September 15th, 2015 Heather Sasser Marketing Lesson From A Running Event Limited availability. For a limited time. Exclusive merchandise. All these marketing phrases were designed with one goal – to get you to say YES! I recently attended a small sporting event in Vancouver, Canada and ran away thinking the company perfected this “you only have once chance” marketing strategy. You may have heard of the company Lululemon. The Canadian based company designs athletic wear mainly targeted to female yogis and runners wanting to look cute while doing a warrior pose or crossing the finish line. Based on the runners I personally know, Lululemon has a cult-like following. Ladies flock to the online or brick-and-mortar store when the newest merchandise is released. A few years ago, Lululemon decided to hop into the event business and created the Lululemon SeaWheeze half-marathon in Vancouver. With its own catchy name, set in a beautiful city during a great time of year, there was no doubt this race would quickly rise to the top of the “must-do” half- marathon list. So, six of us runners decided to take the plunge (or as we soon would find out – the splurge) on this race. The race opens 11 months before the actual date. In September 2014, we stretched our fingers, grabbed our computers, and clicked refresh right as the race opened. You see, the marketing had already started. Only 10,015 spots were available. We had to act quickly. By the grace of the running gods, all six of us had confirmed entries. The race was sold out within minutes. We were in. One of the lucky few. During registration, we had our first glimpse of more of the marketing genius and it all had to do with shorts. Instead of getting a traditional race bag, for this event, Lululemon gives out exclusive running shorts. You can’t buy them in the stores. The 10,015 registered participants were teased with emails about the design. Months before the race, the limited shorts arrived by mail. Genius. Give them to your runners prior to the race so they can wear them, brag about them and promote your company even more. Where did you get those shorts? Lululemon’s SeaWheeze half-marathon. The weeks leading up to the race, the event emails started coming. Teasers. Promotions. Look what you can get. You see, Lululemon offers a pop-up store for the race weekend with limited, exclusive merchandise. You’ll never see it in the store. You’ll never have the chance to buy it again. Get it today, gone tomorrow. Tell this to the Lululemon followers and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed money maker. And, a guaranteed line. We fell for it. The pop-up store opened at 7am to “runners only.” We got in line at 6:50am… literally behind hundreds and hundreds of fanatics. Front-of-the-line shoppers secured their spot at 3am. Yep. Nuts. We then waited. And waited. And, waited. Around 10:30, we were greeted with whoops and hollers as we raced into the convention center to see this special merchandise. You could look any direction and see ladies with piles of clothing. Sweatshirts, long sleeve, tanks, shorts, tights and jackets. Don’t forget bags, head bands and socks. Smart marketing. Once you wait in line for three hours, it’s hard not to buy anything. We walked away with our expensive, but exclusive stash of athletic gear. (When we looked on Ebay, the good were selling for three times what people paid.) The creative marketing didn’t end. The evening following the race, Lululemon throws the SeaWheeze festival. Your ticket gets you into this event filled with bands, booths and booze. Food signage stayed on-par with the event theme (which we admit, we never quite figured out. marketing fail). SeaWheeze even sold branded beer – the Curiosity Lager. Why not? You won’t find it anywhere else. So shell over more $$ to try this cold-one. As we perused the grounds, we saw a line. Another line. What could it be? Of course, more exclusive gear only offered at the festival. Limited hoodies. Limited scarfs. We drank the Kool-Aid, got in line and added to Lulu’s bottom line. When the weekend came to a close, we looked back. Happy with our gear. We know we were suckers. We fell for the marketing. This is likely the only time we’ll do this race together. After all, we have limited availability.