LAST UPDATED: 14 August 2023
How to Make More Money From Your Sell-Out Race
Want to increase revenues from a race that's selling out - without increasing prices? Here's a few ways to do it.
So your race has reached capacity and it's getting sold out - well done! You must be doing something right...
Getting your race to the point where you can't (or don't want to) accept any more registrations is a marvelous problem to have. But it is still a problem if you're looking to increase your revenues and can't sign up more people or don't want to jack up your entry fees.
Not to worry. Even if your race sells out, there's other ways to make your event more profitable. And here are some of the most popular:
Add a virtual race to your event
The popularity of virtual races has increased steadily over the years and, with technology making producing virtual races easier and easier, adding a virtual component to an established race has become a bit of a no-brainer for savvy race directors looking to improve their bottom line.
From a race director's point of view, offering a virtual race option comes with a lot of benefits. For starters, the logistics of organizing a virtual race are a lot simpler than putting on a physical race - often as simple as shipping a medal. And then there's the profit margin, which can be very attractive for virtual events, mostly because the entry fees aren't nearly as low as the costs of putting them on.
But adding a virtual component isn't to everyone's taste. To read up more on the benefits of setting up a virtual race and how it might fit in with your existing live event, take a look at our complete guide to organising a virtual race.
Sell charity entries
If your event is selling out, it means people who want to sign up are being left out. And although asking for a higher entry fee may put many of them off, asking them to fundraise for a good cause instead may sound a lot more appealing.
That's the beauty of charity entries. So how does the whole thing work?
Well, it all starts with your very popular race. Knowing that it will sell out, you put aside a percentage of entries that you earmark for charities. The charities pay you a premium to the normal entry price to purchase those entries. Then, they offer those entries to registered fundraisers who are keen to enter your race (as well as do a bit for a good cause) under the condition that they fundraise a minimum amount for the charity. The result of all this is that you get more money for your entries, the people who want to run your race get a place, and the charities get a big return on their investment in the form of donations.
This system has worked very well for years for many of the highest-profile races out there, such as the London Marathon, and there are even specialized agencies, such as The RealBuzz Group, who can help manage your entire charity entry program for you.
But you don't have to start out big. Start by contacting a couple of charities who might be interested in working with you and see if they'd be interested in purchasing charity entries for your next sell-out race. Then build out your program from there.
Sell VIP/premium packages
Although you may be reluctant to hike your base entry price, there's nothing stopping your from creating a premium entry package for people who would like that little bit extra: a practice widely known as up-selling.
There's a number of things your premium package could include that will not make your regular package look any cheaper, and will still get the right people to pay a bit more - things like:
- Access to a guest talk or workshop. Examples can include a talk by a well-known athlete or a series of mini talks from a team of coaches, running form specialists and nutritionists.
- A premium version of your finisher T-shirt. Are you giving out a basic cotton or tech tee? Offer your premium-package participants a fully-sublimated T-shirt or one made out of a higher-quality material.
- More race swag. Does the basic entry package include a medal and T-shirt? Add a lightweight jacket, buff or running belt to your premium package.
- A fancy race certificate. Besides your race medal that all race finishers get, give your premium-package participants a personalised race certificate printed with their finish time and a commemorative photo from their race.
- Free race photos. If you are not already offering participants free photos, include free race photos as part of your premium package.
By making this premium package available to participants to purchase during the checkout process, you're bound to get some of them to upgrade their entry to the premium one. After all, if your race sells out it means you have a very decent event brand behind it and many people would want a bigger bite out of that.
Maximize sponsorship opportunities
If your race is selling out, chances are you could be making more out of sponsorship opportunities.
Now, as we point out in our race sponsorship guide, nickel-and-diming your sponsors or turning to the highest bidder for the sake of a few more bucks, are not advisable strategies for building long-term relationships with your sponsors. But this doesn't mean you couldn't be doing one or more of the following:
- Renegotiate your existing sponsorship agreements. Don't be a jerk about this or put your partners on the spot. But do look for news ways to promote your sponsors' interests (e.g. by doing more for them online). Your event is clearly very popular, so look harder for opportunities to help your sponsors through it.
- Re-examine your sponsorship assets for additional sponsorship opportunities. As your event has grown, so have your sponsorship assets. And some of them may not currently be fully utilized or committed to existing sponsors. Maybe you set up a successful Facebook group on the back of your event or a database of email subscribers that you could be doing more with. Think which potential partner these assets could be valuable to - and then make something happen.
- Look for cutting costs further through in-kind sponsorship. We've written a whole dedicated post on the subject, and really in-kind sponsorship remains a fairly poorly utilized revenue channel for most events. Remember: every penny saved is a penny earned, so finding opportunities to cut costs through in-kind deals is a great way to increase your sell-out race's profitability.
Add a race expo to your event
Your start and finish areas can be a goldmine of opportunities for engaging your participants as they sit idly preparing for your race or rest at the end of a long event.
How do you unlock that potential? By putting on a race expo that will help keep sponsors happy, attract paying vendors, and enhance your participant's event experience - all at the same time!
Assuming your race venue can accommodate larger start/finish areas, there's really no limit to how far you can go with the experience your expo provides for your participants and guests:
- Food trucks/stalls. You'll be surprised how many specialized caterers and food truck crews you can find that would be interested in paying to come out to your event and sell to your hungry, captive race-day audience. From burgers to ice cream, you can build a veritable food festival that will keep your guests happy and put a few extra dollars in your pockets.
- Merchandise/vendor stands. Sports and sports accessories brands are always keen to set up store on a race site full of qualified potential customers and get their products seen or sampled by the community. And they'd be all the more interested in getting a spot in a successful sell-out race like yours.
- Physio/massage tents. Everyone likes a sports massage after a tough race, so making the option available can put a smile on the face of your participants and make you a little bit of money. You can either invite a physio practice to set up a tent at your finish area (for a fee) or hire your own independent sports masseurs at an hourly rate and keep any profit.
- Event booths. Inviting other races to advertise at your expo is a great way to secure more publicity for your event through reciprocal promo agreements with fellow race directors. And it will add to your participants' enjoyment of your race.
You can learn more about the ins and outs of putting on - and selling out - a successful race expo in our Race Expos podcast with race expo veteran Craig Mintzlaff.
Last but not least, you can try selling race-branded merchandise all-year long from your website, Facebook page or through your race supplier.
Opening an online merchandise store may sound like a lot of work, but it's really quite easy:
- Decide on a handful of items you'd like to sell, things like running bottles, buffs and T-shirts.
- If your website runs on WordPress or one of the other popular website platforms like Wix or Squarespace, find an e-commerce plugin or app you can install to let visitors pick and pay for items.
- Speak to your race supplier about drop shipping the items to your customers. This means that, for an extra fee, your suppliers will be handling all the logistics of preparing and shipping the items on your behalf. So no need for you to keep stock or spend your time worrying about fulfilling orders.
Even if your race is really popular, chances are you won't make a whole lot of money from your merchandising operation. But you will make enough to make setting it up worthwhile - and get a free outlet for promoting your brand further within your target audience.
To learn more about selling merchandise both on and off race day, have a listen to our podcast on Race Merchandise with Greenlayer's Kim Bilancio.