It used to be that races were a pretty straightforward affair. A start line, some amount of distance, some water stations and a finish line were all you really needed. But now, the appetite for racing has gone gourmet. Now we've got a zillion varieties and colors of running shoes, gooey substances we're told are fuel, announcers, adult beverages, and...themed races!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed races with every theme under the sun are popping up from coast to coast, and as a race director, the hamster wheel in your mind has got to be spinning trying to figure out ways to hop on board this gravy train.
With a seemingly endless array of options, how do you choose a race theme that will knock your athlete’s socks off, drive race registrations and just all around ROCK?
Before you choose a theme, you’ve gotta know what’s going on in the market. It’s all demand. Because even if you think your idea for a unicorn-themed race is brilliant, if you’re the only one who thinks so, you’re going to be running laps in your unicorn onesie solo (side note: if you do decide to go with the unicorn theme, let us know!).
Do some research on what’s trending in the market. Are costume runs doing really well in your area, but mud runs not-so-much? Are decade-specific theme runs blowing up your Facebook feed, but photos from all of those black light runs have gone dark as of late (HA - see what I did there)?
Understanding what’s working at other events is a great tool in knowing what might work at your event.
Know Your Audience
That being said, just because something is popular with a specific group of people doesn’t mean it’s going to be popular with your specific group of people. Knowing your audience and what they’re looking for in an event is paramount in choosing the right theme for your race.
But how do you know what your audience wants?
Well, you could try to bust out your Jedi party tricks and read their minds, or you could just, you know, ask them.
Reach out to your target audience and flat out ask them what they want. You can hit them up on Facebook, shoot your past athletes a text or stop random runners on the track (probably not the most efficient method, but hey - to each their own) and ask them what kind of theme they’d be inclined to sign up for.
Also, this should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) - you need to use a little bit of common sense when it comes to choosing a theme that will connect with your audience. Don’t choose a theme that’s going to in any way alienate the people that you’re going after. So if you’re targeted a super-conservative middle aged crowd, an undie run that requires you to strip to your skivvies at bib assignment probably isn’t going to go over well.
You know what I'm saying?
Be True To YOU
The last oh-so-important component of choosing a sweet race theme is to be true to YOU.
Above all, athletes (and people in general) value authenticity, and if you try too hard to be something that you’re not, people are going to smell it a mile away. And instead of running your event, they’re going to be running the other direction.
Know who you are as a brand and choose a theme that makes sense with that identity. If your brand is all about fun, doing a super savage military-style race is going to fall flat. If you’re all about athleticism, suddenly throwing a beer-and-taco 5k into the mix is going to have your athletes scratching their heads.
Theme or no theme, staying true to YOU is a must for success.
With these tips, you’ll be rocking out at your theme race in no time. And if you figure out a way to make that unicorn theme work, please let us know. We’ve got our unicorn onesies on standby.