Vendor Spotlight: Ashworth Awards

 

For over half a century, Ashworth Awards has been designing and manufacturing some of the most creative medals in the endurance space. Find out what’s new with this longtime supporter of Running USA and the industry as a whole

 

Talking with Kim Ashworth, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Ashworth Awards, about the trends in finisher medals is a bit like taking a college course on the subject.

She knows more about the medal industry than a roomful of race directors. And with good reason - for over half a century, Ashworth Awards has been designing and manufacturing some of the most creative medals in the endurance space.

And as the running industry has attracted more participants who care more about what they’ll hang around their neck after the race than their finishing time, events around the country have worked with the Ashworth Awards team to make their finisher medals more fun, creative, colorful and unique than ever before.

“We’re always looking to raise the bar in terms of what else can we do to help our clients’ race to stand out. It’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s reinventing the medal,” Kim explained. Creativity and customer service are the two foundational pillars of the company mission.

Want your medal to be functional? No problem. An Ashworth medal can double as a bottle opener, a magnet, a screwdriver, a holiday ornament, a coaster, a conversation-starting piece of desk décor, a paperweight, or even a belt buckle.

“We’re challenged on a daily basis, whether by our clients or ourselves. When you think back 15 years to how many round medals there were, now the sky’s the limit,” Kim said. “When a new team member joins us, I always challenge them not to design any round medals, unless that’s what the client asks for. There’s so much more that you can do.”

Want it to be eco-friendly? WoodallionsTM, medals made of wood, are one of the hottest categories for Ashworth Awards right now, recording a 79 percent jump in production over just the first half of 2018 so far, shared Kim. They are especially popular with trail races. After racing through the forest, a medal made of wood is a perfect fit.

 “Trail runners are the kind of people who think about global impact. To go with something that’s natural like a WoodallionTM is a perfect fit for them,” Kim said. “It’s the perfect way for trail run medals to embody the natural spirit of those events.”

In fact, the company is creating so many WoodallionsTM (which are made at their Massachusetts facility) that the team at Ashworth Awards are looking at processing the wood used to create them as part of their process, rather than having it specked out and fine tuned at a lumberyard.

Want it to be simply on budget and close to your race brand? That’s usually where the conversation starts for new Ashworth customers, explains Kim. The company’s designers endeavor to get a strong sense of a race’s brand identity as the very first step in the medal creation process.

Founded in 1965 by Douglas R. Ashworth, the late father of Daniel Ashworth, Kim’s husband, Ashworth Awards is based in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The company has a team of 27 U.S. based staff and manufactures its products both overseas and in the U.S.

Thanks to Kim’s expertise, we learned all about the latest trends in the medal space. Here are some of the insights she shared:

Size (and shape) matters: To really impress your participants and make them feel like they’ve achieved something amazing at your event, a bigger medal is always better. But for events on a budget or looking to save, smaller medals may be a way to cut costs. One way to get around this is to incorporate cutouts into the design, which brings raw material savings. When it comes to shape, square and triangular medals are pricier – circles will get you the most bang for your buck. Design services are incorporated into the total price, and shouldn’t involve an additional fee.

Getting fancy: Glitter, translucent color, spinners, dangles, battery powered lights, fancy ribbon, and unusual materials are a few of the ways that medals can stand out – not to mention those that do double duty as décor, fashion or utilitarian objects. Team Ashworth loves it when their clients get into the process and creativity is the result. A recent unusual touch was a cloth sail for a race with a sailboat theme in Newport, RI. Challenge races are designing creative two or three and four-part medals that aren’t complete until all events are finished. The only limits to creativity are budget and imagination.

“Races want their athletes to feel appreciated. What they’re giving their athlete at the end of the race is a huge part of that. Are you going to give your athletes a quality finisher medal or award? If you don’t provide them with that, they may not feel valued,” Kim observed. “Even if an athlete is just there to run a fast time, they will notice if your medals are subpar. Help them honor that accomplishment with a great award – it will encourage them to see the value of their participation and choose your race again.”

Sublimated ribbon is becoming the standard: More events are using sublimated, four color process ribbon vs. printed ribbons these days, the result of improved printing technology. Ashworth Awards uses a 1 ½ inch by 34 inch thick, satiny neck ribbon as its standard, creating an impressive effect. Most medal companies use a thinner width.

“These ribbons really allow for an extension of the design of the medal. We can do much more with it and enhance the branding of the event,” Kim noted.

Annual design changes are the industry norm: 95 percent of the time, repeat event clients will alter their medal design each year. Repeat participants appreciate being able to track their participation with unique medal designs.

Automation and online ordering improvements: Ashworth Awards recently improved its online customer center experience, making it more efficient for customers to order their medals or request a quote online. Visit ashworthawards.com to use the new system. Final approvals and signoffs are now faster and easier than ever.

Need to give your event medals a refresh? Learn more about Ashworth Awards.