Photo by Alessio Soggetti on Unsplash

Four Ingredients Adventure Companies Are Missing Out On For Growth

Alexander Novicov
8 min readFeb 5, 2024


Steve, a friend of mine, asked me a couple of weeks ago if I wanted to do an endurance race with him. I was intrigued, of course. A challenge, a race, an adventure, why not?

But it turns out this particular race opened its registrations today at 12:00, and sold out by 12:02. I didn’t manage to finish making my cup of tea and scratching my head as I saw the race was sold out.

The race is called The Spine Race — it’s considered the toughest race in England and in the world. As it states on their website, it’s:

Non-stop endurance racing along the most brutal trails in the world’.

The Spine Website

For those who are not familiar, they have six races once a year that happen in the same period. The most in demand is The Spine and it’s an extreme 268 mile / 431 km race along the most iconic and demanding national trails in Britain: the Pennine Way. The race is scheduled every January so it’s to be expected to be very cold and uncomfortable to say the least.

We should not forget that the cost of entry makes Ironman look cheap — it costs an astonishing £1,195 per athlete!

Home Page

I asked on a Facebook group about running that I manage if someone is thinking of signing up to see if maybe I might sign up with Steve and someone else, as this race requires a lot of hill training outside London. One chap in particular replied that he wants to enter but it’s hard to book a place as it sells out in two minutes.

FB Message

I didn’t really believe him as it’s commonly known that it’s a tough race. How many crazy people are out there that want to do this race? Apparently a lot!

Let’s deconstruct this race and this brand to see what we can learn and how we can sell our adventure event.

The first point to recognize is that to sell out an event and to market something successfully doesn’t mean that it only has one ingredient. It needs to have a lot of the right ingredients.

If you want to make a Greek salad and you put all the ingredients but leave out the feta for example, it will not taste the same, you will feel that something is missing. With a salad it’s easy to spot what is missing — if you ever tried a Greek salad before, you know that something is missing.

Photo by Loes Klinker on Unsplash

With marketing and design it’s a bit different, you will not know consciously what is missing if you are not a marketer and if you are not a designer because that’s not your job, but customers will feel it.

One of the things that The Spine Race has done a fantastic job of is brand aesthetics and visual video. As you can see, their website looks very clean, the logo looks modern and professionally done. It looks great visually. I believe one of the co-founders of the race is a filmmaker and has a very good idea for aesthetics which helps.

The other thing they’ve done very well is a documentary on Amazon about their race — that’s where Steve discovered them and got inspired to register for the event. The documentary shows what the race is about and how grueling and hard it is.

One of the things that they haven’t really done is create a brand story that positions them as a bridge and makes them unique. They communicate about how this race is the most brutal race in the UK but that’s about it.

The reason why this messaging is not strong is because somebody else can come and do another event that will be 350 miles across the same area and say now they are the most brutal. Another issue with that is that you are saying what you are — that should be said by your clients. Because somebody might say that they are not the most brutal race.

Actually, yes, Marathon Des Sables says that they are The Toughest Footrace on Earth. It’s 250 km (156 miles) across endless sand dunes that feels like you are in a sauna with up to 50 degrees heat.

Marathon Des Sables Website

I would add one very important element in most events is that they don’t have and don’t work on a brand strategy and there is no creativity at all.

The first ingredient is having a brand story and a tagline that communicates and inspires people towards the change you want them to undergo. It communicates your values and positions. For example, we created a brand story for UTVV Slovenia. The tagline of their brand story is Challenge Yourself. If you dig deeper, UTVV communicates to current and potential athletes/runners that they want them to challenge their boundaries so that they can explore their potential.

UTVV Poster

When Steve asked me if I wanted to sign up for the race I mentioned another race — similar: very tough, very demanding across many days trail running. He said he is not keen on that race. There are many reasons he is not keen but initially when he looked at the website it didn’t inspire him.

It’s really important to remember that as humans we don’t articulate why we don’t want to do something when it’s perfectly rational. We will never say for example — I don’t want to buy this because the logo is badly designed. Or I don’t want to sign up for this race because the video is done poorly. It’s a subconscious feeling that connects to our emotions and then we come up with rational reasons why we don’t want to (it’s expensive, the days don’t match, it’s far etc)

The other adventure/race company that I shared has one big problem — their brand aesthetics are outdated and they don’t look cool. It’s a very challenging event, the organization is perfect but the packaging is not that great. The story is non existent.

This leads me to my second ingredient: when we want to acquire new audiences we have to be very careful about how we are perceived. A company might be selling a lot with bad designs and no story but it doesn’t mean that they are selling because of their visual identity and brand story. It might be because their current audience is happy with their product and they are telling their friends and family, or it might be because it’s convenient and the cost is at the price point that the consumer wants.

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

New audiences, especially younger people, have different tastes in visuals. The bar of design, aesthetics, branding and stories has gone up because of access to Netflix, Apple and other companies that ‘taught’ us what great design feels like.

The third ingredient is selling on emotional reasons: have a look at 100 race companies — what do they have in common? They are all selling the race: sign up for our ultra 50km, register for our 100km trail race. This is the location, this is the price and here is what we offer, register now.

All they are doing is selling purely on logic. But people are not logical human beings. People are emotional human beings that buy on emotion and justify on logic.

One of the most important ingredients is selling on emotion — why do people run Ultras? Why do people sign up for races? Why do people want the Finisher t-shirt? Why do people post on social media when they finish a race? Why do people run on trails? To explore, to push themselves, to challenge themselves, to feel different emotions, to connect with nature. BUT there are deeper reasons to prove to themselves that they can, to prove to their friends that they are better, to prove to their parents that they are worth it.

Sell on emotion first and then use logic.

The reason why some businesses fail and some succeed is because some very smart and intelligent business owners start their business and communicate all the logical things about their product and the price but they don’t include any magic in their brand. The look and feel of the brand doesn’t inspire you to purchase.

The fourth ingredient is selling the journey. In endurance races and adventures in general, it’s not about the finish line. Yes, we glorify it, yes, logically we say we want to do X race because we want to finish and get the medal and be at that glorious finish line but there is more to it.

It’s not about doing an Ironman — it’s a weekend where anybody can take two days off and go swim, cycle and run. It’s about the 52 weekends leading to Ironman. It’s about the discipline you learn on your journey.

Cycling Through — Ironman Bolton 2023

It’s not about doing The Spine Race — it’s about the journey of how you get there, become mentally strong in the most brutal scenarios. It’s the cold baths you have to take to train your body to react in case you fall in a frozen bog.

It’s not about doing a trail race — it’s about finding the time on weekends to go and do hills, it’s about learning about nutrition, it’s about changing your habits and learning a new lifestyle.

Snowdonia Recce for UTS Race in May

Nobody is communicating that, even the biggest brands like UTMB are not communicating the journey. This means there is an enormous opportunity to inspire people, to bring in new audiences, to make a positive impact.

Once we use all the ingredients in our business and our marketing magic happens, people are inspired, people talk about your brand, people want to be part of the journey.

I have to say I’m relieved that The Spine sold out so I don’t have to say to Steve that I don’t want to do the race but you know, I really wanted to but it sold out, what can I do.

Inspire with purpose.

If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up for my weekly Thoughtful Thursday Letter where I send a letter every week with ideas on purpose, storytelling and creativity that will make you think. You can see it here.



Alexander Novicov

I wake up every day striving to become the best version of myself. I’m a human, an author, ultra runner, skydiver, speaker and CEO at Way Boutique Agency.