International Race Series Finds Success with Local Running Event

Earlier this week, my local running store partnered with athletic apparel retailer Lululemon to orchestrate a pretty exciting event for DC-area runners: a fun run with running superstar Josh Cox.

Josh Cox gets his run on in Washington, D.C.

As a marketing professional, I have to say the event was a complete success.  Four days later, I’m still thinking about the fun run and what I learned about running from Josh.  I have a deeper sense of loyalty to both the running store (Pacers) and Lululemon (which, of course, causes my bank account to weep…).

In addition to this, I have signed up for my second half marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA.

When I first heard about the event late last week, I wasn’t quite sure why Pacers and Lululemon were bringing American record holder and former Bachelorette star Josh Cox to town to run with our group.  I figured it was just another perk of living in the second-healthiest city in America.

As the notifications and reminders about the run with Josh starting pouring in from Facebook, Twitter and email, I began piecing together more information. The Competitor Group, which owns the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races, was putting on the event in order to spread awareness about the “newest race coming to Washington, D.C.”

Several people smarter than me put two-and-two together to determine a Rock ‘n’ Roll event was making its way to the Nation’s Capital.  The Pacers/Lululemon fun run with Josh Cox would be a way to formally announce the news about the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon and Marathon directly to the vast D.C. running community. This would happen the same day a major press conference would be held.

Now, that’s a pretty ingenious way of tapping into your target audience, isn’t it?

What the Event Sought to Accomplish

  • Raise Awareness for a New Race – The Rock ‘n’ Roll series is taking over the National Half and Full Marathon, an event that has racked up some negative press in recent years.  In order to market new ownership of the race, the Competitor Group needed to raise awareness among the running community since they will most likely serve as ambassadors, recruiting friends and family to also run the race.
  • Secure Large Number of Registrations  – As with most races, directors hope to reach capacity prior to race day.  Kicking off the process with a high number of registrations in the first 48 hours is a way succeed in this area.

Why the Event Worked

  • Celebrity Access – Providing area runners with the opportunity to interact with a high-profile running celebrity like Josh is sure to grab people’s attention and make them more likely to show up to the event.  This worked particularly well because Josh’s first marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego so he was able to share his experiences with the series and why he enjoys running these races so much.
  • Cross-promotional Efforts – This event was not only a huge promotional effort for the Competitor group, it was also a big win for Pacers and Lululemon.  It’s safe to say that joining forces with local stores most likely created a larger turnout than if Competitor had tried putting on an event by itself.  These stores are recognized within the community and both have established methods of communicating with hundreds of runners.  By working together, all three sides could leverage their existing audiences to combine into one mega-event, which generated buzz for all involved parties.
  • Right AudiencePutting on a half-marathon and marathon means targeting athletes and seasoned runners.  Competitor hit this out of the park in all aspects – from centering the event and announcement around a group fun run and brining in an elite runner.
  • Tapped into Audience’s Existing Habits – I think one of the main reasons this event worked so well, particularly given the shortened promotional period, is because both Pacers and Lululemon already host weekly fun runs that see a high turnout.  Combining the Competitor announcement with these already scheduled runs made it easy to reach the target audience without having to get them to fit in another event into their calendars.
  • Timing – The timing of the event couldn’t have been better.  It was held the same afternoon as the full-blown press conference, which meant there was already some buzz by the time all the runners gathered together at Pacers.  This allowed some excitement to build and also sustained conversations that might have otherwise started to die down after the morning’s presser.  Additionally, Rock ‘n’ Roll significantly decreased the registration cost of the race for 48 hours, which was also announced at the fun run.  That right there is what put me over the edge when deciding to sign up.  Without the discount, I probably would have sat on registering for a few more weeks… letting the excitement of the event wear off, which decreases the odds I’d actually sign up for the race.

What Would Have Made It Even Better

  • Longer Promotional Window – As I said above, I only began hearing about this event a week ago.  With so little information available at that time, it wasn’t clear at first who was hosting the event or that Competitor was even involved.  Had I had more time to prepare and been given more information, I probably would have invited more of my running friends to the event and promoted the fun run via my own social media channels.
  • Digital Outreach – I’m a pretty avid reader of D.C.-area fitness and running blogs, and I don’t remember seeing anything written about the fun run on any of these sites.  D.C. has a thriving health and fitness blogging community that is very active in the blogosphere and on Twitter so getting these people on board could have added an extra element of promotion for the event.
  • On-site Registration – Maybe I missed this or it wasn’t announced, but I was shocked the Competitor group didn’t have computers set up to register people on-site at the fun run.  I live right down the street and by the time I got home I was already wavering on whether I should sign up!

Have you experienced any successful hyper-local events like this one?  If so, what was your reaction?  Do you think more national companies should tap into local events in this way?

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2 thoughts on “International Race Series Finds Success with Local Running Event

  1. Wait, the National Half is going to be an RnR event? For this year? Did Pacers market this through their FB page? I still haven’t shopped at Lululemon . . . .

    • Yep! Competitor announced it last week with a press conference. I believe the joint “fun run” event with Pacers and Lululemon was to drum up excitement among area runners so I’m not sure if Pacers promoted it too heavily through its channels, but the Pacers Facebook profile did announce the Josh Cox event and kept teasing the announcement of a new race.

      Here’s more info on the RnR in DC: http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/usa

      Oh, man, the longer you can stay out of a Lululemon the happier your bank account will be because it is ADDICTIVE – in the best way possible, of course. I am a big fan of Lulu’s run clubs and community outreach initiatives, which I’ll be writing about in a future post! 🙂

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