4 Marketing Lessons I Learned from Doing a Tough Mudder Race

Pre-Covid, I set a goal in 2019 and did a Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an OCR (obstacle course race) that’s fun and challenging at the same time. It’s designed to challenge your physical and mental strength — but most of all, it promotes teamwork and a shared social experience. I had friends who had done them and had a blast, so I signed up.
By that time, Tough Mudder had built one mega-community — which we’ve all learned is an effective way to market your product or service. When your customers participate and engage with your brand, they will promote your brand for you.
In a period of only 11 years, Tough Mudder races went from zero to over three million participants worldwide — and they experienced that growth through strong marketing techniques and community building.
Here are four marketing lessons I’ve gleaned from my experience with this brand.
  • Lesson #1: Have a clear mission, establish your brand, and stay focused on it
  • Lesson #2: Know your audience
  • Lesson #3: Commit to a focused content marketing strategy that’s true to your brand
  • Lesson #4: Facilitate the evangelism

Lesson #1: Have a clear mission, establish your brand, and stay focused on it

The Tough Mudder mission is not your typical company mission statement. Theirs is turned inside out to be consumed by its customers as a pledge. It is plastered on the walls of their office, reminding their employees daily. As a Tough Mudder participant, you state this pledge, kneeling, along with the others in your heat at the starting line:

Nothing embodies this mission and the brand promise than the actual experience. I was in line to go up Everest, the 15’ wall obstacle and there was this brave man with a blade for a leg ahead of me. After a dozen or so tries, the team effort was successful in getting him over the wall.

Here’s a video that describes the brand completely, no words are needed (VOLUME ON) — I get chills still every time I watch it. After watching it, do you get the feeling of what the brand stands for?
Tough Mudder’s brand is unmistakable. Their brand promise tells me through all their activities that they are committed to delivering a consistent, inspiring customer experience — enabling you to get fit and enjoy the process along the way.
Their visual identity and messaging have never wavered along with the content used to support their brand pillars: 
  • Get fit
  • Have fun
  • Help others

Lesson #2: Know your audience

Understanding your audience is one of the most important things a company can do. In the beginning, the Tough Mudder founders (athletes in their own right) had been doing triathlons themselves and realized they were bored; it was such as individual-focused sport. They realized there was a new generation of people that sees sports as an active, social experience first and a display of talent second. Knowing that when they worked out with other people, they had more fun — so Tough Mudder was born.
Because the founders themselves were active athletes who participated in sports, they understood the pains (literally) and the challenges of staying motivated. But they also knew the rewarding feeling when you completed a tough race and the rush you get from that. This deep understanding is at the core of their marketing messaging.

Lesson #3: Commit to a focused content marketing strategy that’s true to your brand

Tough Mudder creates valuable and relevant content to their targeted audience, consistently. Supporting the brand pillars in a relentless manner, they also urge you to buy a ticket (using countdown timers to get early bird entrant fees), buy their gear, sign up for a training program, pull a team together, eat right, and get ready for the race. Examples of some of the content they use are:
  • Athlete highlights
  • Inspiring stories
  • Bootcamp stories
  • Obstacle overviews
  • Fun stuff
  • Exercises
  • Healthy eating
  • What to wear during the race
  • Where to buy your gear

They also use the following media types:

  • Photos
  • Blog articles
  • Videos
  • Live streaming
Although they have multiple accounts on each platform depending on the race and location, their primary brand social media accounts have a large following and are very active:
  • Facebook – 4M followers
  • Instagram – 400K followers
  • Twitter – 146K followers
  • YouTube – 90K subscribers

It’s all about the HYPE! The content they provide sets your expectations and gets you amped up for the challenge.

Lesson #4 – Facilitate the evangelism

Perhaps the most fun piece is building community, engaging and uniting the tribe. Tough Mudder enables its customers to share, discuss, show-off, promote, and hype the brand. In other words, they help their customers help them.
Rewarding the participants with a prized possession is another way to bring the brand to life with their audience. This prized possession is the coveted headband. If you finish the course, you get the headband and you get your picture taken on the platform that proudly states, “I earned my headband.” I’ve seen these headbands displayed in offices, in homes, and hanging from rearview mirrors. Here is my team at that platform!
Tough Mudder gives their audience the tools and content to share. They know their audience is a social one — and they work out socially. They compete socially. They share things, they help others. They feel a part of this tribe. They promote the tribe. They promote the brand.


When you have over 10,000 people with your logo or pledge tattooed on their body, then you’re doing something right – and have gained a loyal customer for life! Tatted participants can even submit their Mudder tattoo to get free entry into the next event. 
Because of the experience I had being a Tough Mudder customer — and also because I need a goal to keep me motivated in my workouts, I’ve signed up to do the Classic Tough Mudder in LA this October. Who’s with me? The more the merrier!
Have you done a Tough Mudder or other OCR? What was your experience? 

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