Planning a Successful Virtual Race
Yes, we know. A virtual race is not the same as a "real" race. BUT, that doesn't mean that you can just slap one together and it will be successful or easy. Virtual races are becoming increasingly popular, which means more competition. Just like a physical race - you will want to plan ahead to streamline the process for your team, effectively communicate with your registrants, and set yourself up for success.
Make sure you know the answers to these questions BEFORE you launch your virtual race (you can thank us later):
- Standing Out - there are a lot of virtual races out there. How are you going to entice people to sign up for your virtual race? Think about it - virtual runners are running on their own, so what is your plan to incentivize runners to spend money on your virtual race before they head out to run on their own?
- Charitable Component: 95% of races on RunSignup are connected with a nonprofit. This applies to virtual races, too. If you have a charity partner, highlight them on the registration page and make it clear that you are supporting that organization and where the funds are going. People are more likely to sign up if they know that part, or all, of the proceeds will benefit a worthy cause.
- Cute Gear: Have super cute gear? Amazing! Make sure to showcase the gear on the race page. You can do this by adding a custom section under Race>>Race Page>>Custom Sections.
- All About that Bling: Virtual runners love that bling. If you are including a medal in your virtual run package, showcase the medal on the race page.
- Virtual Race Timeline - when does your virtual race take place? Is it one specific day/week/month or is it open-ended?
- Race Wizard - when you set up your virtual race, make sure to set the event end date (Step 1 of the race wizard) to make it clear when your virtual event begins and ends. These dates will show on the race page and event tiles.
- Virtual Race Distance - Virtual runners like to feel a sense of accomplishment before they celebrate with their bling. In most cases, they like to sign up to complete a specific distance. With that in mind, a 5K is too long for some people and way too short for others. How do you include everyone?
- Give Your Runners Options - you can set up different events and distances in the race wizard, this will allow runners to choose their distance and know what they are committing to.
- Splitting up the distance - let people split up the distance into multiple days and/or walk it (yes, you will get this question). A brand new runner might need to split a 5K into 3 different runs, while an experienced runner might want to sign up for a 150 Mile challenge to keep them motivated for the month. It helps to let your runners know that they can complete the distance however they like, no matter how long it takes them.
- Pricing, Pricing, Pricing: The average cost of a virtual race on RunSignup is between $30-$45. Be conscious of your pricing when you are setting up your virtual race. Just because a "real" half marathon might cost $125, doesn't necessarily mean someone will pay $125 to run a virtual half marathon (trust us, very few do).
- Promotion and Marketing: What are your plans for marketing your virtual race? Email Marketing, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Referral program, ambassadors? Put a plan, and a budget, in place to help make your virtual race successful.
- Runner Communication and Motivation:
- Before Registration: Virtual runs are growing, but they are still a relatively new concept. After all, that's why we created this Virtual Race Hub. This means many runners haven't completed a virtual run before and some don't understand how it works. Use the race description and incomplete registration emails to explain what a virtual race is, how they can complete it, what they will receive, and when they will receive it.
- Leading Up To Race Day: It never hurts to send motivational training tips and tricks to your runners. Virtual runners are usually signing up to celebrate an event or to stay motivated - you can help them stay motivated. Who knows? They might be so motivated that they refer lots of friends.
- Post Event: Send an email or post on social media to THANK YOUR RUNNERS for supporting your race and your cause. It's such an easy thing to do and really goes a long way.
- Shipping Timelines: Virtual runners want to know when they will receive their gear. If you are shipping in continuous multiple batches, make it clear when they should expect to receive their gear. If you are shipping everything in one large batch, make it clear when what the shipping date is. You should view virtual races as e-commerce - when you buy something, you want to know when you will receive it.
- Fulfillment Process: You would be surprised how often we hear "I have 500 virtual runners, but I have no idea how to ship 500 packages." If you have never completed a large mass-mailing before, you will want to come up with a plan before you commit to and invest in putting on a virtual race.
- Race Day Experience & Results - If you are hosting a virtual race that takes place during a set time frame, what is your plan for race day or race week?
- Race Day Experience for Virtual Events - If you want to create an interactive experience for your virtual runners and you work with a Race Day Certified timer, you can use RaceDay Experience for Virtual Events.
- Facebook Live Kickoff - We have a number of races that will kick off their virtual race on Facebook Live. We also have a race that kicked things off with a Zoom meeting. If you are planning for that, publicize it so runners can tune in and join the community. People get really excited about seeing other humans these days.
- Results Posting - Are you accepting results for your race? If you are hosting results through RunSignup, you can set up the Enhanced Virtual Race feature to allow participants to submit results by text, email, or through their RunSignup profile. Many virtual races will make results posting optional, but whatever you decide - make sure that it is clearly communicated to runners on your race page and in the confirmation email.