During the 2011 planning there were three to four companies vying for the coveted sponsorship space which meant negotiations took longer than expected. “We weren’t able to secure our presenting sponsor as soon as we would have liked, so we didn’t get out as early with our promotions, and that kind of hurt us,” recalls Thill. It wasn’t until March that the presenting sponsor was on board, resulting in a three month promotion loss.
After the first year, it was determined that a three-year sponsorship agreement option would be beneficial for all and that proved correct. Several of the biggest sponsors opted-in since this was a guaranteed sponsorship opportunity and they appreciated being locked-in to a cost-effective opportunity. In the meantime, the Mankato Marathon team was thrilled to cross securing sponsors off their list.
Lesson Two: Pay attention to the little things.
While race details may seem trivial, they’re actually a major part of a race’s success as well as the fruition of future races. For example, Thill says an important element in race planning is choosing a theme and colors early. This way the commemorative posters match and stay consistent with the finisher shirts, lanyards, the design on the medals, and the promotional materials. It’s also imperative that the runner shirts look sleek in hopes participants will continue to wear the shirts not just post race but also year-round. This makes for a double-bonus for the Mankato Marathon: happy runners and year-long advertising.
Lesson Three: Team with professionals.
Partnering with Final Stretch, Inc., a Nerstrand-based race management company owned by Mark Bongers proved to be a good move. “We don’t know the first thing about managing a race of any sort, let alone a marathon. We’ve worked together with Final Stretch from the very beginning, and they’ve managed many races,” says Thill, “and they have a great reputation. Final Stretch has complete ownership of anything that happens on the course, whether it’s the course design, the water stops, making sure all the supplies are there for the runner, and so forth.” Relinquishing these duties gave the Greater Mankato CVB the freedom to focus on other race aspects such the sports and health expo, a speaker series, and the pasta feed the night before the race.
Lesson Four: Expect busy days the week leading up to the race.
The week and a half before the 2011 race sales were still going for the final sponsorship spots including the activities guide, that Thill calls “the bible for the weekend.” The week before also brings in many last-minute race registrants. Some of these pieces can’t fall into place until a few days ahead of time which causes a need for extreme organization.
Lesson Five: Take every chance you have to recruit volunteers.
The week of the race, phone, radio and TV appearances opportunities increase which is great advertisement but also helpful in filling those last minute volunteer spots. As for stuffing the 4,000 race bags, last year the team was lucky to recruit 25 students from the university to help with the week-long project.
Lesson Six: Communication is key.
Thill says that communicating with runners, sponsors, and speakers is vital. The planning committee makes an effort to send out last-minute reminders to everyone involved.
A major factor that has been implemented recently is a “run-of-show” schedule printed out on a spreadsheet. This master schedule consists of every facet of the race and is not only used for the planners but also anyone else who can benefit from the schedule such as the local radio station.
Lesson Seven: Learn from the past.
While the first races have been successful that doesn’t mean that improvements can’t be made. Thill took this to heart and has made an effort to continually improve and shape future marathons. In fact, she has a list taped on her wall titled “2012 Ideas” which is constantly receiving new thoughts and suggestions. There’s no doubt this year’s race, like the rest, will finish strong.
Written by Beth Blair.