|Me at the finish line|
Whether Bluenose benefited from what amounted to Ethan's free advertising is an active discussion point (though obviously Ethan may have benefited form the attention too). The implications are tantalizing; here is a test whether or not adding competitive runners to the field really does enhance participation numbers. We won't know until next year since the news of the Kenyans joining really didn't grab headlines until three weeks before the race. This year's numbers were equal to last year, and most people had already committed beforehand given there was a registration price increase on May 1st.
It has always been the motto of Blue Nose to be inclusive and "fun" and not to emphasize attention on the front-end competition. Will runners get a "taste" of seeing what a bit of competition looks like and want to join themselves? Or maybe it won't matter. It depends how many closet-competitive personas remain out there, untapped.
For the fun of it, let's compare Bluenose participation numbers to two other events, the Tely 10 and the Ottawa race weekend:
|Tely 10 miler, Ottawa Race weekend and Bluenose weekend (5k, 10k, half and full races |
not including 1.5k kid's runs)
The 'official' explanation for less-than-expected BN turnout was due to a longer-than-usual winter (i.e. fewer people trained leading up to race). If so, the we might expect numbers next year to rebound or increase. If not, one may have to acknowledge other factors at play. Having seen many advertisements for the BN on billboards etc, it's not possible would-be runners are unaware of the race. Time will tell what these trends will be (I admit that's a borderline truism).
One clear trend is the expansion in half marathons. Running USA reports a recurring 12.5% annual growth in 21.1k participation in the United States. Canada is keeping pace with similar-sounding numbers; comparing half marathon stats in the same three races there is apparent growth in Ottawa and Tely (ok, Tely isn't quite a half at 10 miles, but still..), however less so with Bluenose. Bluenose's annual growth has been 5%, much less than the Tely's 10% or the 12% of Ottawa from 2004 to 2009 (i.e. before they imposed a cap on the total numbers).
1) Advertise yourself as a "premiere", "high quality" or "fast"
2) Advertise yourself as the most "fun" race (or, by contrast, the "toughest")
The problem with choice #2 is it being completely subjective. But choice #1 is more objective in nature. This is why most races that can afford have added elite runner incentives like prize money and comp entries. Races that claim to be fast but with unimpressive course records will not be taken as seriously. If advertising as entertaining, you are holding yourself to the old adage that the customer is always right. It is a dangerous position to be in when coaxing people to run a mud race or marathon. Having chosen option 2 may partly explain why the Bluenose has 6-7 times as many runners in the half as full, which is abnormal considering the entry fees are nearly identical.
|Bluenose picked the second, more subjective, option for advertising itself|
|Ask yourself, does this ad set itself up for debate? Of course not!|
|Would you say the Toronto Waterfront marathon picked the #1 or #2 advertising route?|
POST SCRIPT: Here are the total marathon-only results participants in the Blue Nose and Ottawa Race Weekend. As you can see, the numbers have been steadily climbing for Ottawa while Halifax has averaged just 290 runners over the past 10 years.