RunningUSA Conference Marketing Lessons

We were out in Denver this week for the RunningUSA Next Evolution Conference – focused on alternative races like color runs and obstacles races. There were a number of traditional races there like Pittsburgh Marathon, Colfax Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, etc.

The opening panel discussion and the marketing presentation by Peter Abraham were both very good. Here are the highlights:

16cf998John Connors, Color Run:

Delivering Experiences – This is the core of what every event provides. Whether it is the small 5K that brings a community together for a cause, a major marathon attracting people trying to achieve that milestone for the first time, or a Color Run that is a fun, healthy day with friends. The goal is to provide each participant with a unique experience. Last year John had talked about the fact that many people view work as the drudgery that enables them to have fun on the weekends – and our industry provides the experiences that let them get out of the grayness of their daily routines.

As another speaker, Don Mulligan, said later in the day “Experiences are the new luxury goods. People take their selfies at a race with friends, not in front of their BMW.”

Combat Commoditization – Your event must bring something unique. If you are just another 5K, then participants make their choice on price and there is a downward spiral – which many 5K’s see because of the pervasiveness.

Relentlessly Relevant – Not so much keeping up with current trends, but being a relevant part of the participant’s life. For example, making them feel good about helping the charity that your event supports and really part of that community.

Be true to who you are and tell your story – While this is motherhood and apple pie, it really rings true and is something to remember.

You can listen to more gems from John here –

TannerSocialImage-1024x768Tanner Bell, Ragnar Relay:

Saturated Market – Either create new product, take share, or expand demand – One of the conclusions of the panel was that the best solution to the dropping finisher stats of Running USA is to expand demand. For big series like Ragnar, this means moving into Trail Races. For the typical race, this means bringing new ideas to your race to make it a more meaningful experience.

You can read more about Tanner at

1aed800Peter Abraham, Marketing Whiz:

Peter has worked with many races, and is well known for helping to turn around the LA Marathon in the mid 2000’s. His full presentation is here – The highlights were:

Experience = Product = Marketing – As John and Tanner discussed, our industry is providing Experiences.  And the experience we provide with the events we put on is our product. Marketing should really be product driven. We do this a lot at RunSignUp with our technology first approach. His example was Tesla, which sold 400,000 cars 2 years before they would be available in the biggest product launch in history – with no real marketing except an innovate product that got great viral buzz.

Mission. What do you stand for. – Much like John Connors “be true to yourself” advice. Peter spent additional time emphasizing the importance of having a clear mission. Make it short and memorable. Make it something that reinforces the experience you are providing.

Benefit community. Connecting people. – Peter emphasized that you want to connect people to your event and make them feel they are helping the community that is the core of your event – whether it is a town, a charity or a special experience.

You can read more about Peter here –

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