Race directors are typically not rich people with ginormous budgets and champagne delivered to their offices daily. Nope, they have to get creative to make a lot happen with a little money. Whether you’re learning how to plan a race and digging into your savings to make it happen or you’ve been doing this for years and simply don’t have much budget to work with, there are a ton of inexpensive and relatively simple ways to grow your race on pocket change.

Here are our 9 best ideas on how to do exactly that:

1. Build a website

Don’t worry, we’re not expecting you to learn web design code in 36 hours or less. There are a ton of free website builders, like WordPress, that are geared for the novice. You can choose from a variety of pre-built templates and simply add images, your logo, and event details. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, you just need an online home for people to visit so they can learn about your race. Most important thing to remember: Link to your online registration form from your new website.

2. Get on social media

This tip probably doesn’t surprise you at all, but maybe you were thinking about holding off on your social media plans until you got more organized. Don’t do it! Get your Facebook page going, stat. It’s easy, free, and is the best way to engage with participants on a daily basis. Connect with your audience by:

  • Asking their opinions about t-shirt designs, medals, food, etc
  • Posting inspirational messages and images
  • Gathering post-race feedback

3. Use email marketing (it’s not dead)

Don’t be afraid to use email to drive more people to your site and online registration. Yes, most people have inboxes that resemble clogged pipes. BUT, if an email is relevant and interesting to a recipient, it is consistently opened and read. So make the emails you send valuable and they’ll be very effective forms of marketing.

Who are the people you should be emailing?

  • Past participants because they are already familiar with your event and how awesome it is
  • Contact lists from any charities, beneficiaries, or sponsors of your race
  • Participants from other local events—cross-promote!

Quick tips:

  • Keep subject lines short
  • If you have a discount, mention it in the subject line
  • Keep the content of your email short and personable
  • Add links to your social media pages and blog in the signature
  • Limit the number of different links in the email. Focus on links to your race registration form and maybe a relevant blog article or social media post

4. Drive early registration with price breaks

Free-Stuff_Race_Promotion_2When you plan a race you need to figure out numbers and fill registration as soon as possible in order to pay suppliers. Your participants “need” to get a good deal. The win-win option for everyone is offering price breaks. If you set up your pricing structure so that the earlier a person registers, the cheaper it is, you’ll be able to drive online registrations a lot sooner than if you offered only one or two prices during the open registration period. You can do this easily with most online registration tools.

5. Create VIP programs

Who wouldn’t want the chance to get all-star treatment? By creating a program where a select number of participants can purchase a VIP registration, you’ll be able to add a unique race service and offer more value to your participants. The VIP package can include perks like:

  • Reserved parking at the start and/or finish line
  • Reserved relaxation area pre- and post-race
  • Special gear such as a race jacket or hat
  • Priority service at packet pickup, gear check, etc
  • Special shuttle service to and from the event

6. Get on the local news

Use local news outlets to share personal stories about the people who have registered for your race. You can gather stories by adding a question to your online registration form, posting a request on your Facebook page, or even emailing or calling your registrants. Local news outlets are always looking for positive, engaging human interest stories and are often willing to collaborate with race directors. Getting inspirational and touching stories on the news will add an emotional element to your event and convey your brand personality, without incurring any cost.

7. List your race on all public race calendars

There are several race calendars that you can post your event on for free. This is a must-do because it doesn’t cost you a thing and these calendars are bookmarked by participants—this is where they go to find their next event. Beyond Active.com, here are a few other calendars worth looking into:

8. Collaborate with other events


Event directors are a friendly bunch. Organizing a race is a labor of love, and most people who have this title on their resume are willing to share ideas and offer advice. Reach out to successful race directors and see how you can work with them, whether it’s talking about marketing over coffee or volunteering at each other’s events. Many race directors join together to cross-promote their events.

9. Partner with local running and track clubs

Similar to #8, people who love to run are typically willing to help spread the word about your race. They truly want to help endurance events grow and succeed, and are vital members of the endurance community. Ask for their help in promoting your event or offer them a registration discount to encourage them to sign up themselves.

Remember, beyond all the marketing, the most important thing to focus on when trying to grow and plan a race is to pay attention to the details. Those details can lead to the difference between a good race and a great one—participants will notice the quality and they’ll keep coming back year after year.

Looking for help to grow your race registration numbers? Contact us.