Any race director will tell you that race planning takes a lot of work – the budgeting, the port-a-potties, the security – but it’s all for naught if no one shows up! This makes race promotion one of the most important (and most stressful) parts of endurance event management.
One way to simplify your race promotion is to drive repeat registration among existing participants. This creates a self-operating machine: new participants become repeat participants, guaranteed race-goers spread the word and bring in new participants, and the cycle begins again.
Plus, repeat participation means you’re doing something right! It’ll take more than just a good race to get there, however. Here’s our advice!
Take Advantage of the Runner’s High
The best time to promote your race is when participants are still coming down from it! You want to catch them in that just-crossed-the-finish-line euphoria when they’re hungry for more. Set up a table and send volunteers to bring people over; if you can, register them on the spot! If you’re not there yet, create an “early bird” interest list. This will allow you to track participants (or spectators) with the most interest in coming back and develop more targeted race promotion tactics.
Keep in Touch
Communication doesn’t stop after race day! You want your event to stay “top of mind” when participants are planning their race calendar, which many do months or even years in advance. So don’t let them forget about all the good times you had together! Post regularly on social media (share race photos, training tips, and ask them to share their own), stay involved in community events if you have many local participants, and send emails when relevant – even a simple ‘save the date’ for registration opening can make a big impact.
Remember They’re Not Just Runners
There are many reasons one might skip signing up: their workload, finances, pregnancy or injury… but that doesn’t make them any less valuable to your race! You want repeat participation in all forms, whether they’re competing, volunteering, or cheering. The goal is just to get them to race day, so remind them of these opportunities! This allows you to maintain a relationship and have them experience the race from all perspectives, reminding them why they want to come back next year.
Experiment with Incentives
Special “repeat runner” perks demonstrate your appreciation and just might give them that extra push they need to register. Give first dibs on registration to previous participants and those on the “early bird” interest list; work with your sponsors to provide special travel or swag discounts; create special bibs; a “5-Time Finisher” parking spot, medal or T-shirt. There are many ways to do this; you just have to get creative and find what works for your budget!
Show Some Love
In relationships, there are times when a card is more heartfelt than a diamond necklace. So while perks are great, don’t let them do all the talking! Participants need to feel personally appreciated, especially if they’ve been coming back year after year. A thank you note, shout-out at the awards ceremony or even a simple conversation can go a long way! Check out our blogs on developing a personal relationship with participants and saying thank you for more tips.
While it takes more than a good race to drive repeat registration, it also takes more than a good race promotion strategy! So throughout this process, remember to improve both. Get your participants’ help with this: ask for feedback and listen.
The more you pay attention to your participants in this process, the better your race will be – and the better your race is, the easier it will be to convince them to return.
If you need more help with race promotion or management, give us a shout! We’re here to help.