What the Data Says About Improving Race Participation

Unless you host something like the New York City Marathon, chances are you want more people at your event. And with race participation numbers getting back to pre COVID levels in 2023, there’s a lot of opportunity to attract new people to your events. However, it’s something that’s certainly easier said than done. 

In this article we cover five data-backed ways you can help improve your registration numbers and get more people out to your events. 

*Note: All data comes from our annual Race Trends Report. If you’re interested to learn even more insights, you can read it in its entirety here.  

Your website needs to be optimized 

There are a number of potential ways that someone could hear about your race, but one you may not be thinking about is through internet searches. Having an SEO optimized website makes it more likely someone looking for running events in your area through sites like Google will see your race. In fact, in 2023 27% of all website views for our event sites come directly from Google searches. 

If you use a RunSignup website a lot of the optimization is built-in. That said, including things like what day your event is, the start and end times, as well as distances offered, are all things you should add to your website. It makes it easier for people visiting, as well as helps with getting your site to show up in search results. 

Don’t overlook email

In some ways email may feel like a tool of yesteryear. However, the truth is it’s as relevant as ever. On average, 17% of all event transactions on RunSignup sites came from emails sent on our platform. For some events it was as high as 20%. And when you consider folks using other email options, the true number of sales from emails is probably even higher than what we recorded. 

There are a few ways to use emails to engage people. For example, if you use RunSignup you could create automated emails to tell people about things like price changes for an event – which if you’re not doing, you should. You could also send reminders for when registration is getting close to closing. Both can encourage action and help improve overall registrations for your event, 

Referral rewards have an impact 

Setting up referral programs is another great way to increase participation at an event. If you use RunSignup the way it works is people who’ve registered get a unique link to share with their network. Each time someone signs up for the event through that link, they get closer to some sort of reward – typically some sort of discount on their own ticket. 

Referral programs essentially work as word of mouth marketing. And there’s a great return on doing so. We found the cost per acquisition is around $1.30. That’s a much better rate than almost any other marketing channel you might use. And since referrals are an included feature on RunSignup, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to set it up. 

Teams bring people together (and boost participation)

Teams are another great way to encourage word of mouth marketing. When races offer teams, around 30% of people sign up for them. Similar to referrals, you can create incentives for if a team gets to a certain size. These can be in the form of a discount or some other special event day thing like a personalized tent for those teams. 

Along with helping spread the word, teams also have the possibility to increase someone’s overall enjoyment of the event. The fact of the matter is most things are better when you do them with people you like. And having those fond memories could mean they’re more likely to attend another event in the future. 

Market to people who already know you 

You may be surprised to learn that only around 16% of people return to an event the following year. To be candid, our data looks at people who registered for the same time, as well as the same event, but the numbers are still low even factoring that in. 

You should consider creating incentives for repeat registrants. It could be a discount or some other way to show they have status at the event like a special returners area, or get together. No matter what it is, be sure to give a little special treatment to those who’ve been part of your event previously. It makes them feel special and could help get them to sign up in later years. 

Looking forward

Getting more people out to an event will always have its challenges, but there are certainly things you can do to help move the needle in a positive direction. If you take the time to try new things, and stay open to the possibilities you’ll be well on your way to a successful event. 

If you’re not ready to read the full report but want some more learnings, check out our article on the top five takeaways from this year’s Race Trends Report

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