Event Director Interview Series: The Muscle Behind The Arnold Classic Australia

By Rebecca Gardner

1 weekend, over 55,000 attendees, 200 professional athletes, 400 exhibition booths and non-stop sporting events over 3 days. We meet the man who makes it all happen, event promoter Tony Doherty.

To launch our Event Director Interview Series, a new series of articles which cover how Event Directors deliver successful events across Australia, we spoke to Tony as he was gearing up to open the doors to over 55,000 people with tickets to the Arnold Classic Australia 2016, now in it’s second year. He shared with us his opinions on how to promote your event to such a diverse audience, the challenges of running such a large-scale event and how to manage the ticket sales for over 100 events all happening in 1 weekend.


Melbourne based gym owner and event promoter Tony Doherty is no stranger to health, fitness and bodybuilding events, in fact he’s what you might call a true industry veteran. “I started promoting bodybuilding and fitness back in 1988 and I’ve been doing it ever since”.

But it was when Tony Doherty visited his first Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio that he developed a taste for large scale sporting events. He vowed to one day bring the world renowned body building event, founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to his home country of Australia.

Driven by his passion for bodybuilding and determination to learn the craft of running an expo, Tony decided to set up his own large sporting event and went on to found FitX Sport and Fitness Expo in 2011. The event exceeded all expectations and FitX was a huge success. After only 6 years he was approached by the Arnold Classic team, to discuss a potential partnership. Today Tony is the proud partner and promoter of Arnold Classic Australia, and with dates confirmed for the show until 2020 and plans to double the space in 2017 there are no signs of it slowing down.

Event Director Tony Doherty with Arnold Schwarzenegger Event Director Tony Doherty with Arnold Schwarzenegger

“It’s all part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger fitness crusade”

The event runs for it’s second time in Australia at Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre and the impressive event line up promises demonstrations and live shows from 35 Olympic and non-Olympic sports, competitions, apparel and equipment.

But what really makes this event unique is the crowd of passionate fans, who flock in the tens of thousands. We asked Tony to describe to us what attracts a wide range of people from all different backgrounds. Tony compares it to a gym like atmosphere - “it’s bit like a gym. There are all walks of life who just want to improve themselves, want to find out about trends in the industry or learn about a cutting edge product.”

“For hard core fans this is the Holy Grail, they book their flights and accommodation the day after the event has ended for the next year. They get to meet their heroes, get a selfie with Arnie. The event inspires people to have a fit and healthy lifestyle. It’s all part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger fitness crusade.”


“The event is like a giant jigsaw puzzle”

“The biggest challenge of running an event like this is financing. We’re self-funded and making the whole thing work financially is tough.” Tony compares his event to a “giant jigsaw puzzle that needs all of the elements to come together in order to work; the funding, staffing, volunteers, ticketing system and expo space. It all has to come together”.

One aspect of the event that’s always challenging is managing the ticketing for all the separate sporting events – there are over 100. “Last year was the first time we sold tickets online and it’s definitely something we recommend. We encourage more people to buy their tickets online”. Tony cites the benefits as being less pressure on the box office and the door, and an overall better customer experience.


“....we use all social media channels unashamedly. It’s where marketing is at in this day and age...”

Another challenge lies in promoting the event to such a wide and diverse group of people, so what does Tony recommend? “You use all channels available to you – without spending a fortune”.

Tony tells us that it’s taken several years to work out what does and doesn’t work, but “social media has been the big game changer – it also allows the individual sports to promote the event to their own groups”. Tony is confident that traditional marketing tactics such as billboards and radio still play a role in raising the awareness of your event to new attendees, albeit a smaller one with the rise of social media. “Each of our channels has it’s own role to play. If a top athlete has signed up we post their image and bio to Instagram, if we have more of a story to share we create something for Facebook”.

“We employ one full time person to look after the social media for the event all the time, we use all social media channels unashamedly. It’s where marketing is at in this day and age.”


So what’s next?

As the interview draws to a close we asked Tony what the future held for him and the Arnold Classic event.

“The Arnold Classic Asia 2016 to be held in Hong Kong is the jewel in the crown. We now have an Arnold Classic in every continent and we’ll be there for as long as we can foresee.” The Arnold Classic Australia also has plans to double in size in 2017, making it the largest annual expo event in Melbourne – an amazing accomplishment for an event that’s only three years old.


If you want to find out more about The Arnold Classic Australia 2016, visit the Arnold Classic Australia Facebook event page.  And for more information about how Ticketebo deliver a full suite of ticketing and entry management solutions across the various events which make up the The Arnold Classic, please contact us today on 03 9005 7750 or visit our Contact Us page.

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