3W Races Case Study

We have a series Customer Case Studies, in which we take your stories and share your challenges and successes as a learning tool for other RunSignUp users.  This 3W Races Case Study focuses on scaling Participant Management, Marketing, and Runner Communication as a growing business. 

View the PDF Version of the 3W Races Case Study

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OCS1verview: 3W Races in Colorado implements standard operating procedures and participant management options to allow them to scale their Race Management Company through significant growth.


About 3W Races: Michelle & James Bettis held their inaugural 3W Races event on 1/1/2012.  In their first year, they produced, directed, or timed 41 Race events; year 2 saw a small increase in number of events, but a 300% increase in the number of participants.  Halfway through year 3, they are anticipating over 60 events, and have worked to build systems to efficiently accommodate the rapidly increasing participant count.

The 3 W’s stand for “Do WHAT You Can, WHEN You Can, WHERE You Are.” That philosophy is implemented through charitable components in all events in which they play a role.

The core of the 3W operating procedure can be summed up with one sentence:
Do what you say you are going to do.
In other words, manage the expectations of your runners to ensure that what you are delivering meets their expectations.

Pricing and Refunds

CS2Pricing: 3W takes advantage of the option to either pass the processing fee onto their runners, or absorb the fee themselves.  Often, especially for longer distance (and thus, more expensive) races, 3W absorbs the processing fee.  This means that the price seen by runners is the price that they are actually paying.

$70 is $70.  Our racers really appreciate that. 

The option to pay the processing fee as a race, split it with your runners, or assign it entirely to your runners is found in the payment details tab of the Race Wizard.

CS10Refunds: Refunds are not provided on any 3W races; it helps to clarify this from the beginning.  To do so, 3W races include a Custom Question “I understand that my registration is non-refundable” as a Required Response Check-Box question with only one possible response: “Yes, I understand”.  While this cannot eliminate all refund request, it at least guarantees that all runners see and acknowledge the policy, and gives 3W a record of their acknowledgement.CS3

 Participant Self-Management

3W Races allows participants to edit their own information where possible to minimize runner emails and Race Director labor.  A few things that most 3W races allow their runners to manage for themselves:

  • CS4Giveaways: Runners can return to their registration and edit their giveaway selection.
  • Add-Ons: Runners can return to their registration and edit their Add-Ons
  • Event to Event Transfer: Runners wishing to switch events (i.e., 5K to Half Marathon) can transfer themselves up to 1 day before the race.  Runners will pay any difference in price for the event that they are transferring to, but 3W does not charge any additional fee.  For races in which an event to event transfer request is likely, the policy and steps for transferring on RunSignUp are outlined in a Race FAQ section of their website.
  • Bib Exchange: Similarly, runners can transfer their Bib (either through a Gift Transfer, or a Refund Transfer) directly on RunSignUp.  This information, and the link to RunSignUp to sign into their profile, is listed on the 3W race FAQ.

Each of the above options can be set under the Participant Tab, Participant Management Sub-Tab.

Sponsors: Creating a Track Record to Entice Sponsors

Race sponsors want to know what they will receive for their in-kind or monetary contribution to a race.  Consistency is essential for 3W Races to create a proven track record demonstrating value to Sponsors.

Sponsors and Packet Pickup: 3W offers packet pickup for all races at local businesses, 1-2 days prior to Race Day. 3W strongly encourages runners to take advantage of packet pick-up, and finds that 60-70% of their runners do attend packet pickup.  This has the dual benefit of making Race Day run more smoothly and driving traffic to their Sponsors to guarantee that Sponsors get value from sponsoring the race. 

Building a Reputation: In their first year of operation, 3W did not request any monetary contributions from their Sponsors, asking only for in-kind donations.  This allowed them to build goodwill with local businesses, as well as to demonstrate for their sponsor the type of value they would receive as a Sponsor and motivate them to become monetary Sponsors in future years.

Charging by Return: Now that 3W has demonstrated the ability to drive traffic to a Sponsor, they do require a monetary sponsorship (many also provide an in-kind sponsorship) for Packet Pickup.  To guarantee that the Sponsor feels the sponsorship amount is equivalent to its value, 3W charges a flat rate for Pickup up to a certain number of participants, and then adds a small per-participant fee for each additional runner who who attends packet pickup. In doing so, the Sponsor can see the direct return for their contribution.

CS5Championing their Sponsors: 3W highly values their sponsors, and wants to maintain strong relationships with them.  They are conscientious about including Sponsors in emails and making them visible on race day.

Scaling Grassroots Race Promotion

Personal involvement in the local running community – running cubs, gyms, fitness programs, and running stores – has been very effective in convincing local runners to buy into the 3W philosophy and drawing them to races.  One problem: James Bettis, the marketing head, can’t physically be at every running gathering. To keep 3W Races visible, James has created an Ambassador program.

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Ambassadors apply to be a part of the program.  In 2014, 110 people applied for 40 spots as 3W Ambassadors – Ambassadors were selected based on their answers to multiple choice and essay questions.

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RunSignUp 3W Races, and Innovation

Consistency of product does not mean that 3W Races makes all their events identical.  They are always trying new models and formats to keep Runners excited.  While they have chosen not to produce “mob” style events like a Color Run, they do play with nontraditional distances, themed runs, series, and other new race concepts.

One of the things that we try to do is to keep things fresh.  And every time that I’ve encountered where RSU can’t do something, I’ve phoned my rep or sent an email and literally within hours…sometimes days, depending on how complex I’m asking for…new code is written and deployed and it’s solved. What I really appreciate about the team at RunSignUp is their commitment to Innovation, and their attitude about it – Innovation is something that they hunger for. 

 Strategic Communication

The 3W email policy balances the desire to provide runners with key information and the need to limit email to encourage runners to open and read the emails.  For all races, they send 5-6 emails, at the following intervals:

Email 1 (T-14 Days): Promotional email with limited information: Remind registered runners that the race price is increasing, and they should encourage family and friends to join them before it does.

CS9Email 2 (T-7 Days): Informational email: Basic Race Day information, including location, packet pickup information, and what type of in-kind donation they are accepting on Race Day (3W partners with local charities to collect in-kind donations at all races).

Email 3 (T-3 Days): Packet Pickup Reminder: One sentence long and generally sent the day before packet pickup, this email is only inform and remind runners about packet pickup.

Email 4 (T-1 Day): Detailed Race Information: 3W begins the email with 3 short bullet points (SnapShot!) of the information they deem most vital – for them, this is usually the Start Information, the Race Address, and a note that their races are Cup Free (runners bring their own water bottles).  This ensures that runners who will not read a long email will still see crucial information. Below the 3 bullet points, they include much more detailed race information for racers who want the big picture.

Email 5 (T+0 Days): Post-Race Information: The afternoon after a race concludes, they send a final email with all post-race detail.  They are able to prepare this email, with links they will use in the future, in advance of the race.  This email includes:

  • A link to Photography either on Facebook or elsewhere
  • A link to Results
  • Instructions for runners who need to return a chip (3W uses reusable chips)
  • Sponsor recognition, and any rewards available from the sponsors.  For example, a running store might offer 10% off to runners who bring in their Race Bib.
  • Promotion of their next race. 

If you have a success story about your race, store or club, big or small,  email us
…we’d love to explore a Case Study on your topic!

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