Using High Profile Athletes to Market Your Race

Remember the days before social media where people used celebrity endorsements? Like how Phil Knight and Coach Bowerman endorsed race track stars to get Nike out to the masses? Paying celebrities to help promote your events is still common to gain credibility, exposure and popularity. But as social media grows, we enter the era of ‘Social Media Influencers’, public figures with a high following that share their lifestyles across social media, who equivalently can help capture the attention of your market. As a race director, you can leverage the social capital of influential individuals and athletes to promote your races to an engaged audience and drive attendance. 

But as the age of influencers grows, so does the spend required for brands to get featured on their profiles. The more followers, the more expensive is how it usually works… but more followers does not always equal more engagement. ‘Micro-influencers’ have smaller followings but are extremely valuable for your event. And this is not just in terms of large-scale exposure, but because of their ability to drive meaningful engagement, making it easier for you to move your target consumer from potential to actual attendee.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is someone who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach with a large social following that often gets paid to make social posts featuring someone's brand or tagging their product. A ‘Micro-Influencer’ is the same thing on a smaller scale. For example some influencers have millions of followers or hundreds of thousands, where as a ‘micro-influencer’ is often someone with just a couple of thousand. 

For example, that one that would be useful to promote your races could be a trail runner with a good track record of several impressive marathon PB’s, that posts high-quality pictures that they on their instagram or has witty twitter posts, in the range of 5k-30k followers. 10k followers is usually the right amount of followers for someone to consider promoting your race for a manageable budget or incentive.  

Working with a high profile athlete/influencer 

It is important to pinpoint what your objectives are when it comes to working

With high profile athletes and influencers before exploring your options. You are most likely looking to create awareness about your event as a stepping stone to selling tickets. But what about increasing online visibility, reaching new markets and encouraging participant loyalty? Knowing these goals will help you better

understand which audience you need to be tapping into before you invest in the wrong one.

To find an influencer that suits you, find a couple of personalities you’re interested in and pay close attention to what kind of content they’re creating and where they’re sharing it. For example, a former track star that has gotten into coaching but still has a large following of runners could be great, or a triathlete that has completed some high profile races like IronMans and shares their training updates. 

Here are a couple of ways you could ask an athlete or social media influencer to work with you:

  • Offer free tickets to your race. The idea is that in attending your event, they can generate some content to post after, ideally with links to your next events early bird tickets. Or, if they have been before maybe posting their training plan for your event and tagging your race to increase visibility.
  • Partner with a sponsor to offer them something of value to help their training, eg snacks or apparel. By posting pictures with these products you can gain visibility for your event and your sponsor at the same time. This would work in the run up event to ensure there is enough time to convert some of the engagement into ticket sales. 
  • Pay a fee to have a featured post about your race on their page. This is the blunter way of doing it, if perhaps the athlete or influencer you are working with has a high profile which they are starting to get more traction on. In order to manage your relationship with them well, make sure you are clear about exactly what kind of outcome you’re lookign for, so that they understand kind of post, tweet or feature you want from them.
  • Ask for a favour. If you already know this person, or are well connected through a club for example, theres no harm in asking for a favour to quickly share one of your posts, create one of their own or share it with fellow groups they have using thier influence. It’s worth keeping these relationships sweet!  

Metrics and measurements

You want to nurture your relationship with athletes and influencer, but its also important measure the impact of micro-influencers are engagement and impressions. This will be particularly useful if you choose to work with them in the future so that you can improve on what you did previously. Useful engagements to measure include:


They are a great way to determine whether people are talking about your event and actually see what they’re saying. Influencer marketing allows you to get real-time feedback about your product or service that more traditional channels wouldn’t.

We also calculate the engagement rate to determine the percentage of people who saw the content and engaged with it. Engagements are a more qualitative metric than impressions, which are of course helpful for achieving a goal such as increasing awareness or exposing a certain number of consumers to your event. 

Of course, there are other metrics such as website views and referrals from micro-influencer content. A smart approach for achieving these results is to ask your micro-influencers to include tracking links that can help you see whether you have had any impact on direct conversions. Alternatively, if they have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram and a business profile, you can also ask them to include a swipe-up link in their stories. This is a great way to target consumers once they have seen some live in-the moment video content of your event to potentially get early bird entries for the following race, or even to promote your race merchandise.

Another option is to provide each athlete or influencer with a discount code that they can share with their club members’ or followers, so that you can track the success rate through how many were codes were redeemed. 

In Conclusion…

Building impact takes time but there are so many advantages to long-term, personal relationships with micro-influencers who are relevant to your event. Nothing makes a runner or a triathlete for example, want to sign up to another race more than being told to do so by a fellow runner or athlete who is recommending it, particularly if they can share an awesome experience from the event. So take time and invest in your relationships with high profile athletes, so that their clubs and fans follow closely behind!

On Hand To Help

The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.

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