You’ve searched the web, you’ve read all the articles, you’ve even gotten advice from other organizations. But who knows what athletes want to see in email correspondence more than the athletes themselves? We talked to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers to learn what they prefer in their emails, from the cadence to the information they provide. And while these athletes all compete in triathlon, these tips can easily be used for any sort of athletic competition, whether it’s a marathon or world aerobics competition.
When it comes to frequency, athletes agree that they’d much prefer too many emails than not enough. They’re already busy enough training, dialing in nutrition and dealing with their daily work and social obligations; don’t make them search the web for all the questions they have about race day as well.
In terms of a timeline, stick to the major milestones: two months out, one month out, one week out, etc. “I like to know about things ahead of time so I can plan what I’m doing before I arrive,” Dexter Yeats, a seven-time IRONMAN World Championship qualifier, says. “When I go [to the race], my mind is settled and I’m not trying to switch things up and make last-minute changes.”
While it’s important for your subject lines to be catchy to entice participants to click on them, it’s also important for the information to be straight-forward and searchable.
“[IRONMAN emails are] easy to find; I always try to bookmark them,” two-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher Rochelle Arko says. “I look back at my emails frequently for the information they’ve sent me in the past, too.”
Make sure you’re including clear keywords in either the subject line, the preheader or the body of the email so those wishing to find the information at a later date can do so easily. There’s nothing worse than knowing you’ve read something but can’t for the life of you actually find it in your inbox.
You probably know the standard information you need to include for participants like when athletes should to be at the start line and what they can expect at aid stations. But have you ever considered giving a weather report or providing a timeline for travel?
Yeats describes a particularly necessary time for a weather heads up when she was racing at IRONMAN Ireland, Cork. “I don’t think I could have had enough rain gear; it was so wet,” she says. “I had rain gear in my T1 bag but we weren’t allowed access to that all morning, so all I had was my morning clothes.
The same goes for wetsuit-legal swims for triathlons. Since gear is such an important aspect of multisport racing, athletes appreciate when they know exactly what items and accessories they may need on race day. While you ultimately can’t control all the conditions, giving participants an idea of the average water temperature for that time of year, what they can potentially expect in terms of weather and other helpful tidbits will be extremely useful to the athletes as they plan, pack and prepare for race day.
And when it comes to travel, help your out-of-town participants out by suggesting the best times to book flights, information about local hotels and any deals on rental cars you may be aware of.
One of the biggest things athletes mentioned wanting when it comes to email correspondence is transparency. If there are changes to the course or other issues that might affect their performance or the way they prepare, they want to know about it. Of course, they don’t need to know all the details, but it’s better to inform the participants of any potential hiccups before they become a problem.
Whether this means a course change or it no longer being a wetsuit legal swim, let your participants know with enough time for them to make tweaks leading up to the big day.
While certainly not a requirement, we were surprised by the number of athletes that mentioned one of their favorite aspects of the IRONMAN pre-race emails is the articles included with tips and training advice for various aspects of the race. Whether you’re providing information on gear a couple of months out, giving motivation to keep pushing or sharing wise words from veterans or pros, athletes will appreciate any help they can get before toeing the line.
Don’t have the resources to produce this type of content yourself? ACTIVE.com is a great resource for training plans, workouts, race day advice, nutrition and more from coaches and other experts in a variety of disciplines.