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What Happened To Race Goodie Bags?

Posted by: on August, 18 2015

Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Dave McGillivray

It seems like fewer and fewer races I attend now offer “goodie bags” to the participants. Is this actually the case? If so, why?

There was a time when I believed that runners equated a race’s value and the justification for the entry fee with how much stuff they got in their goodie bags (that is, their race packets). I would picture runners sitting down with their goodie bags and a calculator, adding up the value of each item, without factoring in the quality of the race itself!goodie bag
Typically, races that offer goodie bags include some combination of these items:

  • Flyers or discount coupons from sponsors or other companies
    Race applications from other races
    The official race program
    Small gift items such as toiletries
    Food items like energy bars or gels
    Last minute instructions from the race
    Something valuable and useful, like a pair of gloves or a cap or visor

It was also once a common practice for sponsors to pay the race a fee for the right to place something in runners’ goodie bags, which could become an attractive revenue stream for the event.

Years ago, it seemed like there were a number of attractive items included in most goodie bags, but now, it seems like that has all morphed into paper—flyers and coupons. I speculate that this is due mainly to the increase in the sheer numbers of races and race participants and thus the required increase in the number of each item being requested from contributors. If there are 10,000 entrants in a race and a company donated a $2.00 item, that is $20,000 worth of product—ouch!—which could be cost-prohibitive for many companies. Even providing the bags themselves can be an added expense to a race.

As such, many races are now going with the concept of a virtual goodie bag, in which electronic versions of flyers and coupons are emailed to participants. This eliminates the paper waste and the labor required to stuff hundreds or thousands of goodie bags. In addition, a lot of organizers are touting this change as another way to “go green.”

In the past few years, I have actually eliminated goodie bags from many of my races and very few participants seem to have noticed. Eliminating the bags entirely is becoming the norm. However, if organizers really wants to set an event apart, an attractive, gift-filled goodie bag will certainly earn them a few brownie points.