Marketing at Races: When Is It Too Much?
A couple of years ago, I was at a race that will go unnamed but it was ruined for me because of the large amount of product marketing that was everywhere. Don’t be fooled, it isn’t the Paris Half Marathon of 2011 in the photo above (which was my first half marathon ever and I decided to run it the night before), I just literally have never taken a race photo with marketing since. Want a trip down memory lane? You can read the recap here. I understand and respect that races need funding in order to provide a quality experience for runners, but I think there is a limit where a line is crossed and it becomes more of a spectacle than a race.
Don’t get me wrong, fun swag is awesome. Some of my favourite pieces that I have gotten from races in the past have been pint glasses, colorful can coolers or socks branded with the race name. These have all come from small scale trail races or adventure races and add to the unique feel of the event. However, when I am being asked to fill out contest forms that I know is a weak front for email acquisition or have a hard sell in my face, it does tarnish the event a bit for me.
Because marketing is my day job, I appreciate a subtle sell. Have I purchased something that I was given for free in my race kits? Absolutely. I love that I was able to take it home, give it a try and decide later to purchase it. Call me difficult, but trying to persuade me to do something will often result in me doing the opposite of what you are suggesting so I am frustrated with marketing heavy races.
I speak as a runner, but I also have some close friends who are race directors and I recognize the struggle to offer a fun, uncluttered race and still make money. I think a few things I have seen that I love involve interaction that is chosen by the runners. What do I mean?
– Setting up shoe tents where runners are able to try on or even test run in a new pair of shoes.
– Giving out samples of a product instead of pushing a coupon in your hand.
– Have the podium prizes include items from your main sponsors and announce that when each recipient goes up to receive their winnings.
All of these are subtle, welcome and common ways for companies to interact and market to runners. I think the line is crossed when runners are approached and information requested. They have paid to come to an event that is supposed to be fun for them. They are spammed by advertising at every level throughout the day, so it is frustrating when it confronts them in one of their activities that is meant for fun.
What are your thoughts on marketing at races? How much is too much?