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Randolph Garcia
April 12, 2016

Referral Rewards: Make Your Athletes Your Biggest Recruiters

This post comes from the desk of our Account Manager Randy Garcia. Randy (and all our Account Managers) have a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective from a wide variety of events across the country and industry. Which means their know-how is incredibly valuable when it comes to giving pointers on how to grow your brand, grow your revenue, and reduce your workload. Without further ado... Randy.


One of the most frequent questions I get asked as an account manager is, “How can I
 get more athletes to sign up for my event?” It’s a fair question because as the number of athletes participating in endurance events continues to explode, so too does the number of race registration options these folks have. It seems like every weekend the marketplace is crowded with some sort of mud run, obstacle race, or neon/electric experience extraordinaire. To throw another wrench in the works, most event directors are Stretch Armstronged between a leaner marketing budget and a higher registration goal!


Utilize Your Athletes + Social Media

Utilize Your Athletes + Social Media

So how do I help my clients navigate through this crowded scene? I could sit here and preach about discount codes and Groupon offers but really the only thing that excessive discounting does is devalue your brand (and net you less revenue). On the contrary, event organizers should be looking at building up their brand by taking advantage of the two closest things at their disposal, their athletes and social media.

As social media continues to expand and grow, the endurance industry has seen a steady maturation of its online presence. Events including the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon, Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon, and Williams Route 66 Marathon all top 30,000 “likes” on Facebook while the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon  has amassed over 65,000. These followings continue to grow as event organizers continually target ads to potential participants or create audiences from registered athletes.


Likes and Followers Aren't Enough

Event organizers can no longer remain content to rely solely on the number of “likes” or “followers” to build their brand. Today’s social media is all about impressions and reach. This means rolling up your sleeves and actually driving the conversation about your brand and event. After all, if the average Facebook user has 200 friends, 30,000 likes suddenly becomes a potential audience of 6 million users.

That's a big number.

Reaching that potential audience requires that you turn your followers into active brand ambassadors that will comment on or share your posts continuing the conversation about your event.

At the Running USA Industry Conference in February a lot of the chatter amongst event organizers centered around referral programs. Everyone was interested in using their current or past athletes to recruit friends and family to also participate. And why not take advantage of the fruits of someone else’s labor? However, to get the best ROI on online race registrations and social media buzz, event organizers have to empower these athletes to feel like they have a vested interest in continuing the conversation after they have already registered.


Create a Referral Program using the Participant Referral Report

Participant Referral Report

One of the nifty tools that imATHLETE's race registration software has in its reporting arsenal is the Participant Referral Report. Like the picture says, it’s a handy tool for thanking folks who brought in extra participants and includes how many of their referrals clicked and how many registered completely.

Basically, this report aggregates how many times athletes sign up for your event from a registrant’s unique social media referral link. And yes, each registrant of your event will have a unique referral link automatically created that they can share via Facebook and Twitter. With our newly upgraded sharing capabilities, it has become easier than ever to tell the world you are participating in an event!

I find this report fascinating because you get a glimpse into how many of your athletes are referring business your way without any impetus to do so. But simply using this report to reward those people should not be your end goal. I encourage clients to create a referral program based around this report to help drive the conversation around their event. Providing tangible incentives for athletes gives them a vested interest in consistently sharing their unique social media referral link multiple times.


Best Practices from Pros

Skechers Performance Los Angeles MarathonTo learn more about best practices, I reached out to Ryan Cavinder, Marketing Manager at Conqur Endurance Group who explained, “We found through our research that word of mouth is the main reason people sign up to run the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. It can be difficult to encourage runners to refer their friends but imATHLETE’s tools make it simple to both incentivize and track referrals.”

One of the first events to take advantage of the Participant Referral Report, the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon offered prizes to the top sixty referrers and created a leaderboard which allowed athletes to find themselves and compare where they stood throughout the lead-up to the event.

According to Cavinder, the best part of the program was that the prizes offered came at little to no cost to the event but were still desirable enough for athletes to want to compete for them.

“We were able to educate and incentivize our audience to refer friends using owned assets like gear, race entries, and VIP access as a thank you for spreading the good word about our race.”

How can you get more athletes to sign up for your event? Ideas like the referral program highlight a way that event organizers can use tools that already exist and take them to the next level to maximize their ROI. And what better way to fill all your slots than by piggybacking on the enthusiastic support that many of your athletes already have for your event!


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