response. The exact response time was captured for each respondent to measure immediacy to the event. The spectator survey remained open for a month after the Tour’s conclusion. Lastly, we tracked the device used to respond to the web survey to better understand what drives response in this channel.


Figure 1

Options for taking survey

The survey varied from 10 questions in the SMS text version to 20 questions in the mobile web version. The key questions in this survey included unaided sponsor awareness and sponsorship impact in all three versions and aided brand awareness and aided sponsor awareness for key sponsors in the web version. The exact time and mode of completion was recorded to examine immediacy and mode efects. Other questions included demographics, cycling enthusiasm, how they found out about the tour and suggestions they had for the tour. These questions will not be addressed in this paper, but also provided valuable insights.



A total of 7,219 invitation cards were handed out over the 6 days of the Tour of Utah and 693 spectators chose to provide feedback. Response rates were relatively high for this type of survey invitation. Almost 10% of those who were handed an invitation card participated in the survey. Response rates for similar types studies (no pre-survey invitation or follow-up) are typically much lower.


Mode Choice:

The mode distribution of how respondents chose to provide feedback is shown in Figure 2 below. The most popular respondent mode was the mobile browser (Web) with 76% of respondents choosing to take part in the survey online. a sizeable percentage of respondents (18%) chose to use the SMS text message mode, while very few (6%) chose to dial into the IVR system.


Figure 2

Number of respondents by mode

The age distribution of respondents by mode is shown in Figure 3 below. Approximately 55% of all surveys completed through SMS text messaging were completed by respondents age 34 and under. This is a very large percentage considering individuals age 34 and under make up only 31% of all survey respondents. Because the SMS text crowd is younger, they are less likely to be aware of advertisers and more likely to be attending the Tour of Utah for the first time elative to the older web and IVR respondents. The SMS crowd was also more likely to say they would be “much more likely” to purchase race sponsors products than respondents participating via other modes. Respondents choosing the SMS mode were also more likely to have come with other people in their group.

While younger respondents are more likely to choose the sms mode, older respondents are much more likely to participate via IVR. Roughly 40% of those who participated in the survey via the Interactive Voice Response system were over 55 years old. Respondents in this age range make up only 19% of all survey participants.


Figure 3

Age by mode of survey taking


Immediacy Effects:

The mode-time distribution of responses is shown in Figure 4 below. It is interesting to note that SMS surveys were much more likely than Web surveys to be completed at the event. These immediate surveys are important because they can provide needed insight into what is happening at the event.


Figure 4

Number of respondents over time

How soon after the event respondents take part in the survey has important implications for Tour of Utah sponsors. respondents that participated in the survey a day or more after the event were more likely to say that Tour of Utah sponsorship would increase their likelihood to purchase the sponsor’s goods or services (Figure 5). This is important to those sponsors with staying power as it can lead to increase revenue from the sponsorship. However, this data is survey data and should be corroborated with point of sale data to verify the finding.


Figure 5

Sponsorship impact by time



Using the mobile device as a mechanism to collect spectator feedback at an event was clearly successful. With a higher than normal response rate and access to immediate feedback – the Tour of Utah organizers were able to gain insight from more of their spectators and much of that insight was gained during the event. Mode preference is apparent amongst several groups. Providing an SMS text option encourages a younger crowd (under 35) to provide feedback while providing an IVR option encourages an older crowd (55+) to provide feedback.

The insights provided by the mobile survey are not only valuable to the event organizers, but also provide direction to the sponsors. Further research should be done to verify that the stated results in the survey match a respondent’s behavior afterwards, but as mobile devices become even more prevalent, the advantage of mobile surveying to measure the effectiveness of sponsorships cannot be ignored.


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