When done well, a bag of schwag is exciting, well remembered and appreciated by athletes. When done not so well... ZZZ.
So how do you ensure that your schwag bag falls into the this race has the best schwag! category?
Think Outside The Bag
When your athletes are fresh out of bib assignment and taking that first peek into the schwag bag, you want them to think, “Holy cow! This is awesome!” or, “Oooh, I’ve never seen this before!”
You do not want them to think, “Oh look, another protein bar. Hmm.”
I know, I know, protein bars are delicious and practical, but they fall a bit on the meh side of the excitement scale.
If you really want to WOW your athletes, save the protein bar for leg day and get creative. Try items with a local flavor (think salt water taffy or locally roasted coffee) or little things that let folks rock that post-race pride (branded hats, shirts, water bottles, etc). This will obviously have a different meaning depending on your event and your budget, but flex those creative muscles and put together a schwag bag worth talking about.
Offer Practical Value
If you’re going to give your athletes a schwag bag, you need to fill it with things athletes value. Preferably, things that make your heart go pitter patter with excitement.
I’m not saying you need to stuff a pair of new Nikes or a virtual reality headset into every schwag bag (although if you do, please make sure you send us an invitation to your event), but you definitely want to pack it with things that offer real value to your athletes.
Race day temperatures supposed to dip below 20? Throw in some hand warmers to keep your athletes comfortable. Hosting a marathon? Partner with a yoga studio for a discounted post-race session to help your athletes loosen up those muscles.
Think about the items and offers you would want as an athlete, and then use those to fill your schwag bag.
And keep the superfluous flyers to a minimum - your athletes (and the forest) will thank you.
Raffles, Raffles, Raffles
Right about now you may be thinking, “I would love to give my athletes all the schwag on the land, but have you ever heard of the term BUDGET CONSTRAINTS”?
I hear you. Events are expensive endeavors, and with all the money you put towards permits, race registration, event participant software, food, water and everything else, there can be limited funds left over to dedicate to building an awesome schwag bag.
If that’s the case, have no fear! There's another approach. Instead of putting your limited budget into trying to create 10,000 schwag bags that have about as much WOW factor as popsicles in a North Dakota winter, put that budget towards a big ticket item (like an iPad or a GoPro) or a big ticket experience (like travel expenses to your next event) and raffle it off. Advertise your giveaway in your race registration, let your athletes know that an entry is included in registration and pick a winner at random at the finish line.
Most athletes would rather have a shot at a sweet new gadget or a weekend getaway than walk away with throw-away schwag.
Schwag is a must for any event, but if it’s an afterthought, it’s going to be a waste of resources. Dedicate some time, thought and energy into your schwag strategy and your athletes will pledge loyalty to your schwagtastic event for years to come.