We attended the RunningUSA 2022 conference in Orlando this week. It was great seeing so many old friends and being physically present with others who care about the endurance community. We thought it was worth a recap of highlights, areas for improvement, and to clear up some misperceptions.
The Good Stuff
There were nearly 500 attendees, which might be a bit below normal but was a real achievement considering the Omicron wave our country has experienced the past few months. Disney had removed mask restrictions, and it was very nice to see people smile.
Dawna Stone presided over her first conference as the CEO. She has a ton of industry knowledge and lots of enthusiasm. She brought a real spark to the opening keynote and is being well received as shown in this picture:
Another highlight were the presentations and panels with real race directors and non-vendors on them. An excellent example was this panel on the second day with Tanner Bell of Ragnar, Deena Kastor of marathon fame, Chris Chavez of Citius Magazine and moderated well by Chris Heuisler of Brontosaurus! Tanner especially was good about trying to honestly talk about the hole we are all digging out from and the need to find lower cost options (like no shirt options!), while Deena provided the optimism that more shoes have been sold to potential new customers of events than ever, while Chris talked about the need to reach a younger audience.
The other highlight was the recognition of exceptional contributions to the endurance community that went to Rich Kenah, Virginia Brophy Ackman, Jan Seeley and Alison Désire (shown below deservedly beaming as she receives her award from Ted Metellus):
Areas for Improvement
While the 500 attendees was impressive, it is somewhat soured by the fact that over half of those were vendors (like us – Bob, Eric, Johanna and Jordan were there). Also, there were only 10 session put on by race directors and 20 by vendors along with several additional ones from outside speakers.
RunningUSA, like many in the endurance community, has a tough financial situation after the lack of revenue the past couple of years. Many races can not afford to travel, much less the $1,000 fee for the conference. Therefore, RunningUSA was probably forced to seek revenue from vendors – for example, $3,300+ for small booths, $1,500 to do an idea lab presentation (part of the reason there were 20 vendor presentations we suspect), and fees for sponsoring things like lanyards, etc. We can only imagine what title sponsor Race Roster invested.
As a company, RunSignup tried to take a step back this year, and did not have a booth – we’ve just never been fans of expo halls (we avoid them at our own Symposiums), and don’t find as much value in investing in them. We do usually host a dinner with customers and friends, but decided against it a couple of months ago due to the uncertainty with Covid. Given 20/20 hindsight, we should have hosted the dinner – we missed getting all our friends together for a nice evening!
Suggestions for RunningUSA
RunningUSA has a very capable CEO and board who care deeply about the organization and community, and they must get way more “armchair quarterback” suggestions than they can handle. But we may as well add our voice…
Our top suggestion is to focus on the races, and have that focus expand beyond the largest races. To do that, flip the ratio of presentations from 2:1 vendor to race and find ways to make it possible for more smaller races to present. Pre-pandemic the Top 100 races accounted for only 2 Million participants, while there are more likely about 25-30 Million endurance event participants. The organization needs to reach races that serve the other 90% of participants.
One idea to help push things in that direction would be to redirect some of the vendor dollars to increase participation so there is less reliance on vendor exhibits and advertising talks. Revenue is important (and we’d like to think vendors can add some value), but think about creative ways to get them involved, like having vendors sponsor scholarships for attendees rather than exhibit booths.
RunSignup, GiveSignup, TicketSignup
We heard some of our competitors were questioning our commitment to the endurance community with the expansion into GiveSignup and TicketSignup. Unfortunately for them, that is wishful thinking.
All of those brands are actually the same database and platform (try https://RunSignup.com/ScottCoffeeRun, https://GiveSignup.org/ScottCoffeeRun, or https://TicketSignup.io/ScottCoffeeRun – it is all the same). What we are actually doing is providing more revenue to build more functionality for all of our customers. Our recent Email V2 releases have proven this additional capability we have. We would not have been able to afford this without the extra revenue (August – November our revenue was up over 50% from 2019). We estimate our market share in endurance has grown from 25-30% pre pandemic to 35-40% post pandemic. For example, here are our Thanksgiving registration numbers – growing from 538,000 in 2019 to 617,000 in 2021.
Additionally, we have incremental revenue from these new efforts that leverage our platform, enabling us to spend more on development (and not expo booths).
We will remain the functionality leaders and the low price leaders. And if you want a discount from a competitor, tell them you are thinking about leaving for RunSignup 🙂
Asics Sponsorship vs RunSignup Revenue Share
Race Roster is now owned by Asics, and is obviously trying to figure out ways to run a viable business, as well as help sell shoes. Alex did a presentation on their sponsorship model, and we wanted to do a little comparison.
RunSignup uses a revenue share model that allows a race to charge whatever they want in terms of processing fee, and to keep the excess above the amount charged by RunSignup. We also give discounts based on volume. So we took the above example of a race that does $1 Million in transactions and did the following math. In this scenario, the race earns $45,400 of revenue share (cash) from RunSignup (all of our fees and revenue share that is based on volume is public information – it does not vary from customer to customer).
And if you prefer merchandise to cash, we have many, many local running store partners who would be happy to take the $45K and deliver more than that in merchandise value. That’s a lot of socks!
RunSignup Summer Symposium
We got excited by seeing everyone at RunningUSA, and have decided to commit to hosting our summer Symposium in Philadelphia in July. More details to come as we finalize venue information (a little later than normal), but since many of you asked – yes, you can pencil it in. The Symposium is a different type of get together than RunningUSA – focused on education of the RunSignup products and how customers can get the most out of technology solutions to make more money and produce more memorable events efficiently. Hope to see you there!