I like to start with the race name and logo. These might sound like they are not very important, but these two things are the lifetime brand of your event. Choose either poorly, and you will have to change it and reinvent yourself in the future. Let's start with the race name. You probably have something in mind already, so ask a few questions about your name. Is it easy to remember? Does it tell the runner something about your event? Is it relatively short? Is it already in use by another race? Is there a domain name open that closely matches the race name? More on domains later, but hopefully you can find a name that answers yes to most or all of those questions. I would suggest not using a distance in the official race name. I made this mistake and had to change the race name when I added additional distances. Now you need a logo.
Of course your budget is tight but please don't skimp on the logo. You have a race concept and a name, have a professional that can build a logo to match. You want a logo that is simple so that it can be read easily when printed on a shirt, sign or postcard. Many people recommend using a maximum of four colors as well. A good logo design will probably cost you $300. For that price expect to provide the designer with some options to start from. A great logo design will cost you $500+. For this price, the designer should be able to take your race concept and create a few options for you. A lot of people have 'friends' who can make a logo. If their profession is not graphic design, I would suggest paying to get it done correctly the first time. This is truly the basis of the brand you are building. Wait, I thought I we building a race, not a brand.
Although you are just putting together a race, I like to think of it as a brand. Just like you are confident you are going to get a great product from Porsche, you want your customers to know they are going to get a great race if it carries your brand name and logo. Although this starts with the presentation we are covering now, it's going to continue through registration, race day and post race. I'm going to make a lot of recommendations that you think are not necessary. It's true, they are not required to put on a running race. But they are required if you want to build a great brand that people trust, come back to year after year and tell their friends about.
In this day and age it's pretty much required to have a strong presence for your race online. This is going to take a lot of time, but it's required that people can find your event, register for your event, and see what people are saying about your event just by picking up their smart phones. Your first step is going to be choosing a domain name. Once again, there are books dedicated to this subject alone. But just use common sense for this. Go to Godaddy.com <http://godaddy.com> and bring up the domain search page. You are looking for a domain that is very easy to spell and sounds just like the spelling, is as short as possible and ends with .com. If you are a charity race, buy the .org as well so that people will go to your page if they end your domain with .com or .org. I use GoDaddy for all my domains but there are several other options. Tip: make sure your domains are on auto renew or you track closely when to renew them. We have all seen a domain we use taken because the owner didn't renew it on time. These are often sold back to the original owner at a higher price, because you have already built a brand and name recognition with that domain. Next is the website.
I don't believe those who say you don't need a website. A Facebook page or stand alone registration page isn't (although you need those too). Here I'm going to tell you to save some money and build your own webpage. Certainly this isn't earning me any points with my friends who do that for a living, but anyone can build an average webpage. It's probably not going to be flashy or sexy but it should provide your runners with all the info they need in a clean and appealing format. It should also highlight those sponsors you worked so hard to secure. To build websites I use weebly.com <http://weebly.com>, but there are a variety of similar sites that allow average folks to build a website easitly. If you are building a simple site, you can even do it for free. Then just forward your GoDaddy domain to your free weebly page. On your website you need to have who, what, when, where, why and how at a minimum, but you can also include training plans, photos of the course or about anything else to get people excited about your event.
On your website, two great ways for your runners to stay engaged is through an email list and a blog. You most likely are familiar with blogs as it seems almost everyone has one or more these days. A blog,such as this, is a great way to communicate with your runners in a long format. They can read your blogs as they have time or skip them all together. I find that blogging once a month, in the last few months leading up to the race, keeps the runners up to date on how your race planning is going and helps keep them on track with their motivation to train.
You are probably already on hundreds of email lists and most of them go to your junk mail. But hopefully there are a few that you actually open. On your website you can create a small for for people to signup for your email list. This is them giving you permission to email them about your events. Since most email services limit the amount of people you can email at one time, you will need to use a bulk email service to send mass emails to all the people that signup for your mailing list (I'd also add those that are already registered for the race since the information is of interest to them as well). Mailchimp is a very easy to use bulk email service and is free if you have a small mailing list. When you email your mailing list, think of the junk mail that you hate and don't be like them. Use your mailing list only occasionally for very important updates or deadlines. Tell in the subject line exactly what is in the email. Although it's fine to remind them a price increase is coming up, you will get more interest if you are not always in sales mode with your emails.
These are the basics of building your race brand. The tone you set with your domain and website will be carried over into your social media presence, your registration, and ultimately your event. Focus on presenting an image of organization along with whatever other themes you choose. People are often scared of first year events, because they can be a disaster if not well organized. As race timers we have seen the whole spectrum of organization, and those that are organized the first year grow much faster than those that are not. Next blog we will break down registration and social media.