Let’s face it, 2020 has been a less-than-ideal year for race organizers. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely flipped the spring and summer months upside-down for the endurance sports industry, and with no way to accurately predict the return of normalcy, race organizers have had to reevaluate their goals heading into the fall.
Virtual offerings have undoubtedly picked up the slack for many race organizers around the country, but if you feel like you’re having to wrap your head around a technology you’re unfamiliar with, know you’re not alone—even races with storied histories like the Boston Marathon have switched to a virtual platform this year.
While we’re hoping for the best for this fall, it’s in your best interest to start planning ahead and create some contingency plans now if you ultimately have to cancel or push back your event(s). It’s all about making the best of an unfortunate circumstance, getting creative and keeping revenue rolling in.
Here are a few ways to do just that.
Similar to how Zoom has allowed office employees to work from home, virtual races allow participants to run a set distance by themselves on familiar routes and at their own schedule. Race organizers can even include virtual swag bags (or mail physical swag bags), virtual race expos with their partners and sponsors and finishers medals that are mailed to athletes who complete the distance (tracking distance, timing and pace has never been easier than with the ACTIVE Experience App) to make the event feel as close to a “physical” event as possible. Virtual races are great for expanding your reach beyond the confines of an in-person event, and they provide the flexibility many athletes find attractive.
We have tons of resources online to help guide you through hosting a virtual race—you can find our free eBooks, templates and webinars here to help you get started. Also, click here to read how to attract virtual race participants from other locations, and click here for creative ways to differentiate your event.
Create Virtual Run Clubs
It’s important to keep in mind that your athletes who have already registered want to participate in your race just as much as you want to host them. Even if you’re a smaller, local event, remember your brand has significant influence. Creating a virtual run club is a great way to keep your clientele engaged and keep revenue rolling in. Charge “dues” for access to weekend virtual runs, online materials, private Strava groups, etc. If you offer this, be consistent—it might be in your best interest to also bring a local coach on board to lead the workouts and create the programming.
Virtual Training Programs
If you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge and offer a virtual race (or you can do this in conjunction with a virtual race), offering virtual training programs separately can help recoup some of lost revenue. This works best when you know your event’s reschedule date, so you can create (and market) a training program with that specific timeframe in mind. This also can be approached as “added value” for the virtual run club mentioned above, where members can pay for a “elite” tier and gain access to your virtual training program.
Be as accommodating as possible—if your event is a half marathon, create half marathon training plans for beginner, novice and advanced athletes. You can also consider widening the scope and creating training plans for other distances, too (obviously this is especially important if you offer a virtual race in multiple distances).
Instead of losing the revenue that has already come in from participants who have signed up for your physical event, try to retain them (and their revenue) by rescheduling your physical event to a later date and letting athletes roll their entry over. This, of course, might change as we learn more about the status of the pandemic, but it will give you and your athletes something to plan for and work towards.
Alternatively, if you decide to offer a virtual event like we mentioned above, be flexible with the dates and distances. Even through your physical event was a half marathon, you should still consider offering different distance options to attract a broader range of athletes.