How One Logo Can Connect Strangers

Alexander Novicov
7 min readMay 2, 2024
Meeting a fellow trail runner (Sebastie from Paris) in Central London

The other day I was on the Circle Line headed for a client event which I was shooting for them. As I was sitting down, a gentleman asked me if I had done Transgrancanaria, and if I’m going to the IFGS 2024 conference.

For a second, I had forgotten that I was wearing a North Face Transgrancanaria Finisher jacket, and that I had my media badge from IFGS(the event I was shooting). I replied yes on both accounts. I smiled as I was surprised. He said that he did the Transgrancanaria race as well, and he is going to IFGS too!

What a coincidence. In a city of nearly 9 million people, and 30 million yearly tourists, you meet a stranger that did the same event you did just a couple of months ago.

Obviously we started chatting about races, and about what we liked and didn’t like about the famous Gran Canaria race. He told me how he just finished the Istria 100 Ultra as well recently, so we had a great chat and connected on LinkedIn, and of course, Strava too, because that’s what trail runners do.

Gran Canaria Top Of The hill

This made me think of the important role running / trail events play.

Once you see a logo, a symbol that you are familiar with, you connect with that person, you like that person more. It’s a sign that you are part of this thing — this community. In this case it’s trail running.

There is a huge opportunity for trail races / brands to understand that what they are selling is beyond just a race, because a race is happening only for 3 days, a weekend.What about the other 362 days?

A running race is not just a race: it goes beyond a race. Companies that organize events have an opportunity to start conversations and connect people with one another. They have an opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Unless you position yourself as a company that just does trail races and there is nothing more to it then that’s it. You position yourself as a commodity. Just like all other races across the world.

Unfortunately this is what a lot of races do. They focus on nice views, stunning shots, and beautiful scenery. It’s all beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but to get an emotional connection, to be part of the conversation, we need to create stories that help runners speak and communicate about it.

Photo by Linus Sandvide on Unsplash

I think of brand stories as tools that you give your current customers and your potential customers to talk about, and immediately you become part of the conversation. You position yourself as a bridge — you are not the hero, but the bridge that helps runners achieve the goals that they want to achieve.

If you look at the majority of content on social media from event races in the world you will notice one common pattern — they all talk about the same thing with few exceptions. It’s usually a nice scenery video or picture and the caption is ‘early bird nearly sold out’ or ‘we are 80% sold out’.

This morning I saw one event that just started selling registrations for 2025 that I was looking at, but it didn’t inspire me to sign up because all their communication was the same as other events. For that amount of money I can sign up for an event with nicer scenery to run.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Here are two insights that we can learn from this.

The first one is the quality of the product and merchandise.

What Northface and Transgrancanaria did with their finisher jacket and finisher t-shirt is amazing. First of all, the quality of the jacket is top notch for me. I love the jacket as it’s high quality and it doesn’t look cheap. The finisher t-shirt that they gave us is from North Face as well and it’s brilliant — I wear it all the time in the gym.

If we want people to wear our merch and stuff the quality needs to be top notch — otherwise people are not going to be wearing it.

I’ve got finisher t-shirts from Ironman and the design and the quality of the t-shirts are mediocre. I wore them once and didn’t like the design, the look and feel so I gave them away to charity. On the other hand, the merch that my girlfriend bought me as a gift from the Ironman expo is very good and it’s very expensive. I wear them all the time during my training. The finisher bag that Ironman gave me is also fantastic. I use it on a daily basis to go to the office and I travel abroad with it.

Sebastien, the gentleman I met on the train, had an Istria 100 bag with him. Which means the quality must be good, as he traveled from Paris to be at the event.

Istria 100 Finisher Bag

Is it worth going the extra mile and investing in high quality ‘freebie’ stuff? Well, it depends. Someone constantly wearing a jacket with your logo is advertising your brand but what is more important is the conversations that are happening around the brand, and staying in mind.

Another great example is the Hackney Half Finisher t-shirts. Three years ago, I think that Hackney Half had the best finisher t-shirts. I was wearing it all the time to go to the gym and my runs until someone stole it. The t-shirt was designed by Nike, I think, and the quality was top notch. I was excited to wear it as it looked great.

Hackney Half Finisher T-Shirt 2020

This year they revealed their 2024 finisher t-shirt which I already look forward to wearing as the design looks really good.

Hackney Half Finisher T-Shirt 2024
Hackney Half 2024 — Finisher T-Shirt

So having top notch quality freebie stuff matters only if the product (the race) itself is top notch. Because what bad quality communicates is that ‘we don’t care about this’ so maybe they didn’t care enough to mark the course? Maybe they didn’t care enough to have enough water and food at checkpoints?

The second insight is the importance of focusing on conversations and connecting people to something bigger than just running.

I connected with Sebastien on a London train randomly because of one race and we started speaking about other races. We had an interesting conversation and exchanged thoughts on experiences that we went through. We talked about maybe potentially doing a race together next year. I suggested he signs up for UTVV Slovenia 2025 as it’s one of the best races, and we might arrange to do a recce there as well. We became running buddies because of a shared interest that connected us with one logo.

Last week I met Sarah, a new ultra runner from the UK who won The Big Running Transformation competition that UTVV Slovenia did in 2024. We connected online, met offline and arranged to meet for dinner next week, because we are both running UTS in Snowdonia.

Sarah had never run an ultra before, she went from not running at all, to running her first ultra (Gladiator 60km in Slovenia). She had an amazing coach, David Bone from Camino Ultra, and she won tons of gear from UTVV as well. She became a warrior (as UTVV calls their finishers / runners).

UTVV Slovenia / Helio Fumo

Conversations are happening with or without us. People will give labels and tell their friends about their experiences. That’s why it’s so important to focus on product development, research and brand storytelling so people talk about the things that you want them to talk about.

If all we do is communicate about our products and we don’t create an environment and a story that people want to be part of, then of course we are going to put brands as commodities.

There are triathlons and there is Ironman.

There are obstacle courses and there is Spartan.

There are search engines and there is Google.

There are espresso capsules and there is Nespresso.

If we want to build a brand, then we need to take a step back and focus on the fundamentals: product development, research and brand purpose.

What does Transgrancanaria stand for? I don’t know. They have great finisher jackets and t-shirts but what else? They have famous podium, winners come and race but for a fun trail runner does it really matter?

We can have all the nice and fancy merch and stunning views but so does Madeira, Spain, France, Slovenia, Italy… the list goes on. What makes your race stand out? It’s your purpose, that you need to articulate in a creative way.

If you need help with brand strategy and brand storytelling, I run an agency called Way Boutique, let’s have a chat and see if I can help you. You can book a complimentary call here.

Want more inspiration? Every Thursday I send a Thoughtful Letter with ideas on storytelling, creativity and purpose. Sign up 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.