This is the second blog in our four-part series on how to plan a race around the Thanksgiving holiday. Read on or catch up on what you missed in Part 1. You can download the full guide to plan a turkey trot here.
SPONSORS: HOW TO FIND THEM AND KEEP THEM
A terrific sponsor roster can make a huge difference for your event, not only in terms of the budget, but also by adding credibility, creating strong ties within the local community and providing unique swag, awards and services to your participants.
First, though, you’ll need to find these sponsors, which requires a certain amount of marketing and sales savvy. If “business development” is not your natural forte, fear not — the following tips will help you attract, secure, manage and retain sponsors year after year for your turkey trot.
Determine the Give…
Ideally, sponsors will provide a significant chunk of the cash, products and services that are essential to your race. Before you ask anyone for anything, however, determine your base needs. Cash is always a top priority, but other critical items like water for aid stations and post-race food and beverages are equally important and often easier to obtain than straight financial support.
Next, make a wish list of the non-critical items you’d like to obtain, such as unique swag and award items, post-race massage services, a venue for pre-race packet pickup, etc. Then use this list to identify brands, businesses and individuals that are a potential match to provide each wish list item.
Sponsorship is a two-way street, so identify what you can offer your partners in return. Complimentary expo space, logo placements, inclusion in newsletters and press releases, and product sample insertions in race bags are traditional ways to deliver value to your potential sponsors.
Unique opportunities, such as sponsoring free race day images, offer an additional level of exposure that can be quite appealing. Social media is an integral part of any business these days, so be sure to include social media mentions and engagement in the value package you present to your sponsors (read our Race Director’s Guide to Social Media for details on how to maximize the social media impact of your event).
Create a deck.
You’ll want a brief and professional proposal that succinctly outlines various sponsorship levels (gold, silver and bronze, for example). Clearly state the expectations and deliverables at each level, including any naming rights, such as presenting sponsor (i.e. The Tuscaloosa Turkey Trot, Presented by Terrific Terry’s Turkey Farm). Your basic sponsorship level should ask only for in-kind donations (awards, food, etc.) and not cash, as you’ll find that many smaller businesses are eager to be involved through their products or services.
As a new event, be sure to highlight the demographics of the race participants you aim to attract and any charitable tie-in, which is likely to sway a decision. Whether you are targeting your neighborhood bakery or a national healthcare provider, be equally professional in your presentation in order to earn the respect — and the marketing dollars — of your soon-to-be partners.
Reach out to the right people, right away.
Marketing budgets are usually allocated in the fall for the following year, so get started early in your sponsor outreach. Businesses are inundated with sponsorship requests and budgets only stretch so far, so do your research and target potential sponsors that are truly a good fit for your event.
Remember that a partner doesn’t need to be solely in the sports arena to be a match for your event. For example, you could ask a winery to donate a quality bottle of red to each age group winner for their Thanksgiving table, and to sample their wines to the healthy lifestyle crowd attending your expo (think antioxidants, people!).
If you’ve partnered with a charity, look for companies that support similar causes (you’ll find a wealth of information on charitable giving on most corporate websites). If you happen to know that the CEO of a local corporation is an avid runner (or if you learn this by reading his or her online bio or LinkedIn profile), try to pitch that person directly, or at least mention their running passion when pitching the company’s marketing director.
Seal an enduring deal with direct involvement.
Provide your sponsors with various opportunities to be directly involved in the race above and beyond the cash and products they contribute. Some ideas include:
- Invite them to race (and include complimentary entries in your sponsorship packages).
- For large companies, create a corporate challenge to encourage employee participation and increase the buzz around their involvement.
- Invite sponsors to fire the race start gun, hold the finisher’s tape, hand out awards, host an aid station or serve as lead cyclist.
Getting these folks directly involved creates a meaningful bond with your event and an experience that they are likely to share enthusiastically within their own social and business circles — and that is sure to endure well into the future of your race.
Designate a sponsorship manager.
Your sponsors are special — after all, they supply the majority of money, goods and services that make your race possible — so you’ll want to have a designated person to manage all aspects of your partner relationships. Besides making sure you meet your contractual obligations to them, this person also will deliver VIP treatment, which could be anything from providing a warm and personal welcome to the event, to creating small but meaningful thank-you gifts, or providing them with a VIP (and line-free) pre-race port-a-potty.
Roll out the red carpet for your sponsors and you’ll increase their enjoyment of your event, as well as the likelihood that they’ll be back for future races.
Armed with these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to finding — and retaining — a roster of valuable sponsors to help make your turkey trot a success! And for a more in-depth how-to on working with sponsors, check out our free Race Director’s Guide to Working with Sponsors.
REGISTRATION AND TIMING: KEEPING TRACK, LITERALLY
A state-of-the-art registration and timing system is critical to your event’s success. If you fall short in these areas you — and the running public — will never hear the end of it. Plus, streamlined systems do exactly that — streamline and simplify your life as a race director, thus diffusing enormous amounts of stress. Bottom line, this is not an area to cut corners.
Instead, invest wisely in a system that best suits your needs. If you’re new to race production, ask other race directors the pros and cons of systems they’ve used and call around to various providers to compare costs.
Once you’ve chosen a system, set your registration strategy and you’ll be good to go! What’s a registration strategy, you ask? Read on to find out.
DEVISE A STRATEGY FOR EARLY DOLLARS
Race-day registration is a nice perk if an event is not yet filled to capacity. But those last minute entries should be the exception, not the rule, if you hope to have a financially viable race.
Early registration provides two huge positives: you get money in the bank to pay your staff and suppliers (plus an early sense of participant numbers), and your participants get a great deal.
The way to ensure both of these things happen is to offer price breaks. Simply set your pricing structure so that the earlier a person registers, the less they pay. You can do this easily with most online registration tools. Be sure to communicate (via newsletters, email and social media) when a price increase is on the horizon, thus giving your followers a considerate heads-up and, most likely, giving your registration numbers a positive bump.
Although your aim is to get as many people registered in advance as possible, it is nice to offer race-day registration (assuming your event has not sold out). Even better is the scenario where registration does not close at all until the actual race start (in contrast to this option, many timing systems require closing online registration for one to two days prior to the race to allow time to prep race numbers and packets).
ChronoTrack is one of the few timing systems that synchronizes race registration with race timing systems, so electronic registration can be available at the race site and can remain open until the start of the race. Thus there is zero downtime with registration, which is a significant benefit especially in the case of a turkey trot (or other holiday event) where race-week and race-day registrations are common. With ChronoTrack, there is no need to prep or label any numbers or packets, and numbers are assigned dynamically on site, minimizing the race-week work for the race director or timer.
Race timing is a hot topic — trust us, everyone’s talking about it! And it’s not only our industry colleagues. Event participants — whether elite athletes, weekend warriors or simply brothers trying to earn family bragging rights — truly appreciate accurate timing and easy access to results.
There are various versions of timing (we won’t even touch on the stopwatch and steno pad method):
- Tag timing: A fairly outdated system where race numbers are collected manually as athletes line up at the finish; no chip is worn and far less equipment is needed.
- Chip timing: Disposable chips (that do not need to be retrieved from participants at the end of the event) or reusable chips are attached to shoelaces, ankle straps or race bibs; the accepted norm these days.
- Active tags (such as ChronoTrack’s newly launched active tag system): timing type that’s best served for the unique challenges posed by obstacle races — or perhaps a turkey trot that features a mud pit!
Again, a top-notch timing system requires a significant investment, but the cost is absolutely offset by the time, energy and hair-pulling stress you will save, plus the satisfaction of your customers (i.e., your race participants). If you’re unsure of which timing and registration features are best for your event, feel free to contact us for advice. We’re also happy to recommend timers we trust.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CAPTURING AND SHARING THE MOMENTS
Participants look for two things after any race: their results and their photos. Since a turkey trot is generally a family affair and tied into a holiday celebration, photos that record this shared experience tend to be more important to participants than race times. Therefore, providing quality — and potentially free — race images to your participants is one sure way to make your event stand out.
Before choosing your race photography company, there are two event photography models you’ll want to consider.
1) Traditional Event Photography
The traditional event photography model works like this: the photography vendor purchases exclusive rights to photograph the event and sell the images back to the runners. Then, for a transfer of these rights, the photography vendor supplies a gross revenue share, net profit share or a per-finisher guarantee back to the event producer 90-120 days after the event.
In this model, your participants are usually subject to a barrage of emails encouraging them to buy photos. Generally, despite this aggressive marketing, only 3-5% of runners end up making a purchase (think about it — when was the last time you actually purchased a race photo?).
2) Free Digital Event Photography
A more recent trend is races providing participants with free digital images after the event. Large event owners like Life Time Fitness, Spartan Race and the San Francisco Marathon now offer free digital downloads at the majority of their owned events, and this trend continues to gain momentum among race producers because it guarantees a positive response from race participants. In this model, the photography vendor charges a set fee for their services, typically based upon a per-finisher head count.
Ideally, this cost will be recouped by bringing on an event media sponsor. The sponsor’s logo may be watermarked unobtrusively in one corner of the event images, plus the sponsor will receive significant exposure when you announce that all race images are available free of charge, courtesy of Patty’s Pumpkin Pie Shoppe (or whomever ends up being your media sponsor). If you are unable to secure a media sponsor, an increase in registration price can be calculated to offset the photography fee.
In the free photography model, 80-85% of runners take advantage of the complimentary images and generally share them widely across social media channels, providing broad exposure for your media sponsor and your event, and most importantly, delivering a heightened value and experience to your participants.
Choosing a Race Photography Company
Companies like Backprint, ChronoTrack and GameFace have created platforms that allow for instant hi-res, downloadable, socially shareable digital images accompanied by a sponsor’s logo. Each of these providers contracts with quality photographers, so rest assured that you’ll receive excellent images.
But even if you’re planning a small neighborhood turkey trot and simply want to share a Facebook album of photos after the event, invest in a professional photographer with race-specific experience. They’ll know precisely what to capture — from the hard-charging champion to the enthusiastic and often emotional back-of-the-pack run/walkers — to ensure lasting and shareable memories from your event.
Remember the Media
Quality images — and ease of access to them — can make the difference in whether your event receives press coverage; after all, who wants to read a news story without pictures? To package your story for easy distribution, create a gallery of six to twelve of the best hi-res images of your event on Dropbox. Then include a link to the gallery and a note to editors stating that the images are available free of charge for editorial use when sending out your post-race press release.
Follow these suggestions and you’ll be sure to see your quality race day images shared widely across social media by your happy participants!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this piece of our larger guide on how to plan a turkey trot that you can download here.
Contact us to learn more about the features above, or for help with any aspect of your Turkey Trot planning. Gobble, gobble!