How to Make Race Swag that Won’t Go to Goodwill

Get creative with our race swag bag and award ideas.

Can we all agree on something? The unisex, 100 percent cotton, stiff-as-cardboard race t-shirt is over. We’re talking so 1990. With the advent of more and more endurance events—and participants who are more savvy, discerning, and demanding than ever—the basic race tee is a bygone artifact. But race swag is important. In fact, it serves two main, meaningful purposes: to reward your athletes, giving them a cherished memento of their accomplishment, and to provide valuable exposure for your event.

So how do you go about making race gear that strikes the right balance of cool, clever, valuable, practical, appealing, and affordable—gear that won’t go straight to the Goodwill bin? The right race swag will be brag-worthy—something your participants will covet and even come to your event specifically to earn. Follow these tips for killer race swag bag and award ideas that your athletes will love, use, and post about.

APPAREL

Branded apparel is still the most popular type of race swag. If you choose to offer apparel, be sure it’s on-trend and appropriate for your athlete demographic. People always enjoy technical tops that allow them to train in cool comfort while celebrating their race. If you prefer a fashion tee, go with a super-soft cotton style—one that looks and feels good. Think beyond the basic tee and consider tank tops, thermal long sleeves, or hoodies. And by all means, offer gender-specific cuts and sizing. Trust us—most women do not enjoy wearing clothing tailored for men, and truly appreciate when race organizations offer women’s-specific apparel.

Trucker hats are a great apparel problem-solver and current style trend. Hats are generally one size fits all, which eliminates the need for athletes to pre-order (or for you to make an educated guess on size runs). Plus hats—unlike shirts—are commonly worn for multiple days in a row without the need for washing, making them more valuable from a marketing perspective. Nowadays, you can even purchase technical trucker hats that are designed to be worn while running—putting your race gear front and center in athlete finisher photos.

ACCESSORIES

Some races—like the Leadville 100 MTB and 100 Trail Run—are well known for their various customized belt buckles, which are earned based on finish times. But any race can offer exclusive jewelry and accessories to male and female participants alike. Think belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces, and cufflinks.

UTILITY ITEMS

Practical items are anything but utilitarian when branded with stylish graphics and finisher insignia from your race. Tote bags, backpacks, or even soft coolers make enviable and useful finisher gear. Beach towels are an especially cool swag item for a coastal destination race. Imagine seeing the local beach covered with your race logo during day-after race recovery!

FOOD & DRINK

Work with a winery or craft brewery to create bottles or cans labeled with your event logo. Local maple syrup is another welcome treat. Or create branded gift baskets filled with chocolates, fresh organic fruit, gourmet popcorn, or any other goodies that your participants will enjoy and that gets local food and beverage sponsors involved in your race.

Check out these examples for even more unique race swag bag and award ideas. And remember:

  • Quality is key. Do stick within your budget, but don’t skimp and give away gear that’s cheap or bound to fall apart. Recruit a sponsor for your swag and awards in order to help offset costs and keep quality high.
  • It’s perfectly appropriate to set a cutoff date for registrations that include guaranteed apparel. People will understand that you need a certain amount of lead time to order items in the right sizes and quantities. Then, add a handful of extras to accommodate late registrations—but don’t stress if you run out.
  • Be creative. Think about what you would like to receive at an event, and what you would actually use or wear, rather than tuck away in a drawer.
  • Offer something for everyone. If you hope to draw men, women and children to your event, but can’t land on a single swag item that’s suitable for everyone, don’t be afraid to mix it up!

Need more ideas on how to make your event stand out in the race planning process? Click here to contact us. We’d love to help!