How Top Brands Keep Their Race Series Fresh

Making a name for your race or series isn’t easy, but you may be tempted to think that once you do, the success you’ve earned is yours for the keeping.

Not true. Tough Mudder® and other top races’ demonstrate that even the best brands reinvent and expand in order to keep their core base coming back, while still attracting new participants.

While it’s important to find your own unique ideas, you can definitely steal one or more of these 5 pages for elevating your brand from their playbooks.

Leverage registration opportunities to grow your series

Find new locations

One of the best ways a branded race can keep things fresh is by finding new locations. Races like the Spartan Race® have done this par excellence. With their recent expansion into Asia, these race directors now have their sights set on China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Consequently, Tough Mudder will be debuting in Beijing and Shanghai in 2017. Warrior Dash® and other obstacle race challenges are expected to follow suit.1 The Ragnar Relay® race has established a reputation for holding their 200-mile courses throughout the U.S., bringing friends together for a long weekend run through beautiful scenery.

Tap into your core base

If you’ve got a loyal following, you should make sure you know what they like to do beyond your race. Finding innovative ways to please your core will keep them coming back for more. For instance, Tough Mudder recognized that many of their constituents were dog lovers, and so they introduced the Puppy Mudder2, allowing athletes to bring their dogs onto an obstacle course.

Another great way to keep registrants coming back is to up the wattage on the race to make it even more appealing to an elite group. Once again, Tough Mudder has nailed this idea: while Tough Mudder was already known for being difficult, adding Tougher Mudder and Toughest Mudder3 to their repertoire keeps their extreme athletes challenged and involved.

Think outside your demographic box

By making the race about something other than the athleticism involved, you can attract new participants who might not have dreamed of joining a race before.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon® series is known for its after-party, and races like The Color Run® center around the fun of the run as opposed to its difficulty. The Reebok Spartan Race® added a charitable component with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, giving participants an extra reason to participate. Remember that race participants join in for more than just the thrill of the race, and centering your event around camaraderie, charitable giving, or good ole’ fashioned self-worth can attract even more crowds.

Get a media sponsorship

This may not be something that you just walk into, but there are quite a few races that have benefited from having a presence on TV. This year, CBS will be broadcasting Tough Mudder X,4 (which promises to get the most competitive of the Tough Mudder fanatics enrolled for their 15 minutes (or one mile, at least) of fame.

The BattleFrog College Championships air regularly on ESPN and tap into the college rivalries that we already know and love from NCAA football and basketball. The American Ninja Warrior series inspired competitions in the opposite direction, by having an extremely popular TV show that spawned obstacle courses across the United States. It may not be advice you hear regularly in the athletic world, but sit down and watch some TV to come up with partnership ideas. You never know what might stick.

Be punctual with your brand

Nothing kills brand reputation quite like unexpected cancellations. The cost of issuing a refund to your bottom line, let alone to your brand name, could bring you to the brink of bankruptcy. Be ready with solutions for catastrophic weather, uncooperative city officials, or unexpected issues of any kind. By responding with grace, you’ll prove your brand’s worth to race participants and the world at large.

For instance, the world-famous Big Sur Marathon had a close shave this year, as mudslides closed down parts of California Highway 1, just a mile from the starting line of their race5. The race directors knew they had to keep the marathon going, not just for the participants, but for the community, which uses the race as a tourist attraction year over year. The race organizers, recognizing their good fortune in being able to hold the race, also added a voluntary charitable contribution element to the race, allowing participants to donate money to the Big Sur relief fund.

Keep it fresh

By keeping your race series fresh, you can increase your brand’s value year over year, and attract new registrants, while maintaining a good relationship with your core constituents; a win-win for all parties.

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1SCMP: Tough Mudder, Spartan Race…Why Pay to be Electrified?
2Mud Run Guide: Tough Mudder Announces New Puppy Mudder
4CBS Sports: Looking for something crazier than Tough Mudder? How about Tough Mudder X?
5PRNewswire: California Highway 1 Damage Will Not Affect Big Sur Marathon Course