The race registration t-shirt has been around for decades. At first, due to the lack of road races that were out there, getting the race registration t-shirt was a sense of pride – something that said “hey, look world, I just ran a 10k [or fill in your event and distance] – pretty sweet, huh?!”.
But now with races nearly every weekend for all levels, distances and genres of endurance events, has the race registration t-shirt jumped the shark in the endurance realm?
Cotton Shirts Still?
Note to race directors world wide: For the last twenty-five years or so we have realized that cotton t-shirts are not the most ideal running garment, so why in heaven’s name do many events still give out registration t-shirts that are 100% cotton? While I can understand that the cost of a cotton vs. sports performance shirt is significantly less on the cotton side, why give away a shirt that no one will wear after the event concludes?
The one caveat to the cotton t-shirt, in my opinion, is the cotton long-sleeve shirt. I actually love these! Great for warming up and cooling down before and after an event; also, if it has a cool design (more on this below) I will actually wear it out with jeans or casual shorts.
If you are going to have race registration t-shirts, please purchase performance style shirts that provide wicking and are light-weight. This way an athlete might actually wear it more than after the race. If the shirt is cool looking (again, more on this below), you’ll have athletes wearing it during workouts or even just heading to the local grocery store; hence, marketing the event out to the public, which is partly why events have race shirts.
Design : Less is More
While we all have our own sense of style, I’m going to say emphatically that many of us don’t mind a logo or brand name here or there, but we are not signing up to be walking billboards either! Nothing turns me off a race registration shirt more (even if it’s a performance style one) than when there is a gazillion sponsors on the back of the shirt. Yes, event director, I know you are trying to cut down on the cost of the apparel, but instead of having countless sponsors on the back of the shirt, why not have their logos on your website, their marketing materials in the swag bag you give out or banners of these companies/brands at the starting line, finish line and awards area.
Let me say this, I think an awesome designed shirt or apparel will have athletes clamoring to sign up for your race. Don’t believe me? Have you seen how fast Hot Chocolate Runs have taken off over the last couple of years? One of the reasons for this is the awesome swag they have. They have actually eliminated the t-shirt and give athletes a hoodie instead – and it’s a sweet looking hoodie – I use mine all of the time.
Different Swag Other Than T-shirts
To dovetail off of the hoodie idea that Hot Chocolate does, maybe this is the direction we should be progressing with endurance events. Should we be getting away from race registration shirts and provide cool and useful swag – apparel and non-apparel related? I have a number of Ragnar Relay medals that double as a bottle-opener – now that’s ingenious! Nothing says endurance athlete like finishing a 24-hour relay with 7 of your closest friends and an icy cold brew!
I would go as far to say that athletes don’t mind paying a bit extra for a race if they think the swag or apparel they will get for registering is worth it.
What are your thoughts on all of this? I would say about 90% of the race shirts I have ever received I either threw away, gave away or used a dusting rag at home. Mostly the reason for this is that so many of these shirt are, in my opinion, just unsightly and lack any sense of style. I don’t really care about a race registration shirt, but if I’m going to pay a hefty registration fee for an event I would like some cool swag, which I will actually wear or use…
Let the discussion begin…race registration shirts: Yea or Nay?