“Another of the nation’s high profile road races has announced it will provide free photographs to runners in what an industry insider says could be the beginning of the end of fees for race photos.”Runner’s World , 2015
By now, many of you know that that the phenomenon of free races photos is sweeping through our industry and putting smiles on the faces of millions of runners. At Gameface, we are proud to have created this little revolution. One reason Gameface took off so quickly is that race directors realized that providing free photos is not only the right thing to do for their runners, but it is also the right thing for their event’s bottom line. We just conducted a survey of 400 avid runners that backs up this view. For example, runners told us that they are nearly four times more likely to run a race where they know they will receive free photos.
Before we get to the details of the survey – and what it means for our race director friends – we wanted to give a little background. For decades, running events allowed photographers to sell race photos to their participants. And for decades runners have complained that these low quality photos were wildly overpriced. We know, because the founders of Gameface are both runners and race directors. We started Gameface three years ago with a simple mission – fix the messed up race photo industry by providing millions of free photos to our fellow runners every year.
Runners have been thrilled by this powerfully simple idea. We have given away more than 30 million free photos from some of the country’s largest and most prestigious running races. Yes, the runners love the fact that their race photos are now free, but they also appreciate the higher quality of Gameface photos that preserve a lifetime of memories.
Many race directors have now embraced this new business model, and almost every event is figuring out how they can join the revolution. Gameface was always intended to not only help runners, but also to help running events. Our survey demonstrates several ways in which free race photos is a smart business decision for races.
Survey Question: Would you be willing to pay an additional $2.00 in race registration fees in order to receive 6‐10 free high quality digital race photos of yourself?
Yes: 87% No: 13%
This question demonstrates just one way that race directors can make money by providing free photos. They can cover the cost of providing free photos by charging a little extra in race registration fees. This is a very fair deal for the runners, since most old school race photography companies charge as much as $80 to download all of your photos from a race. In the example we surveyed, runners would save $78 on their photo experience.
More Ways to Generate Revenue from Free Race Photos
Beyond higher registration fees, there are several more ways for free race photos to help your bottom line.
1. Grow sponsorship revenue.
Gameface covers a portion of its expenses by allowing sponsors to place their logos on race photos or placing tasteful ads on the photo download site. Typically, we sell this brand advertising ourselves, but we are happy to let race directors offer this benefit to their own race sponsors. We find that brands are anxious to create real online engagement with runners beyond just logos on the race website or some mentions in emails. Now you can approach existing sponsors or new prospects with a compelling onsite engagement at the race that is coupled with Gameface’s proven success in reaching runners online. We have seen race directors sell the photo sponsorship as a free‐standing engagement or as a way to secure a larger sponsorship that covers both onsite and online brand exposure.
2. Recruit more runners.
According to our survey, 74% of runners learn about upcoming races through social media – the biggest source of finding events. A close second to social media is “word of mouth.” 73% of runners tell us that they learn about races from their friends. Discovering photos of your friends enjoying a race is an extremely powerful piece of marketing collateral. It is one thing for a friend to tell you about a fun race, but it is much more effective for a friend to show you how fun a race is. Again, the survey backs this up:
Survey Question: If you saw photos of your friends enjoying a race, would you be more likely to participate in that event in the future?
In our business model, we add the race logo to all of our photos. This means that every time someone shares their photos on Facebook or Instagram, your logo travels with the picture. Typically we create about 100 impressions on social media for every runner. So if your race has 5,000 runners, 500,000 people will see action shots of your race with your logo on every image. This type of genuine, friend‐to‐friend is almost impossible to replicate at any price.
3. Reduce operating expenses.
Finally, free race photos can be a valuable substitute for other expensive race goodies. Our survey shows that runners prefer free photos over items like water bottles or t‐shirts. 55% of runners would rather receive photos than a cotton t‐shirt. Many runners would even prefer photos over a finisher medal. All of these gifts are nice rewards for runners, but only free photos carry big digital marketing value for your race’s brand.
If you are like most race directors, you fall into one of two camps. You are either already offering your runners free photos or you are trying to figure out how to do so. All of us at Gameface pride ourselves in finding a solution that works for every race director. We understand that you race is different from any other event on the planet. We respect that and are willing to tailor a solution that works for your specific needs.
Please let us know if we can help you manage this transition. We are also happy to provide you with a detailed copy of the survey results. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get right back to you.
‐ David Lavallee, CEO of Gameface Media