Five top tips for selling out your mass participation event

By Michael Harvey News Comments Off on Five top tips for selling out your mass participation event

Mass Participation top tips

It’s marathon week! Congratulations and good luck to those that took part this past weekend in the London Marathon, especially to two of our own, Andre Wieneke and Luke Randall, who raised money for Shelter.

The London Marathon not only marks the single biggest day of running in the UK but with its consistent sell-out status and hugely attractive event proposition, it also serves as the holy grail of mass participation events from a marketing standpoint.

So, this got us thinking…if you’re a mass participation event organiser (and not the London Marathon), what can YOU do to achieve that ever-elusive “SOLD OUT” stamp?

London Winter Run

WePlay sold out the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run in consecutive years for client Human Race


With a number of sold-out events this year already, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you hit your targets in 2020:

1 – Take a (price) hike

Three words; Tiered. Pricing. Structure.

Price changes are a great way to manipulate demand, as well as acting as natural milestones in your campaign. Among the hundreds of mass participation marketing campaigns WePlay have executed, over 95% experienced their highest week of sales during a price rise.

The key is to leverage not only your budget but your core campaign assets around these moments. Conserving your budget for the periods when we can expect to see the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) will achieve the most effective ROI. In between price rises, it’s key to “equip” the user with all the necessary information they need to be in a position to purchase when the time is right for them. This means educating on the proposition, USP’s, incentives and anything else that is unique to your event.

You’ll want to stagger your core assets. Use the medal reveal or route announcement to create key milestones and talking points. This approach is not only effective at further engaging current participants, but it also works to peak interest in prospective new audiences.

To implement the most effective pricing structure for your events, start by looking at the duration of your proposed digital campaign. If it’s over six months, it’s worth considering a four-tiered pricing structure: Launch > Super Early Bird > Early Bird > General Entries.

2 – Move with the times

Consumer expectations are high. If we can’t get next day delivery or have to wait more than three minutes for an Uber, we as impatient humans enter a state of anxiety, simply because we are so used to achieving what we want, when we want. This extends to consumer marketing and purchase behaviour. As a result, it is imperative that your customer experience matches the expectations of today’s modern marketplace.

“Reduce friction at all costs and create a streamlined customer journey from first click to checkout.”

If you have any hope of selling out your event, you must put an emphasis on refining and optimising both ends of the marketing funnel. Bespoke landing pages, with all the relevant information about the event, and a simple purchase experience are must-haves for converting visitors into customers. Additionally, if you’re not mobile optimised, you may as well just quit and go home. Reduce friction at all costs and create a streamlined customer journey from the first click to checkout.

*Bonus – Implement HotJar on your landing pages to better understand how users navigate your site through to a conversion.

3 – Always on strategy

Your event may only last a few hours and your direct to consumer marketing campaign may only last for a few months, but that doesn’t mean that you can show up late in the day and expect someone to spend their hard-earned money on your event.

Marketing for many of our clients’ events starts one year in advance of the event. The longer the event, the longer the digital campaign, ie: A marathon and Ironman require longer lead times for consumers to prepare for that, say, a park run. This context needs to be applied to your marketing strategy.

“Targeting fans that are connected with your brand results in a 70% lower CPA than what we see when targeting new prospective audiences”

Utilising paid media to drive registrations in isolation is a short-term solution and only acts as a band-aid. There needs to be a sustainable balance between building a strong online community and utilising ‘direct response’ advertising to drive your all-important conversions.

If your registrations aren’t open for 12 months a year, what are you doing to reach new audiences, collect data or build your brand to set yourself up for success? RFI lead generation, community management, and a robust organic content strategy can make life much easier when registrations open.

“There needs to be a sustainable balance between building brand and community and utilising ‘direct response’ advertising to drive your all-important conversions.”


4 – Aspirational and achievable

The mass participation landscape is crowded. There is more competition than ever and there are new events appearing that are offering more value for less money. This, in turn, challenges the market and affects demand for premium events.

Advertising should be a mix of push and pull. Selling the event by storytelling the key benefits, features and USP’s, and breaking down the barriers to entry such as price, distance, time to train, etc. Your event will appeal to different consumers for different reasons, some looking for a personal challenge, for a training event, for charity and thus your advertising should be equally diverse.  

Get back to your original proposition and focus on what you’re offering the consumer that they can’t get for free. Highlight the opportunity factor and what the consumer becomes/gains after entering your race.

“You have to offer more than just a few miles on the road or through the city to get someone to part with their money.”

Develop messaging and content themes that are unique to your event and produce engaging social-first creative (designed for feed and vertical story). Simple and engaging is key here. By focusing on making the connection between what your event offers and the consumer, ie what you could be if you take part in this event, you’re able to build a better emotional connection. We call it “Marketing Biology”. By engaging the heart, not just the brain, you’re able to find the fastest way to a conversion.

5 – Capture the right content

So it’s event day. All that hard work has paid off and you’ve got hundreds of volunteers and event staff to shepherd thousands of people through your event.

Great. But you’re not finished yet.

Now is the time to start thinking about next year. What are the key elements, moments, landmarks and features of your race that need to come through in the creative? If your event is extremely intense, capturing the raw emotion at the finish line is a must. If your event is tied to a city or location make sure you get clear shots of participants with landmarks to reinforce that connection.  

Mass Participation Content

Our mass participation content pillars can be applied to a variety of events and tailored to highlight the event specific USP’s as part of an organic or paid strategy

“At WePlay we focus on what we call ‘The Four R Strategy’; Runners/Riders, Route, Race Experience and Region”

Insider knowledge: potentially the best bit about this is that you can swap “Runners” for “Riders”. And there you go – applicable to both running and cycling events.

Out of these four content themes, you can create content specific to your event that is tailored to different audience segments.

It is also important to consider at which stage of the marketing funnel you should use content and the format in which it will be consumed. For example, during an awareness phase, you’ll need a more educational and informative content, potentially shorter form to capture attention. In comparison, more emotive content articulating a ‘fear of missing out’ is most effective during the purchase phase, convincing someone that now really is the time to buy.


If you are interested in learning more about our work in mass participation, we’d be more than happy to discuss. Simply send an email to

Separately, if you’re looking to take part in any mass participant event this year, we recommend using Racecheck to find your perfect race.

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