Email Marketing Best Practices from McGuire’s St Patrick’s Day Prediction 5K

McGuire’s St. Patrick’s Day Prediction 5K Run is the largest 5K Prediction Run in America. Held on the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, the event is more than just a race – it’s a full-fledged party with live entertainment, Irish Fare, Irish Wakes, and beer. This year, they let us follow along on their email marketing campaign – and let us share the results – to help the event industry better understand the impact of email marketing.


The Setup: 

The email strategy for the McGuire’s Prediction 5K was simple: remind people that the event is open for registration, and focus on the fun of the event. They sent email blasts to their previous and current registrants at the following interval:

General Marketing Emails:

  • 2 Months Out: Registration is Open!
  • 6 Weeks Out: Don’t Miss the Party!
  • 1 Month Out: New Shirt Design!
  • 2 Weeks Out: Party Starts Soon!
  • 1 Week Out: Party This Week!*

*The email one-week out only went to previous registrants who had not registered. While there can also be value to emailing current participants to encourage them to recruit friends, there can also be a customer service increase from participants who are confused and unsure if the email means they aren’t registered. Decide which priority is more important for your event!

Automated Incomplete Registration Emails:

  • 1 Day after Cart Abandonment
  • 3 Days before the Race

These emails are automatically triggered to go out to anyone who began, but did not complete, the registration process. Their strategy included one send the day after the cart abandonment along with a final reminder shortly before the race. 

Takeaway 1: Email Still Works

It’s easy to feel like email is passé or no longer important in today’s fast-paced marketing environment, but McGuire’s Prediction 5K proved that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the end, the 2 months of email marketing contributed 23% of the event’s overall registrations.

Most encouraging, a majority of people wanted the emails from the Prediction 5K. Key stats included:

  • 61% Unique Open Rate (meaning 61% of recipients opened the email at least once)
  • 7% of recipients clicked from the email
  • 1% of recipients unsubscribed from emails

In comparison, Constant Contact finds that the average email stats for the Recreation, Sports, and Entertainment industry are a 33.4% open rate and 1.3% click rate. 

To evaluate the success of their email strategy (and plan future adjustments), McGuire’s Prediction 5K was able to use two reporting tools within their race dashboard.

1. Email Statistics: Within both legacy Email Marketing and Email V2, you can access general email statistics (Email Reports >> Email Statistics). These show you the open rates, click rates, unsubscribes, and more to help you determine the health of your email strategy. However, Email Statistics look at the aggregate of all emails, so you can only make educated guesses about the specific email based on the send date.

2. RaceInsights can be found right on your race dashboard. First, edit the range at the top of your chart.

Then, under Source at the bottom of the chart, click into Emails:

All emails that were sent from the RunSignup email platform are automatically tracked, allowing you to dive into the pageviews, signups, and transactions that came from each email.

Takeaway 2: There’s a Long-Tail to Email

It’s tempting to judge the value of an email by the registrations that come in within a day or two of sending, but the truth is that the impact of a single email can be seen weeks after the initial send. 

While the first email sent did have a big, immediate impact, 36% of all the registrations attributed to that email came more than a week after it was sent – and it was still churning out registrations 7 weeks after the initial send. While subsequent emails had less and less time to mature, the trend remained the same: emails continue to be effective for weeks after their initial send.

Takeaway 3: Automate Emails to Capture More Registrations.

Automating an email to potential participants who begin, but do not complete, your registration process can ensure you don’t leave any money on the table. However, you do want to proceed with caution and limit the number of emails you send so your potential participants don’t feel harassed and disengage entirely. The strategy for the McGuire’s Prediction 5K was a smart one: one automated reminder the day after they abandoned their cart, and a second reminder 3 days before the event.

Additionally, McGuire’s Prediction 5K set up simple registration follow-up emails that went out to registrants 2 and 10 days after they signed up. While the primary purpose of these emails was to ensure that registrants had all the race details they needed, they served a secondary purpose in marketing by reminding registrants to share their participation and invite friends and family to register.

The results: automated incomplete registration emails and registration follow-up emails contributed 1.6% of all registrations – not a complete game-changer, but one of the easiest ways to boost your registrations on the margins.

Takeaway 4: Use Creative Subject Lines

Your participants get a lot of emails, and you need a subject line to catch their attention. A few best practices for your email subject:

  • Remember what makes your event special, and highlight that in your email! For the Prediction 5K, the party is what sets it apart from other 5K’s, so the majority of the emails focus on that aspect. There’s one exception: one email zooms in on the quality of their t-shirt because everyone loves swag!
  • Be clear. It’s tempting to come up with a cute, mystery email…but mystery emails can feel like spam. Even when the subject focused on the party (or the shirt), each subject line also included the race it was talking about.
  • Be concise. Keep your subject lines to 9 words so they are visible in an inbox, and limit extraneous punctuation marks.

Takeaway 5: Save Time (and Stress) with Scheduling

Get your email campaign setup in a single day to get rid of those pesky calendar reminders and added anxiety.

First, create a schedule for your emails. A few tips for your email schedule:

  • Don’t overwhelm your audience – the McGuire’s Prediction 5K found a good response rate by sticking to a schedule of one email every other week, with a bonus email in the final week.
  • Plan your emails around actionable items like registration opening, price increases or exciting announcements like the reveal of a new shirt design. Since the McGuire’s Prediction 5K did not have any price increases, they focused their promotions around registration opening and their swag announcement.
  • Use images of your key selling points, whether that’s premium swag, a cool medal, or a finish line party.

Whether you’re using legacy email marketing or the new Email V2, you have the option to send your email immediately or to schedule it for a future date. Set it and forget it!

Final Notes

There are a few lessons from the success of email marketing for the McGuire’s Prediction 5K, but it’s important to remember a basic one: email marketing doesn’t need to be complicated or constant. Focus on what makes your event special, send emails on a regular but not overwhelming basis, and track your results with email statistics and RaceInsights to learn what works best for your event.

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