This is the third blog in our four-part series on how to plan a turkey trot race around the Thanksgiving holiday. Read on or catch up on what you missed in Part 1 and Part 2.  You can download the full guide to plan a turkey trot here.

Participants: Groups, Families and Sharing the Love

A turkey trot is a true community affair and will attract all types of participants: from elite runners to social walkers, multi-generational family groups to book-club besties, to individuals looking for a healthy (or hardcore) way to burn calories before sitting down to a loosen-your-belt-sized meal. Be sure to market your race to all these individuals and groups, and make your event experience fun, welcoming and safe for everyone.

Here are a few tips to help you attract and retain as big and broad a field as possible.

Go for Groups

Plan a turkey trot_3There’s power in numbers, and by power, we mean — ka-ching — financial power! Getting groups of runners to register together is a sure way to increase the revenue at your race. Tried-and-true methods to encourage group participation include:

  • Refer a Friend. Offer an incentive (a discounted entry or special swag) to any participant who refers a certain number of friends. You’ll easily recoup the cost of the discount with the additional entries generated. ChronoTrack Live can provide individual trackable coupon codes that can be shared through email or social media.
  • Group or family discounts. Encourage groups or families to participate by offering a discounted rate. For example, offer $5 off each registration for groups of three or more, or for family members registering together. ChronoTrack Live’s race registration software makes the team registration process super simple by putting all your data in one place and offering numerous options for including different team types, multiple payment options and team results reports.
  • Special incentives. For larger groups (say 20+), offer additional perks like custom bibs, a designated race-day shuttle or VIP area access.
  • Market to the masses. Don’t sit back and wait for these groups to come to you — seek them out! Visit local schools, businesses and running clubs, and post fliers in area gyms (tip: near the childcare area) to encourage family registrations.

Make it Family Friendly and All-Ages Fun

Family groups will likely make up a large portion of your race participants, so let’s spend extra time examining what makes an event family friendly.

  • how-to-plan-a-turkey-trot-chronotrack_4Increase accessibility for all. At a turkey trot, you’ll inherently have runners and walkers of all ages and abilities, so be sure to offer realistic race options for everyone. Some tips to make your race more inclusive:
    • Emphasize the run and walk aspects of your event, and include a one-mile “fun run” so that very young, elderly and new-to-fitness individuals can all be involved.
    • Provide training tips on your website or in pre-race emails that cater to both young and old (try partnering with a respected local coach or personal trainer for accurate and applicable training advice).
    • Consider offering awards for the final three finishers in addition to the first three. This will help walkers feel accepted and celebrated, rather than a nuisance, plus encourage them to come back again and again.
  • Offer awards and recognition. Special awards and recognition can help encourage family participation and even fun family rivalries.
    • As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, a family competition division can add an extra element of fun and be easily tailored to the Thanksgiving theme. What family wouldn’t rally to run or walk together with free turkeys on the line for the top three family teams? Or, offer an entire Thanksgiving dinner (donated by Whole Foods, a potential event sponsor) to the top-performing family team.
    • “Performance” doesn’t need to be judged in the traditional first-across-the-line sense. Encourage family members to volunteer during race prep and registration and knock a minute off the team’s collective time for every hour worked (bonus: you’ve just increased your volunteer roster). Likewise, deduct time for the number of generations represented and the total number of family members involved.
  • Keep it social. Younger participants are likely to be drawn to any event that includes an engaging social media aspect. Be sure to market your race via social media channels to attract the youth contingent to begin with. Then, create an Instagram contest using a unique hashtag to encourage posting, sharing and commenting about the experience. Best on-course selfie, anyone?

Encourage the Course-Crushers

As we’ve said, a majority of turkey trot participants will be in it for the fun. But for many runners, “fun” means being in it to win it, and you’ll want to welcome these athletes, too. Do include traditional overall and age group award divisions along with whatever creative categories you come up with (elite athletes like winning free turkeys, too!). And be sure that your course is accurate to the distance advertised in order to keep any diehard PR-chasers happy and thankful.

Expand the Tribe

Remember that not everyone has family nearby or is able to celebrate the holiday with loved ones — a fact that can make a solo runner feel extra lonely when flanked by families having fun. Do everything you can to make each and every participant feel at home and included at your event.

A great way to encourage social interaction and diffuse pre-race nerves is to have every runner turn to the start line neighbor on their left, say hello and name one thing they are thankful for (or simply say, “Thanks for running with me!”). Or try a post-race pie share: reward finishers with a fresh slice of pumpkin pie, with the stipulation they take a second slice to share with a race-day stranger.

These are simple, effective (and perhaps slightly goofy) ways to build bonds between people that otherwise might not interact at your event, guaranteeing that groups and solo runners alike feel the holiday love.

All Things Swag: Think Outside the (Race Tee) Box

Event swag may seem like an afterthought until you take a look at social media, blogs and forums and realize just how much buzz a good (or bad) swag bag can generate (check out our top 10 race swag bags for some great examples). You’re going to give your participants something, so why not make it something extra special that they’ll cherish and post in their widely shared selfies? Even if the initial investment is a bit higher than the cost of your average cotton t-shirt, the return will absolutely pay off with positive praise and return participants.

To offset costs, consider providing “a la carte” registration options: for example, some people may be willing to upgrade for high-value swag, while others may want to forgo the swag altogether.

When it comes to awards, typical race trophies or plaques are so yesterday. If you have an especially awesome idea for swag that’s simply too pricey to provide to every participant, save it for your award winners.

Follow these three guiding principles when choosing race swag.

Get Creative

Really let your creativity run wild! Look at your own drawer full of traditional race tees and then imagine something unique and better. Like any holiday event, a turkey trot gives you an automatic leg up in terms of a built-in theme to inspire your swag and awards.

Something for Everyone

Remember, you hope to draw men, women and children of all ages to your event. If you don’t land on a single swag item that’s suitable for everyone, mix it up!

Be True to Your Budget

Dream big, then determine what you can actually afford (or what sponsors can contribute). You may not be able to make your every swag dream come true, but with a little creative thinking you’re sure to come up with something special.

With these guidelines in mind, here are some ideas to jumpstart your brainstorm session.

Swag That Stands Out

  • If you’re determined to offer a race t-shirt, order a range of men’s, women’s and children’s sizes. Women are not simply small men, and “unisex” is a fallacy when it comes to apparel fit. If you don’t want your race apparel to wind up in the Goodwill bin, order options for all your participants. Consider tech tees over cotton, as the quality will be appreciated.race_swag_bag_ideas_3M_Half_Marathon
  • On the other hand, consider for one-size-fits-all swag to save costs and offer a cool alternative to the traditional tee. Trucker hats are wildly popular and equally effective in showcasing your event logo (and perhaps even more so, since they can be worn day after day without washing).
  • Jewelry is another swag or award idea that has grown in popularity since the Nike Women’s Half Marathon started awarding each athlete a Tiffany’s necklace delivered by a tuxedo-clad firefighter at the finish line. Okay, that’s an indisputable win for Nike, but how about giving custom wishbone necklaces or bracelet charms to women and wishbone cufflinks to men?
  • Food is an easy theme to play with at Thanksgiving time.
    • How about giving a turkey to each category winner? Or a pumpkin pie or loaf of pumpkin bread to every finisher? You may be able to offset the cost (or eliminate it altogether) with donations from a local grocery or bakery sponsor.
    • Wine bottles customized with your race logo (and non-alcoholic sparkling cider for the under-21 crowd) also make great holiday swag.
    • Take a tip from the Chocolate Turkey 3 Mile and reward runners with chocolate turkeys and a logo’d apron (for the adults) or cape (for the kids).
    • That apron would certainly come in handy for post-race cooking!
    • Wine glasses (etched with your event logo) are a great way for your award winners to display their accomplishments on their Thanksgiving tables.
  • Sticking with the Thanksgiving theme, your finisher medals could easily be forged in the shapes of wishbones, drumsticks or turkeys. And imagine how the competition would heat up if runners were racing to win gold, silver or bronze drumstick awards.
  • Another creative way to involve the local community and make your event stand out is to offer special awards hand-crafted by local artisans. A ceramic artist, for example, might make a serving platter, soup tureen or salad bowl for the first place finisher’s Thanksgiving feast.

Again, these are just a few ideas to get your creativity flowing and help you come up with the best and most unique swag and awards for your event.

Final Note

Get rid of all the paper flyers and coupons that are often found in event goodie bags (and almost always wind up in the trash). Instead, post these offers and info on your website and in race emails, and save your goodie bag for tangible items that truly appeal to your participant. Even the bag itself could be the swag — a holiday wine tote, perhaps?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this piece of our larger guide on how to plan a turkey trot that you can download here.

Contact us to learn more about the features above, or for help with any aspect of your Turkey Trot planning. Gobble, gobble!