There’s a lot of things a race needs to be successful. The most important? Participants! That’s why every race management team needs a well thought-out marketing plan to promote their race. While we’ve previously covered more specific tactics like email and publicity tips, this article will cover the basics of traditional, digital, free and paid advertising options as well as how to track these to build a better race promotion plan next year.
So, where do you start?
Hone In on a Target
A target audience, that is. Who are you trying to bring to your race? Are they locals or will they come from afar? Are they marathon veterans or 5k first-timers? In determining your desired demographics, you’ll be able to better plan your marketing strategy.
You’ve Got Mail
Alright, so that slogan might be stuck in the 90s, but email marketing has come a long way. In addition to our short list of tips, you’ll want to use an email database system like Constant Contact or MailChimp. There’s hundreds out there, but regardless of which one you choose, there are three features you have to have: the ability to divide your database into lists such as “former participants” or “new registrants”, the ability to schedule emails in advance, and the ability to receive data on click-through rates, open rates, and bounce-back rates. While these services come at a price, the fees are well worth it to better understand the types of messages your audience responds to.
Post, Measure, Engage
Do we really need to tell you to be on Facebook at this point? Probably not, but there are still a few tips that may not have been hammered into your head yet. For example, you’ll want to take advantage of Facebook and Twitter insights to find out who your followers are, when they’re online, and what kinds of posts they like. For extra exposure, you can send sample messaging to your team members and sponsors to share on their own social media. And while social media is a fantastically free platform, there are also affordable paid options to consider: just $25 could get you 100 new Facebook likes in a week (and hopefully 100 new registrants)! You can check out our new Race Directors Guide to Social Media for more tips and tricks.
But do it right! There are many different options for digital ads: you can advertise in search engines with Google AdWords, in apps with pop-ups, or on websites with banners, sidebars, or full-page backgrounds. Different platforms offer different payment options, too: some you pay per click, others a flat rate. Take a look at your budget and determine what’s best for your race – don’t forget you’ll have to pay someone to design the ad, too! For websites and apps, request a media kit first to be sure their audience matches yours and only pay for ads you can track.
Put It on Paper
Though newspapers and magazines are on the decline, print advertising can still be a big boost for your business! Once again you’ll have to take your budget into account, but some publications will offer discounted rates for non-profits or post your event for free in their community calendar. Print your own flyers to post in pools, schools, rec centers, grocery stores – anywhere you can find a bulletin board! Since you can’t count clicks with a print ad, use Google Analytics to create trackable URLs. This will allow you to measure which ads in which locations attracted the most people.
Track Your Website
In one way or another, all of your ads will link back to your website. In addition to the data these ads offer, chances are your webhost offers an analytic service as well. Otherwise, use Google Analytics to keep track of how many people are visiting your website, when they’re visiting, and where they came from.
Plan for Next Year
Send out a feedback survey to participants after the race and ask them how they heard of the event. This, combined with the analytics received from emails, social media, and digital and print advertising, will give you a pretty clear picture of which tactics worked best. Keep a copy of your results and fine-tune your strategy for next year!