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Date: December 10, 2015

Author: Fred Phillips

Grassroots Race Production on a Budget

This article is geared toward events that have under 500 participants.

However these principles, as well as other principles, also can and should be applied to larger events.

Here are 3 things that should be the foundation for grassroots, budget-concise race production organizations:

  1. Get to know your customers.
  2. Create a budget and use it.
  3. Do first things first.

Let's take a couple of minutes to explore each of these items.

Get to know your customers.

Who are your customers? For the purposes of this conversation I'll define a customer as someone who would register as a participant for your race. For a local Tri or Du race, it could be your local Tri Clubs, members of the area health clubs, and participants of other races produced in your area.

How do you introduce them to YOU? That's an important piece of this conversation.

A couple of quick and fairly easy methods.

  • Offer free race clinic(s) at your race site. You can develop or expand a relationship with a regional couching service. Though this type of win/win sponsorship-relationship you can provide your potential customers with valuable training tips/techniques, as well as give the couching service potential new customers. 
  • Offer race entry discounts to the Clubs. People do respond to saving money. 
  • Do advertising swaps with other races. Help promote each other's races. It can be another win/win. 

After you accrue a customer, it will be your job to retain them, but that is subject for another article.

Create a budget and use it.

Drafting a budget is a critical item. It should be developed based on different participation levels. Set it up for different estimated levels of participants, for example: 100, 200 and 300, Include both sides of the equation: estimated revenue and expenses.

Know your bottomline and include a contingency so that you have room to accommodate those pesky unforeseen items.

Some (but not all) of the expenses and revenue streams include:

  • Fuel for your vehicle 
  • Meeting expenses 
  • Costly items such as food, race equipment, and service donations 
  • Security, permits, timing, registration 
  • Charity contributions 

Remember ... sometimes getting a service or product for free can cost money. Be sure to capture these out flows. If at all possible do not subsidize the event via your own pocket.

Do first things first.

What does this mean? From a budget perspective this means, handle the safety and security as well as the infrastructure items first. After the funds are allocated for these items, then start to look at amenities.

An example: At their first meeting, race director Bob and his team decide they will provide a big athlete goodie bag, containing, an embroidered hat and back pack as well as a dry fit shirt. Instead of this discussion at the first meeting, Bob and his team would be better served to assign individuals to obtain pricing for timing, law enforcement, emergency services, water safety support personal, and rental costs for bike racks, fencing, tents, etc. Additionally, they should develop a sponsorship committee to find businesses to offset some of the costs.

After the costs of these items are obtained and you have an idea of whether you'll get any sponsor money, then build your budget. Your budget will tell you much you can spend on athlete goodie bag items. From a production perspective, obtaining all your the permits is a higher priority 6 to 8 months before race day, than is designing the artwork for the t-shirt.

Be sure to work on your long-lead items first. Line up all the tasks on a time line, assign individuals to handle and hold them accountable.

To wrap up ...

  1. Prioritize your tasks based on customer procurement, return on your investment, budget and task lead time
  2. Get organized, use a spread sheet for your budget and tasks
  3. Don't procrastinate. Your worst enemy is procrastination. Create a schedule of activities and use it!


Fred Phillips is director of DLT Events and codirector of Tri Dallas Events , event production organizations in Arkansas and Texas. The organizations produce approximately 25 triathlon/du's, mountain bike, road cycling and open water swimming events each year within Arkansas and Texas. Over the past 18 years DLT Events and Tri Dallas Events has hosted and/or been part of the executive management team of USAT National Championships for: pro triathletes, draft legal, para-tri, age group and youth. Fred arrived in triathlon in 1984 and since then has completed more than 100 tri's/du's, including multiple Ironmans. He has served as a USAT National Board member, USAT Regional Council (member, VP and president), USAT Race Director Commission member and chairman. Fred holds a Level 2 USAT race director certification and has produced webinars for the RD certification program.

Have input or an opinion to share about this blog?  Email feedback@triathlonbusinessintl.com

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