It took me about 5 years to understand what the mysterious 26.2 on people’s cars was. During the time that races and athletic events exploded, this became the symbol of the movement, and the surefire stamp that someone driving in front of you was insane enough to pay money to run 26.2 miles early on a Saturday morning.
With the boom in the running industry, Running USA is reporting that over 42 million Americans ran more than 6 days a week in 2013. And it’s not just marathons and 5k’s that are gaining popularity.
Even more popular are alternative obstacle races which challenge participants to do other challenges, run through color, crawl through mud, or whatever the hook may be.
So what’s the place of logos in this industry? The truth is that the various race industries out there have the widest variety of brilliant and terrible logos that I’ve ever seen. And considering the power that these window clings have to grow the industry, I think it’s a woeful oversight for many races to skip the time and care that it takes to have an effective logo.
What’s So Cool about the 26.2?
For one thing, it’s about as simple as you can get. Which puts it in the realm of humblebragging: “That’s right, I ran 26.2 miles, but you know… it’s no big deal. I run all the time.”
It’s mysterious, and so it makes you feel a little bit like part of a club, or as Seth Godin would say, part of a tribe. People like us do things like this: running 26.2 miles on a beautiful morning in the summer.
Lastly, it taps into the main appeal of the race. Every race out there today has some gimmick. Marathons have the established place of being traditional, and the distance is what makes it famous.
Why Is Race Swag Important?
When they rock the gear, it prompts questions, it marks them, and provides a clue to others as to what they’re all about. I know people who run certain races just for the sake of the gear! No one runs a race like the Spartan and isn’t proud of it afterward.
For a long time, we’ve known about the power that advertising has when it’s subtly in your range of vision over and over again.
Modern marketing tactics take that a step further: instead of just a soulless corporate message constantly bombarding individuals, it’s important to give them personal power. Attaching your message (or logo) to people that others actually know and care about give them way more punch.
Are you more likely to listen to a recommendation from a billboard, or a recommendation from a neighbor you know and like?
Design Principles for Race Swag
This talk is actually specifically about the design for flags. However, I think there are a lot of parallels with the terrible flags that he shows, and the terrible race insignias I’ve seen. The same necessary design principles apply for both:
Here are the principles that he shares for flag design:
- Keep it simple
- Use meaningful symbolism
- Use 2-3 basic colors
- No lettering or seals
- Be distinctive
Some of the Best Examples (and why they’re cool)
I’ve noticed that my favorite race logos have a few things in common:
-They work on multiple levels
-They emphasize the main point
-They just plain look nice
The Ragnar race was named for a 9th century Scandinavian hero and king. The Ragnar logo contains two “R”s reflected against each other, but they also look, at first glance, like the face guard of an ancient warrior helmet, echoing the adventurous, conquering tone of Ragnar-runners.
The Dirty Dash actually has its own online swag store, which tells me that they understand the power that branded gear has to promote their race. The hard-core pig whose snout sports the “DD” of the Dirty Dash’s initials is a perfect mascot for the race.
It gets right to the essence of the event: runners who aren’t afraid to get messy. Slogans like “I fight dirty” and “Just eat it” further the idea behind the race: getting messy and loving it!
The Color Run’s logo shows bursting colors, representing the hook involved in this race. It’s a joyful explosion of color and expression, family-friendly and non-aggressive.
What I love is that it easily lends itself to variation, with a beautiful logo for the night run, or the branding continuing with their Tropicolor tour, or the Kaleidoscope tour simply by echoing the color scheme.
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Category: Business Hints