This year, 2020, has been a roller coaster for race and event organizers. Between heavy storms and the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many races this year have either been cancelled, switched to a virtual event or have been postponed to later in the year (or rolled over to next year). This has made for an unpredictable spring race season for athletes around the world, and if the trend continues through the summer, we’re likely heading into a fall season packed with rescheduled events.
More events in a shorter time frame means more competition between race organizers to attract athletes, so how can you make your race stand out this fall?
Here we’ll provide tips for differentiating your race and marketing on a limited budget, such as offering a discount for signing up for this year and next year together, utilizing social networks, and working with local influencers or athletes to generate additional buzz.
Let’s start with one of the most important (and cheapest) ways to stand out this fall: social media. Begin now, while you have time, and either create a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for your event(s), or refresh the pages you’ve already started. Cultivating an engaged social media following is a slow process, and it’s critical to be consistent. Create a social media calendar of sorts with an outline of daily posts to engage with past athletes and attract new customers. Mix it up—post examples include updates on your event, inspirational quotes/memes, training tips, sponsor info, etc. Use free tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite to schedule out a week’s social media posts in one sitting, instead of making the time to log in to post on a daily basis.
You’d be surprised(or not surprised) how much strong photos and videos on your website, social media accounts and e-blasts can make a difference in terms of standing out amid your competitors. This is the last thought of many organizers, who with a limited budget and a limited amount of bandwidth focus solely on race logistics. No matter how well run your race is, if it doesn’t look appealing, you’re not going to get the registrations you’re expecting. Hire a photographer and videographer to shoot some high-res photos and videos to promote your event—and especially have these people at your race to gather assets for next year’s marketing. Need some inspiration? Color runs and other “themed” races do this exceptionally well.
Don’t fear the dreaded “d” word—with the right approach, giving discounts can create more profits over time. Especially this year, consider presenting your athletes the opportunity to save on their registration fees by signing up for this year and next year together. This will give your event a bit more runway as you pivot your strategy and start planning for next year. You can also offer group discounts (or family discounts), discounts for local running clubs, discounted VIP experiences, etc.
Expand Your Reach
There’s only so much you can do to market to your social media followers or email subscribers on a one-to-one level, so to stand out this fall, start maximizing your reach now. Reach out to your athletes and incentivize them to share your social media posts (giveaways or discount codes always help with this) with their personal (or their running club’s) social media networks. This will give you access to your follower’s followers, who likely share the same interests and align themselves with your targeted lifestyle. Also, utilizing local influencers and local professional athletes are other great ways to get your event noticed. Give them a free entry if they share their personalized promo code with their network, and for added value for both parties, present to option to bring their sponsors on to sponsor your event.
There’s a reason why everyone loves getting a finisher’s medal—it’s shiny, is a physical representation of their accomplishment, and, it’s free. Swag bags have become a staple for most races, but to make your race stand out this fall, consider going a bit further. Work with your sponsors to see what “premium” products they’d be will to supply (besides a flyer or a mini-sized energy bar or drink), and look into creating more useful products like backpacks or high-quality event tees that athletes will actually use after the event is over.
Make it Fun
Some would argue simply being on the course and completing the event is the “fun” part of the race, but it’s important to make the experience more engaging in order to stand out from other events. This might include live music along the course (high school bands or local clubs are a great “free” way to do this), themed sections of the course for spectators and families to partake in (70s themed or superhero themed) or timed challenges out on the course. This could even include simply mixing up the nutrition on course with cookies and candy—remember, it’s the little, thoughtful things that make a big difference.