August 10, 2021 | Case Studies and Our Work
This post was updated in October 2023.
Maine Marathon sees record breaking field in 2023
About our client
The Maine Marathon is the largest annual event of the Maine Track Club. In 2017, entering its 26th year, a new race director took over and was eager to update the brand. The event donates over $100,000 to Maine charities each year, and they wanted to increase their charitable giving by boosting race registrations and attracting more partnerships.
Visible Logic updated the brand identity, revamped the website, and used email marketing and social media to achieve a record-breaking increase in signups.
In a world increasingly filled with glitzy half marathons, triathlons, and color runs, the Maine Marathon had been experiencing a decrease in race registrations for the past two years.
The long-time race director and existing volunteer team had focused on executing a great race day experience. Still, they had not prioritized having a professional brand image or actively marketing the event to potential participants. The logo looked dated and didn’t accurately convey the quality of the event.
The website contained a lot of information but was difficult to navigate, and information was not always current. Marketing efforts to potential participants were limited, and communication to registrants missed opportunities to activate their core customers. Social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter were neglected, so potential runners weren’t reminded to sign up for this.
Starting with a survey of the Maine Marathon leadership team, Visible Logic identified several key qualities that made the Maine Marathon appealing and different from other events. Although identified as important to the leadership team, these valuable traits were getting lost in a sea of information when communicated to runners.
Visible Logic helped the Maine Marathon refine its positioning: the race is a volunteer-run event that benefits the community. This clarity helped us to target potential runners with a compelling value proposition. A new logo backed up by a redesigned website, a detailed twice-monthly email strategy, and social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were the mediums chosen to create a cohesive marketing effort.
The goal of the updated logo design was to communicate at a glance that this was a modern event in a beautiful place at arguably the best time of year. One of the most notable things about the Maine Marathon course is the start and finish around Portland’s Back Cove—this was alluded to in the logo and the colors of the fall foliage. The typeface chosen for the event name is reminiscent of classic Maine signs without being old-fashioned or derivative.
The Maine Marathon website was the priority after the completion of the logo. Driving potential runners to the website for more information meant ensuring that information was accurate and easy to access. Visible Logic also refined the registration process on RunSignUp, leading to a dramatic increase in donations to the Maine Marathon’s charity of choice.
Mail on the Mark, Visible Logic’s email marketing platform, is used to promote registration, pre-race events, and special offers to prospective and signed-up runners. In 2023 we sent 16 promotional emails to more than 22,000 subscribers, an increase of +6,500 from last year. The current subscribers are much very engaged and notable increases in registration occurred after each was sent.
Tying the content to registration activities, including price increases and event-specific dates, ensured that the emails were of interest to both runners who had already signed up and those who might be thinking about doing so.
Our average open rate for promotional emails was 51.6% (up from an already high 49% last year). The average for non-profits is only 26.6%! The “virtual goodie bag” of coupons and special offers had an incredible 79% open rate on an email to registered participants.
Visible Logic built out a social media plan and worked with the Maine Marathon to implement it with the active assistance of Maine Marathon volunteers. Visible Logic provided graphics and coordinated timelines to ensure that social media promotion was integrated with other campaigns.
In 2022 we started digital ad campaigns, with a focus on Google ads in the months leading up to race day. We were able to help Maine Marathon see a 543% return on ad spend in 2023, versus a benchmark of 300-400% in most Google ads.
Additionally, our data showed that 80% of the paid traffic during the time the ads were running were new users. This means they weren’t paying for people who already knew about the race.
Continuing the campaign through the end of September netted an additional 72 signups for an astounding 11:1 ROAS
Visible Logic designed and provided design guidance on a wide range of event swag, starting with training shirts on sale several months before the event. Many items were created using the new logo in this first year of a new brand identity, including print ads, signage, items for sale, runner t-shirts, and goodie bags.
Visible Logic has continued to support the race every year since, seeing an increase in registration every year except 2020 (when they only ran a virtual race). Our strategy helped lead to a record 4116 registrations for the 2023 race. This is in contrast to many of races nationwide that have continued to see dramatically decreased registrations. Working with Visible Logic, the Marathon has clearly communicated what makes their race special and has followed an ongoing marketing strategy.