Why Do Races Give Participant Shirts?

We hear many answers to this pivotal question. We always ask race directors when we start working with them. It’s a wide range, but here are our most popular answers by far:

  • “The participants expect it!”
  • “We’ve always done one.”
  • “It’s great marketing for our race.”
  • “I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it.”
  • “Everyone else does it.”

There is nothing wrong with any of these answers, for sure. We’re here to explain how we see it and maybe even offer some alternatives and ideas!

A ton of consideration goes in to your decision to have race shirts or to skip them. Sure everyone expects to get a nice technical shirt with their registration fee, but why? At the start, the race shirt was most cost effective way to market your event in your local market. Having a participant wear your shirt over and over means a couple of things: they are being seen by other runners during their workouts and it shows would-be-participants that your race has great schwag.

And it still is the most cost effective means of advertising. But we’ve seen this idea shift from something “new and neat” to “everyone does it, how can you not?” Consider this: your participants may do 5-6 races per year including yours. That’s 5-6 new workout shirts going into the rotation and thus cutting into your exposure time. We don’t want to see your race (or any others, for that matter) have their shirt made into a quilt or, even worse, sit at the bottom of a drawer for eternity. So how do you combat that? It’s simple: give a great shirt with an eye-catching design.

We can help you with both! We consult each of our partners from the very beginning, starting the conversation about “why a shirt” before we even get into specifics.  We want to make sure you are doing a service to your race instead of spending a lot of money for little return. Sure other shirts can be way cheaper. We know that. But how many times will someone wear a cheap shirt that falls apart? We guarantee that our high quality, dye sublimated shirts will become the favorite running shirt for your participants.

We like to use this example: would you rather spend money on a billboard in the desert that never gets seen? Or get an awesome downtown location that gets seen time after time for a bit more. We know cost is a strong (if not strongest) factor, which is why we’ve brought in the Partnership Program. It can help you defray the cost of shirts by selling additional merchandise. Branded merchandise, that is. Even more advertising for you!

Sometimes, a shirt may not even be the best option! Hats, visors, and beanies are really growing in popularity. They are different and perform great. Plus, participants can wear them all the time! So let’s start a conversation. Check out our custom event participant shirt section on our website and give us a call. We’re excited to work with you!

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