Is there a value in race mementos?

At many races you receive a goodie bag which can contain flyers, cereal bars, food, drink or all manner of goodies. Some goodie bags are better than others and receiving a poor goodie bag can often be more annoying that not receiving one at all.

Many races offer medals. However, these are normally not of the best quality and, in my view, can simply come across as cheap and tacky. Some races offer T-shirts. These are often cheap cotton T-shirts which are of little use other than gardening, decorating or vegging around the house. A few races offer technical T-shirts and these tend to be well received (as long as their colours aren’t too extreme!)

When we were organising the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race, the topic of race mementos came up and the committee agreed to offer a good quality technical T-shirt. One of the committee, Irene, designed the artwork as well as liaised with suppliers to get a good deal. However, the T-shirts were expensive compared to cheaper mementos but the decision was made on a number of factors:

  • we wanted to put on a good event and have a good memento
  • a technical t-shirt was much more likely to be worn than a cotton T-shirt
  • we could use the availability of the technical t-shirt when promoting the race – it’s true that many might have entered without the t-shirt on offer but if you include such a ‘useful’ memento, the race could be seen to be ‘better value’ because you walk away with something you can use (assuming you wouldn’t want to be seen in such a garment!)
  • each time a race entrant wore the technical t-shirt it would (hopefully) remind them of our event and entice them to enter next year
  • with 500+ t-shirts being worn at training runs, club training sessions, parkruns and other races, the event and club are being promoted to 10s and 100s of other people who may not have heard of the event or club
  • LRR club members may feel proud of their club if they see the technical t-shirt being worn

Not only was the T-shirt something that was practical but it offered a great way to promote the club potentially for several years (I’m ashamed to admit that I have technical T-shirts of 4+ years old that I still wear regularly).

It’s true that the T-shirts cost significantly more than an inferior cotton T-shirt that would rarely be worn (and therefore offer few promotional opportunities) or a medal that may never leave the box it’s tossed in after receipt and that the race entry fee increase imposed this year didn’t cover the entire additional cost of the t-shirt but, in my honest opinion, the t-shirt provided (a great deal of?) value in terms of maintaining or even enhancing the prestige of the event as well as the post-event promotional opportunities it provided. The cost was also offset to a small degree by sponsors who had their logo on the back. In reality, we had hoped for more sponsorship but it wasn’t to be.

Although we didn’t formally ask participants whether having a technical t-shirt would make them decide to sign up, we did survey them after and there was a lot of love for the t-shirt! A couple of participants wanted t-shirts and medals but you can’t please everyone. Well, we could, but we’d have to raise the entry fees to do so!

Had we decided to stick with a cheaper medal and sold as many entries, we’d have made more money but would we have received the same longer term benefits? Of course, it’s difficult to say. However, in my view (and these are only my views expressed in this post) the club isn’t setting out to make a load of money and a club’s bank balance isn’t a sign of how good that club is.

Note that the cost of the t-shirts was budgeted from day 1 along with ever other cost (road closures, UKA licence, entry form printing, online entry commission, food, drink, etc, etc which were all funded from entry fees) and the event team set out to make a surplus from race entries that could be re-invested into the club for equipment, training, etc, etc. The actual budgeted surplus became a reality so, IMHO, we had a win-win situation.

5 thoughts on “Is there a value in race mementos?

  1. It would be a bit of an incentive for me, but not a decider. I have spotted your t-shirts out and about, so the advertising aspect is happening. My race t-shirts are usually used as night attire, so reach a very small audience!

  2. As above I wear my t shirts in bed (I only have 2so far!) But they are momento’s and I like the fact that I have earned them. I don’t really look at the medals or anything.

  3. Hi James,

    Great summary of one aspect of event organisation that can be a real sticking point for some competitors.
    We have been running races for 4 seasons and we started off with the cotton tees and for those who had never raced before loved the memento! For those more experienced racers, the tee was used as a tee towel, rag to clean their bike or simply unwanted. We experimented one year and decided to lower entry but not give anything away and I was met with outrage that nothing was given away as it was seen part n parcel of a triathlon.
    All boils down to expectation from the event, pricing and type of registrant.
    Your tech tees I think are a great idea, but remember once you have done it one year expectations will be that entrants will receive them the following year!
    Great blog and I am interested to see other competitors thoughts on the tee and alternatives to go in the goodie bag!

  4. The technical t-shirts I have received from races are almost all still in active use for training (some are a bit big now, so get less use). I rarely wear cotton t-shirts these days so they go in a box with the medals.

    The issue of cost comes down to what the point of these races are. I see it as contributing to the running community. As runners we like races; if no one puts them on we have nothing to do, and if we expect other clubs to put on races then we have to do our part! Unless it is trying to raise money for charity, I don’t see why a race shouldn’t aim to break even.

    What this has made me realise is that mementos could be personalised. On the entry form, why not give people the choice of medal, mug or technical t-shirt and adjust their race fee appropriately? It may reduce bulk discounts a little, but would allow a race to cater for those who race for the prestige of medals and those who want a practical memento 🙂

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