Awesome Ambassadors: Novant Health Charlotte Marathon

05/02/2018 - 15:41

To create an effective and sustainable runner advocacy program for your event, take some tips from the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon.

By Leah Etling

Every mid to large-sized running event relies on positive word of mouth from race ambassadors, whether you have formalized and branded your advocacy program or not. But a truly effective ambassador effort can create lifelong evangelists for your event who will spread the word near and far.

The Novant Health Charlotte Marathon of Charlotte, NC, is an event with such a program. We recently got to know this great Southern race thanks to an interview with Race Director Kayla Henderson and came away with some great takeaways about their Ambassador Program efforts that other races can learn from.

Here are a few:

— Select a diverse group of runners rather than just mileage junkies. This means you will reach a more diverse group of people with unique interests and be more likely to recruit new runners to your race.

— Provide them with support from within the group. “We’ve grouped them into six teams of three and each team has a “veteran” ambassador who participated in the program last year with some experience under their belts,” says Henderson. This sets up both accountability for continued participation in the program and gives newcomers valuable guidance.

— Start up opportunities for them to bond and connect, like training runs or social gatherings where they can also invite potential new racers to experience positive vibes.

— Recognize and appreciate their contributions. “Our 2017 race ambassadors brought in over 450 runners through their recruitment efforts and this year’s ambassadors have already started recruiting,” Henderson said.

— Showcase them online. This will draw new potential participants and help humanize your event. “They’re so supportive of one another and it really is heartwarming to watch. They are a great group to be around,” said Henderson.

Learn more about the Charlotte ambassador program and watch their promo video here:

Learn more about the Charlotte Marathon from the interview:

— Tell us about a few of the things that make the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon awesome.

Henderson: Runners experience the beautiful sights and sounds of the Southeast’s fastest growing city, including the Queen City’s signature tree lined streets, historic landmarks, major sporting venues and the most eclectic neighborhood parties. We normally have great running weather and a great Finish Line Festival with NoDa Brewing Company providing a local craft beer for the runners. Our post-race concert includes two live bands. Charlotte hotels offer amazing rates for our runners and are within walking distance to the start and finish line and Health & Wellness Expo. Runners and spectators truly get to experience the best Charlotte has to offer!

— You re-branded your race, changing the name (for the 2016 event). What was the reason for that and how has it been a good move?

Henderson: We wanted to convey the fact that this is Charlotte’s hometown marathon. Not everyone connected with the (previous) Thunder Road theme and, frankly, it was hard to make it thematically work well. Everyone here is proud to be from Charlotte, whether they grew up here or just moved here. We’ve created an event with true Southern hospitality; our runners and guests feel right at home. We are very proud of the Novant Health and Charlotte Marathon combined brand and it has been very well received.

— Your Referral Program is a unique idea that we haven't seen at a lot of races. What is it and how does it work?
Henderson: Our referral program has been great for participants and us alike. RunSignUp makes it so easy to manage. After a person registers, they are sent a unique link in their confirmation email that can be used to share with friends and family. Marathoners, Half Marathoners and Relay Captains receive a $15 rebate for every 3 friends they refer, regardless of distance. 5K participants can earn $5 for every three runners referred. And the best part is they can keep referring and earning more for every three referrals. We want people to feel like they’re included. Inspiring someone who is already registered to invite their friends and family is a great way to help grow our event.

— What is the biggest challenge your race faces in 2018 and how do you plan to tackle it?
Henderson: Our biggest challenge, like so many other events, is finding ways to grow. We must keep raising the bar for the runner’s experience, improve our marketing efforts, and hone in on where to best allocate promotional spending dollars. For example, we are spending more on social media ads this year and visiting more race expos, trying to increase awareness of the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon and talk about the Charlotte experience. Ultimately, our focus is on every detail of the weekend, for everyone involved – runners, volunteers, corporate partners and spectators.

— What would you like those who have never run the event to know about it or your organization?
Henderson: We offer an intimate, hometown feel in a Big City environment. You’ll find our Health & Wellness Expo at the Charlotte Convention Center convention and the Finish Line Festival in the Center City. Yet, you’ll see mom or dad “breaking tape” holding hands with one of their kids running alongside them. That type of intimacy is important to us and we take pride in our Southern Hospitality. Everything we do is with the runner experience in mind.
And, there is something for everyone, from the marathon to the mile, you can be a part of our weekend!

— Anything else you would like to add?
Henderson: Yes – a fun fact about our participant t-shirts! We are in our third year in our partnership with RECOVER, a local business right here in Charlotte creating durable, eye-catching clothing in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. We are beyond excited to partner with them again!

(Race day is Nov. 3. For complete info on the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon events, go to

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