When it comes to race management, developing a race pricing strategy that strikes the perfect balance between profitability and affordability is a mad science. Not many event directors do it well—in fact, most undercharge for their events and end up stretching pennies to plan a successful race. But it is not impossible to find that sweet spot; you can keep your event in the black and online registration numbers high by following these five rules:

Rule #1: Set Price Breaks

If any rule in the endurance world is golden, this would be the one. Unless you have a very small, local event, you absolutely cannot have one flat entry fee for the entirety of the time online registration is open. It is critically important to encourage early registration by creating multiple price breaks.

One way to do this is to set prices by date. As a general rule, four price breaks (early bird registration, regular registration, late registration, and race day registration) are the most common and simplest strategy. Early bird registration would be the cheapest, incentivizing participants to get signed up early, and the race day fee would be the most expensive.

Early bird registration is designed to get those die-hards registered and committed early. Those that sign up early also become promoters for your race as they encourage friends and family to sign up and join them on race day. By charging more on race day you encourage participants to sign up early, this helps with cash flow and planning for items like t-shirts and medals!

Another method is to set prices by number of participants. For example, you can charge $25 for the first 25 registrants. After that, the price would jump to $30. This is a feature your online race registration software should offer so it can be easily set up.

Price breaks not only drive revenue and early registration, they also offer you a great opportunity to email your past participant database with a valuable piece of information (the price is going up!) and keep your event fresh in their minds.

Rule #2 – Incentivize Referrals

The “Refer a Friend” promotion has been around forever because it works—really well.  Offer your registrants a future discount or special schwag if they refer a certain number of friends. While you may lose a few bucks on one future registrant, this is a smart pricing strategy because you more than make up for it with the friends they refer at full price. You can track referrals using individual coupon codes that registrants can share via email and their social media channels, making it an even more powerful promotion. ChronoTrack Live, our online registration tool, offers a simple way to do this.


Rule #3 – Push Promotions (and Give Stuff Away)

From the time registration opens up until race day, run a few promotions to stir up interest in your event. Think of these as more one-off pricing strategies. And be sure to push them on your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter!

Some promotion examples:

  • 20% off registration on Throwback Thursday if you submit a childhood running picture
  • Special ultra-low price for registration opening day
  • Discount for a holiday (New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, etc)
  • Unique giveaway (like a cycling top) if you register by a certain date
  • Sponsor day – Joe’s Running Store discount day: $10 off all registrations

Rule #4 – Run a Registration Blitz

Want a great way to kick-start registration? The day (or even Monday if that is easier) after your event, open up registration for the next year’s race at a deep discount. Offer this price for one week or for the first 50 registrations, for example. Then turn off registration until you would normally open. This will capitalize on the excitement and adrenaline still in your finishers’ systems after completing your event—they’ll be fired up and ready to register for next year.

Rule #5 – Offer VIP Pricing

When you’re planning a race, a final pricing strategy that can also help you increase fundraising is to offer VIP registration. These dedicated VIP slots would open up a week early and cost twice as much as regular registration, with 100% of the additional expense being donated to your charity of choice. Again, this will incentive early registration and help increase revenue for an event partner or sponsor. Just make sure you give those VIPs a little something extra like a private port-a-potty or standing heaters at the beginning of a cold race. Find something to make them feel special.

With the right pricing strategies, your event, and the race management industry as a whole, will become more financially stable and still be able to attract registrants with affordable entry fees.

Have questions? Contact us for more info about the most effective race pricing strategies.

Need help with more than just your pricing strategy?  Download our guide on how to plan a 5K race here.