5 Ways Small Races Can Grow Registration

Smaller races had a big year in 2023. According to our Race Trends Report events with less than 500 participants grew by around 14%, while large events actually declined by 16%. There’s a lot to love about smaller events, but they also have their challenges. Fewer participants generally means smaller margins and less room for error. 

Since smaller events bring so much to our community, we wanted to share a few practical tips on things they can do to increase participation to better ensure long term viability. 

5 tips for smaller races to grow participation 

We know that there’s a ton that goes into putting on, and growing any event. Because of that we wanted to offer a few practical tips to help increase participation. 

Make registration simple 

One of the best things you can do to increase participation for your race is make signing up easy. Think about Amazon, what do they have? One click ordering. Removing barriers makes people more likely to purchase. 

There are a couple ways we suggest doing this. First, make sure you have a race website that’s optimized for mobile devices. In 2023 60% of transactions on RunSignup happened on mobile devices and 74% of all website traffic came from mobile devices and tablets. We also saw that 31% of people used either Apple Pay or a saved credit card to make their purchases. When you use RunSignup you get access to a free website that’s mobile-optimized and includes Apple Pay capabilities.  

Connect with local running clubs/ stores

Running clubs and stores are a great resource when it comes to promoting your race. They have built-in audiences that are generally very responsive and engaged with them. You could offer them a special discount for people they get to sign up. Making coupons with RunSignup is easy to do and you can do things like set limits, or only offer them for certain spans of time. 

Keep registration open until race day

For the past four years we’ve consistently seen that around 25% of registrations happen during race week. We understand there are sometimes pragmatic reasons for closing registration days before your event, but we highly recommend keeping it open until when the race starts. It’ll increase your likelihood of getting as many participants at your event as possible. 

Though we’re certain late registrations aren’t going anywhere, you can do things like tiered pricing to try and curb some of that. In fact, we found that 26% of all registrations were within three days of a price increase or registration close. So, deadlines clearly motivate people. With RunSignup it’s incredibly easy to add automatic price changes. You can even set up an automated email to send letting people know the change is about to happen to further motivate them. 

Stay in touch in past participants 

Only around 16% of participants came back to the same event from a previous year. We do want to note that it pertains to them going back to the exact same event, so the repeat participant number is likely a bit higher due to people who just switched distances. Even still, there’s clearly a big opportunity to try and re-engage with past participants. 

If you’re a RunSignup user when you renew a race you get access to a past participants email list, making it very easy to get back in touch. You could do things like offer an additional discount to thank them for their loyalty. You could also do things like share a recap of the event they attended to bring back memories from the year prior. 

Offer teams

Races are often social events for a lot of participants. They do them with friends, or other community groups. One way to capitalize on that fact is by letting people participate as teams. It’s an option on RunSignup. Basically, you set up a group in your dashboard, then when people register they can create their own team, or join an existing one within the group you created. You can learn more about creating groups and teams here.

Along with speaking to the social aspect of race events, teams also help activate word of mouth marketing. To help move the needle even more, you can offer discounts based on how many people join a team. For example, you could make it that once five people join a team everyone gets a $5 discount – you can learn more about the process here. It’s a win-win for people participating and your event. 

Moving forward  

Smaller races are a big part of the endurance community, and one we want to help nourish and grow for years to come. With access to the right tools and strategies we’re certain races of all sizes can continue to flourish. 

If you’re ready to get started you can create a race on RunSignup free, here

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