Did you know your race is a product?
Well, it is!
Your race is a time sensitive, exclusive product that can only be experienced the one time it is offered.
If you miss it, you miss the experience of the product until next year.
Maybe there will be another race, but there will never be another race like the one you missed.
This is the product created by race promotion.
However, when it comes to selling this product, we sell it like we’re trying to give people the secret passcode to our speakeasy hidden behind the auto parts store.
If people figure out the code, they get to come to your special club.
Most never hear about it and never get the opportunity to visit you.
This is why you should sell it like a product.
Many new products are obscure.
How do you break out of obscurity?
Announce yourself, of course!
So one way to announce yourself, especially when no one knows who you are, is to take your product to your customers.
You need to introduce them to your product by going to where they can’t help but see it.
This requires you to do a scary thing: leave your office, leave your favorite trail, and take your product on the road.
This is what retailers and vendors commonly referred to as the roadshow.
In the search for buyers, product sellers travel from tradeshow to tradeshow, or even the occasional convention, to meet with potential customers.
The same can be done with your race or race series.
When applied to race promotion, the roadshow concept is all about taking your race promotion directly to your customers at other races.
This means camping out at other events at any product vendor or sponsor would do.
If bike manufacturers, shoe stores, and food vendors can do it, why not you?
However, you don’t want to do this with hat-in-hand and come off as a beggar.
You need to approach this has any equal partner or sponsor would and build a relationship based on mutual interests.
How does it work?
First, pick several big races within about a 100-mile radius from your event.
Consider events that are similar to your event, but might not be in direct competition (adventure races, orienteering, trail runs, etc.)
The idea is to hit enough big races to give your pre-registration a good enough boost.
With that list in hand, start to see which races will let you do one or all of the following:
#1 – Become a sponsor
Ask if you can participate in their event as a sponsor.
Most big races have some sort of sponsorship agreement that may require you to pay a small fee or donation to set up a tent next to their registration.
When you think about the cost, consider how much it will cost you to advertise on Facebook, in magazines, or other websites.
If the cost of being a sponsor cost your company $200 for space, and you get 10 racers to register for your race at $20 per racer, you just made your money back.
But what if you get 50 racers to register for your race at $40 per racer?
This is how being a sponsor of someone else’s race can prove to be worth the effort.
Maybe even go as far as providing free race registration as a category prize.
Big races like to add those to their podium prizes and giveaways, and it gives you a chance to promote your race during the awards ceremony when everyone is a captive audience.
You can also offer to promote their big race on your social media accounts, website, and in marketing materials.
But only do this if they will promote your event to their email list as well.
#2 – Be a new source for volunteers
If paying for space is not in your budget (or they’re fees are really high), you can try to convince them to let you in by offering to volunteer for the event.
This could include offering to bring a whole team of volunteers to sweeten the deal.
You’re not volunteering to for the sack of volunteering.
You’re volunteering in exchange for space to promote your race to their customers during the event.
When you get this opportunity, you need to be the friendliest volunteer in the world.
If this includes a team of volunteers, then select people who are happy, energetic, and very forward.
Just like during a trade show or conference, have good looking people in your tent can’t hurt either.
But the key thing these volunteers need to do is represent your company in the best possible way.
They should be wearing your brand name on their shirts, they should have plenty of marketing materials, have free swag, and all the race details memorized.
You absolutely need to do as much as you can for the host race so that you leave a great impression.
Just don’t forget that the reason you are helping their race out is so you can market your race too.
#3 – Be a racer among racers
Sometimes, being on the inside is better than standing on the sidelines.
When you’re in the mix with other racers, you get a chance to hear and see things you would not normally be privy to as a spectator.
Many large events have Beginner or Masters categories for those not competing for top placements.
Think about using your race entry as a means to place your own tent up in the racer area.
For a small fee, you can get the chance to show off your business with a branded pop-up tent, a branded racing jersey or post/pre-race t-shirt.
An added advantage to this strategy is all the access you will have to your actual customers who you can have no doubt are into racing and willing to spend money to do it.
You don’t need to be pushy, nor do you need to be handing out flyers.
What you do need to be doing is passive pitching!
Yes! Finding a subtle way to work your next race in normal racer-to-racer conversation.
This is good old fashion word-of-mouth advertising.
But it comes from someone they already see as one of their own, you get the extra advantage that resembles the same trust having a friend like or share something to you on social media.
It goes something like this:
You: “What races are you planning on doing this year?”
Racer: “Oh, I haven’t really decided what I’m going to race this year.”
You: “Well, we put on your kind of race at Laurel Hill Park in Lorton, Virginia — it’s called the Wolf Bouncer All-Mountain — If you get a chance, you should come and check it out!”
Racer: “That’s sound interesting! When is it?”
Really simple marketing but without all the pushiness.
Let them tell you that they are seeking other races, and then connect them with a great race you just so happen to know about.
It just so happens to be your race!
You could even offer discounts via business cards where you put your contact information on the front, and then a promo code on the back.
It makes the promo code personal AND an exclusive promotion that gives the appearance that you only give this to a select number of people.
It could be true.
It could also what you give to everyone.
However you decide to use it, the strategy is designed to leave the person with the impression of exclusivity.
That you chose them and ONLY them to receive this special offer.
This is a very personal way of promoting your race, one racer at a time, one race at a time.
It is also how you stay clear of angering the ongoing race promoter.
It’s not mass advertising, and it’s not papering the parking lot with flyers that nobody reads.
You paid your registration fee, and you are allowed to talk to other racers before, during, and after the event.
Nobody can stop you from doing word-of-mouth advertising, especially when it is one-on-one race promotion.
So use this to your advantage when you are on the road as a racer at other races.
Make your roadshow part of your promotion schedule
Plan on attending each event well in advance of your own event in order to generate enough time for racers to add it to their race schedule
This, in turn, will help generate buzz, support your break-even registration target, and get fence-sitters to commit.
Plus, if you build good relationships with these other promoters, you could create a long-standing marketing channel that could benefit your race for some time.
But if you have to go guerilla, and market to racers one-on-one, make sure you don’t overstep.
Remember, convincing one racer to give your race a yes, is better than 100 maybes.
And now you know.