How we developed a three click Covid-19 transfer function for 40,000 runners

This article was previously posted on LinkedIn

No one saw this crisis coming, well maybe someone did but not many and not that it would hit us this hard. This is a bit of my view of the Corona crisis this far, from in front of a couple of computer screens within a race organizer and with a tech perspective.

Many races all over the world have been cancelled or postponed and we all have our reasons for choosing how to handle this situation. For us at Göteborgsvarvet, we decided rather early that our large half marathon, gathering more than 40,000 runners and 200,000 spectators, wouldn't be staged in May as it always has been. A decision that bought us some time to actually decide what to do next. We communicated heavily with our runners to keep them informed while working out a strategy that would be as beneficial as possible for our organization, our athletics clubs as well as our runners. I was very much a part of the planning process - as all employees were - but it was up to the board to make the decision. And on March 26th the decision was made to cancel 18 races.

Our strategy, that the board approved, was this: As a registered runner in one of those 18 races you were going to get the chance to decide for yourself what to do with your place in the race. For our half marathon you were given four options.

  1. Forfeit your place, donate your registration fee and forever become a Göteborgsvarvet Hero.
  2. Donate your registration fee and transfer to Göteborgsvarvet Virtual Race 21k, powered by Strava. Finishers will also get 30% off when registering for our half marathon and/or our marathon in 2021. You will also become a Göteborgsvarvet Hero.
  3. Defer to Göteborgsvarvet Half Marathon 2021
  4. Transfer to Göteborgsvarvet Marathon 2021

As a Göteborgsvarvet Hero, your name will forever be on our Wall of Fame and you get a digital hero certificate with your name on it. Most of the other 17 races only had option 1 and 3 (but of course defer to the corresponding race next year, not the half).

Well, that's about it. Sounds great now and it sounded great then too. But this was March 26th and the transfer window, where the runners can do their choice, was to open on April 2nd and stay open until April 12th. I had done some of the implementation before the 26th - on pure speculation - but most of it was done from Thursday March 26th until launch on Thursday April 2nd. This is how I implemented it.

Send out emails to participants

Starting Thursday morning our system started sending personalized emails containing a short explanatory text and a link.

Landing page with options

When the user clicked on the link, that contained enough information to securely identify a certain participant, he was transferred to a landing page where the options specific to him was presented.

Details page

After considering the options the user selects one and gets presented a little bit more information and can confirm the selection.