Sports Event PF Running Between Processors

Payment Facilitator is all about trying to take the complexities out of managing running events. It’s service and products include means to track times, track runners during events, assist with registration and creating customized sites. Making races easy is one thing. Making payments easy is, well, a much more uphill rocky path.

When the company started in 2009, they solely used Braintree to process transactions. As of March 2015, they added Vantiv and it’s that Vantiv relationship that turns them into a traditional PF, said CFO Kevin Harris.

The company finds the terms and capabilities of Vantiv more to its liking—referring to its customers, Harris said “We’d like to funnel them all through Vantiv, candidly”—but there’s a reason it needs to continue to offer both. Vantiv offers lower processing fees as well as better reporting information, but Vantiv also insists on more information about the race/event, including ownership details.

What RunSignup cleverly did was to bring customers to a payments information page, where it asked the questions that both processors needed answered. When it had secured all of the information that Braintree required, customers were then told that if they were willing to answer several more questions, their rate would be reduced and the depth of reports would be stronger.

RunSignup also brands the services differently and doesn’t use the processors’ actual names, instead referring to Vantiv payments as the “Advanced Payment Account” and Braintree payments as “Quickstart.” That nicely reinforces the payment differences from their customers’ perspective.

The race business offers many areas where payments processing is needed, such as the participant fees, purchasing t-shirts and making donations for events such as charity races.

But Harris stresses that the payments end of the business is not their core business. “The processing of payments is really a nice feature, but it’s not the reason why people come to work with us,” Harris said.

And that’s the point. Payments is necessary but the less time and attention paid to it, the better it is. The business is about the races and making those efforts comprehensive and effortless. In many ways, RunSignup’s move to become a payments facilitator as advanced that goal.

Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group, argues that one of the most powerful benefits of being a payment facilitator is getting the company’s face in front of the customer, instead of some processor or ISO. That helps keep the focus on the payment facilitator’s main business—running races, in the case of RunSignup—instead of getting paid.

“By becoming a payment facilitator themselves as opposed to just using Vantiv, they are allowed to integrate the experience for the consumer and the race so that the consumer and the merchant will only see RunSignup,” Ablowitz said. “They don’t see Braintree or Vantiv. Everything is seamless. It makes a simple one throat to choke experience. The PF move allows them to integrate, simplify and dramatically improve the consumer experience. Had they not become a PF, they would have had to use the merchant agreement that the ISO or processor dictated. They would have had to put the ISO on all of the marketing materials and the ISO is what would have shown up on the merchant statement.”