The endurance sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. As shown in the figure below, race registrations have risen for the third year in a row. Thus, more people than ever sign up for races and are willing to pay for participating. While this sounds positive for race organizers on first sight, it could also pose a risk in the future. Along with the increasing figures of participants, the number of races that are offered rises too. Thereby, the competition gets more intense and races need to distinguish from one another in order to achieve high registration numbers. While it was sufficient to offer a race at all in the past, since there was no comparable event nearby, the efforts of race organizers need to be intensified nowadays. Even though this might be a challenge for some organizers, it can offer a lot of opportunities if it is conducted in the right way. The first important step on the road to success is how to reach out to former, current and potential participants.
Following the developments mentioned above, attracting participants to your race has more and more shifted from a passive approach to an active one. It is not sufficient anymore to simply plan and announce the race, but a clear marketing strategy needs to be outlined and followed. Therefore, an organizer needs to have in mind who he would like to address, when he intends to do so and how he is planning to achieve it.
It is important to clearly define who your runners are or shall be. Trying a shot in the dark by reaching out to an undefined group will most likely not bring the results you wish for. While e.g. a women's run will not advertise its event to male customers, an ultra-marathon will probably not shoot for inexperienced runners, seniors or even children. In general, following the statistic below, the average runner is around 30 years old, while only small fractions belong to teens or seniors. Having an image of your potential runners in your mind will help you in addressing the right people. Make a list of all criteria that you connect to your target group and use these to find out where to look for them. Now, that you know who your runners are you need to know how to find and address them.
Depending on who you chose as your target group, there are several ways to reach out to them. The easiest and most efficient way is direct contact. I.e. if you have the addresses of your runners from former events or subscriptions, you can directly send an invitation to them to inform them about the upcoming race. Unfortunately, this is not the case most of the time. Another option, to directly reach them is by using social media channels and platforms. By sharing a link in corresponding groups or events can draw the attention of the right people and can help in spreading the word about your event. Sticking to that point, you may never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. It is likely, that satisfied participants will actively tell their friends and fellow runners about the event or publish their joy on social media. Either way, your event will gather attention and benefit from rising registrations.
Timing the moment of contacting your audience is essential. If you approach them too early, they will not see the relevance and might forget it quickly afterwards. If you approach them too late, they might already have made plans or registered for a similar race. According to a survey conducted by the experts of Eventbrite, 76% of participants register between 1 and 3 months before the event takes place. Only a small fraction of 4% spontaneously decides to join 1 week ahead. On the contrary, 20% plan 6 months or more ahead. This underlines the importance of neither advertising too early nor too late. Given these insights, a timing of approximately 4 months before the race starts is perfect in order to reach the majority of participants in their decision time.
Caused by the increasing competition, it is more important than ever to offer your runners a unique race experience that they will not forget and therefore recommend to others. To do so, it is essential to understand what your participants expect from your race. In a survey, Eventbrite analyzed the factors that are considered 'very important' for endurance participants when choosing a race. While the first factor 'Event proximity' can hardly be influenced, the others can be adjusted to. 'Cost of event' does not just include the price itself but rather what is offered for the fee. Is it just participating in the race or will there be additional benefits involved? Having an 'interesting course or location' is the most efficient way to stand out of the crowd and should be considered. As mentioned above, word-of-mouth and reputation are two important factors to attract additional participants. For you as an organizer that means, that a good image of the race will probably not just attract one runner but his friends as well. In the following, it will be explained, how you can shift your race towards the wishes of your runners in order to cover the factors mentioned below.
As stated above, standing out of the crowd is becoming more and more important in order to distinguish yourself from the competition and be attractive for runners. Since 54% of runners mentioned an interesting course or location as very important for their participation you should consider adapting your course or try something extraordinary.
Ever thought of a start time in the afternoon or evening? Finish at perfect sunset? Or try to have women and men compete against each other at different times or on different days. Thus, women and men get the same time in the spotlight. An outstanding location like an old industrial site or a course along the beach can further drive registrations and improve the reputation of your course. Nothing is carved in stone about an event, so don't be afraid to ignore the standards and try a new tactic to differentiate yourself.
To be able to offer your runners what they expect from you it is indispensable to listen to their wishes. According to the Eventbrite survey, 86% of participants want to stick around the finish line after finishing the race. Additionally, 46% said they are more likely to register if a complementary meal or beverage is served at the race. Cover both parties, by offering a post-race party after the finish line with free drinks and food! In general, you need a tool to receive feedback from your runners and exchange with them. Thus, you should consider using an event app or try interactive digital race bags, where you can directly ask your runners for their opinion in appealing surveys and quizzes.