For more than 30 years, the annual Great Cow Harbor 10K in Northport, New York, has been a popular Long Island tradition for locals as well as elite athletes from all over the nation. Part of the event’s allure is its scenic location right on the water and postevent party that includes a raffle, refreshments and entertainment.
Until recently, the run was so well known that race participation has remained steady at about 5,000, so marketing had always been minimal.
Rich Boziwick started as a volunteer for the Great Cow Harbor 10K in the mid-80s and began directing in the mid-90s. Now lead director with 3 other organizers, 20 committee members and 400 volunteers on race weekend, he has depended on ACTIVE’s online registration for 15 years.
In 2015, Rich saw a 10% decline in registrations from the previous year, due to the rising number of events in the New York Metro area. He also noticed a 15% race day absenteeism rate for registrants (which he attributes to race alumni who don’t have time to train but still want the t-shirt). Once again, he reached out to ACTIVE.
Rich’s ACTIVE Network account manager helped him develop an ongoing, four-pronged strategy to be rolled out in phases, as the event team is ready.
By the time of the 39th anniversary in September 2016, the strategy had already exceeded expectations:
The new marketing strategy included timely and coordinated messaging such as a Dog Days of Summer 48-hour email blitz that brought in hundreds of registrations. They ramped up social media with an event Facebook page and consistent messaging across all platforms.
Until 2016, an unusually tight corner at the start line required a Wednesday registration cutoff so that the timing company could have a few days to construct staggered start times in 15 waves. Only locals who could register onsite by Friday could get in past the Wednesday deadline. No registrations were possible on Saturday.
The team overcame this issue by leveraging ACTIVE’s On-Site app for late registrations and integrating that data with the timer’s software, allowing for dynamic bib allocation and automatic wave placement of anyone registering after Wednesday. Result: 200 additional registrations, plus 60-70 more on race day, without the need for manual processing of those late entries. And a $50k revenue increase from 2015 to 2016.
Additionally, for the first time ever, Rich tested a limited early opening of 2017 registration on race day through Sunday night of race weekend with no discount (along with an email that released at the start of the race). By close of that registration period, he had received 215 full-priced registrations.
A tiered pricing strategy that gave participants more opportunities to register at different price points was implemented throughout the registration period. With the timing issue solved, race week discounts provoked last-minute registrations.
Rich’s ACTIVE account manager was also able to show that the event was underpriced. They raised the price to be more competitive and still increased registrations and revenue!
Finally, to allow runners who like to plan their race calendar for the entire year to register for events in January, and to market race-branded gear as Christmas presents, Rich made plans to reopen 2017 registration during the holidays for the first time.
Race gear has typically been sold the evening before the race when most registrants picked up their bibs and goodie bags. However, they often didn’t have cash on hand. Three years ago, Rich began posting race apparel online and integrating it with registration. With credit card already in hand, it was an easy sell to add gear. They netted thousands more dollars in online sales without decreasing Friday sales.
The new merchandising strategy has involved reducing quantity of types of items offered and adding photos, which helps sell unusual colors.
ACTIVE’s new On-Site App was used for dynamic bib assignments, making race number allocation and data simpler and already tied into the database.
Now that Rich and his team understand the importance of social media, they have plans to increase the event’s social media presence through:
ACTIVE has a lot to offer and it’s difficult for a race director to take advantage of all of it at once. Rich will continue to work with his account manager to leverage improvement through technology, including:
Rich believes that "if you have a tool that works, but you are not familiar with the technology, you’ve got to run with it. We know what we have to do up front and we let ACTIVE perform their magic behind the scenes. We are very confident that the system that ACTIVE has constructed for us will generate the results that we are expecting.”
With a strategic plan in place, the Great Cow Harbor 10K is set to out do its 2016 results at the 40th anniversary in September 2017.