Event promotion codes can be a very useful sales tool, but they must be used strategically and with caution.  The ultimate goal in the sale of any event is to sell out all registrations or tickets as quickly as possible.  In order to accomplish this there must be a sense of urgency created by the sales messaging.  This can include “sell out pending” messaging, “discounted pricing for early birds” or special gifts for signing up early.

With promo codes you still must create that sense of urgency by advertising a limited number and/or setting an expiration time and date.


Kicking off an event with tiered introductory pricing or a significant promotional code is “almost” always a good idea.  This can be offered as a loyalty discount or just way to generate buzz and quick sales.  If your event always sells out early then of course there is no reason to offer any discounts.


Another great way to utilize promo codes is creating unique codes for small groups to use as internal incentives.  Running clubs, other races, and sponsors are perfect partners to help sell your races with individualized codes.  This can be done at anytime throughout the registration process. Call other local race directors and exchange Facebook posts with a discount code.  No one likes to promote your event without an added incentive.


Using discount codes within advertising, especially online ads is an effective way to increase conversion.  Again creating that urgency within the ad and code will also increase your click through rate and confirmed purchases.


It is not recommended to offer discount codes to the public (this includes your email list, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) AFTER some individuals have already registered at a higher rate.  Not only does this frustrate your registered runners, but it also creates distrust within your participant base.  In future years, runners will be discouraged from signing up early because they will think a magic discount code may be released later in the event build up.  This also goes for groupon type offers that could pull the rug out from your registered runners.

You can still use discount codes if you target them to specific groups and advertisements, but you must be careful.

Other Tips:

–       Make the codes unique and fun.  Specify the code to the group or sponsor that they’re intended for.  (i.e. Use “SPARTANSRULE” for  15% off.  Only for all Spartan Run Club members)

–        Ensure that the code is properly spelled both in the registration system and within the advertising.  Sounds simple, but this is a dangerous typo.

Use promo codes for comp entries so that each runner still uses the registration system and avoids further offline paper entries.


Brandon Laan

Brandon is a dad, runner, race director and endurance industry specialist. He spends the majority of his time coaching the sales team at Race Roster while co-directing The Rock The Road 10K. He spent his undergraduate days at Western University before fleeing to Hawaii Pacific University for graduate school. He recently pushed his twin girls, Emma and Sydney to a 1:14 half marathon and is a former winner of The GoodLife Toronto Marathon and Silver Medalist at The Canadian Marathon Championships.