Race flyers under windshield wipers? Not cool, man … or are they?

This is why we run. Not to hear more advertising messages.

Run Oregon bloggers have mixed opinions when it comes down to whether or not it's okay for races to "paper the lot" - put their flyers under windshield wipers in parking lots. I personally don't think it's cool - but others think it's an easy way to learn about races or are just not annoyed about it enough to care. Here are some of the opinions and a few suggestions for other ways races could more effectively promote themselves, and support the local running community. Not Cool, Man: Heading home from a race in early January, I was abut two miles into a 15-mile drive when I noticed a flier under my windshield wiper. It was a race flyer from a spring event, one that was not a sponsor, vendor, or affiliate of the race I'd just come from. And it annoyed me: I wasn't about to pull over and remove it, I couldn't use my wipers for fear it would fly off and become unsightly litter, and for the rest of the ride all I could think about was remembering to remove it when I got home before it turned to flaky paper-soup in the wet January weather. Relax, Kelly: Blogger Brian Bernier says I should just get over it. "I am used to seeing that at car shows, as a participant or spectator. It is an easy way to find out about upcoming events that may not be advertised otherwise." Our own Chere Nicholas, who puts her own business flyers in goody bags for races (with permission, of course), can see why it might irritate the race director (since at some races, events pay to put their flyers in bags). However, she says, "I love looking at the promos and flyers inside goody bags, so I don't mind getting another one on my car."

Here are some of my thoughts on why flyers on the windshield isn’t really the best way to promote your upcoming race and support other high-quality events in our area:

1. Runners and walkers sign up for events to do in their FREE TIME. They do not sign up hoping to receive advertisements on their car. It’s one thing to get a flyer in your goody bag, pick up a flyer at check-in, or accept a rack card from a volunteer at the finish – those are all friendly and don’t intrude on your personal space.

2. It’s a waste of money for the advertising race. Not only are there race organizers like me who will remove and recycle the flyers, there are bound to be a number of flyers put on the cars of people who aren’t even associated with the race. Yes, flyers in goody bags don’t always translate to an equal number of registrations, but at least when people look through their goody bag, they are doing so with an open mind and more likely to consider participating in an advertised event.

3. It’s litter. Some runners will just remove the flyer from their car, assuming it was put there with the race’s permission and that it’s now that day’s race organizer’s responsibility to pick it up. Others will notice it when they turn their wipers on and the flyer goes “flying” down the road.

4. It’s an assumption … and we all know what it does when you assume something …! There are instances in which the advertising race sought approval to distribute flyers (in a better way than covertly putting them under windshield wipers) and let the event director determine what would be appropriate for their event. For example, a family friendly race in, say, Beaverton, might welcome another Washington County family-friendly event’s flyers because it’s a service to their participants. But for example, let’s say “Awesome Race Company” was putting on an event on June 1, and “Not Awesome Race Company” put flyers out on cars advertising another June 1 event. Not cool, man.

Maybe it’s just me. But I know how hard race organizers work to organize and promote their events. So when other events take advantage of what they consider to be an easily accessible, captive audience without seeking permission, paying a vendor fee, or otherwise helping out, I find it contrary to the spirit of supporting local race organizers. I get that guerrilla marketing is a thing – I worked for Red Bull the summer between undergrad and grad school! – but there are other ways to spread the word. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Advertise your race by sponsoring another race, and work out a good way to reach out to their participants such as signage, a discount code in a pre-race email, or flyers at packet pick-up.

2. Volunteer at the race and wear your race’s shirts – and get permission from the RD to advertise at the race with a booth, tent or handing out flyers. Better yet, organize an aid station where you can create a sneak-peek of your race’s atmosphere.

3. Register for the race and run it wearing promotional shirts. A message on the front and back will be read, but what will really reach runners is your “team” attitude during the race. Are you supporting other runners? Cheering for people long after the winners have crossed the line? Actions speak louder than words!

And if you MUST distribute flyers on cars … the best way to get traction is to offer a great discount or promo code – no matter where the flyer is picked up! Nothing captures a runner’s interest like a good deal!

About Kelly Barten (1152 Articles)
I started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because I felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. I also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support LOCAL race organizers. I'm a Creighton Bluejay (undergrad) and an Oregon Duck (Sports Marketing MBA), and I live in Tigard with my husband and two kids. My "real job" is working for an incredibly awesome math textbook company doing marketing and production.
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