State of the Industry: 7 Trends in Endurance Participation

Annual TrendsWe’re halfway through 2013 and wanted to give a quick report on the trends we’re seeing in the endurance industry. We’ve talked over and over about how events are becoming a full experience for participants. That is the overarching theme permeating the industry, but here are seven other trends that go along with it:

1. It’s more about finishing than placing 
Of course winning or PR’ing is still important to many people, but it’s no secret that course times are being extended further and further. Performance has been diminished, but your audience of participants is broadening.

2. Team/group registration is in big demand 
This phenomenon rose from “fun” events (non-competitive, social, Mob™-style) and has now permeated the more traditional and competitive events. If you don’t allow team/group registration, consider adding it to meet this demand and grow your race.

3. Quality over quantity
The market has never been as saturated with events as it is right now. We’re not going to say its oversaturated (see #7), but with so many events competing for participants, quality if crucial.

“I think participants are going to get a lot better at discerning the good from the bad and will only want to do good events. The events that prosper will have smart event producers…over the long run, events are going to become much higher quality and there won’t be much room for poorly run events.”
-Dan Hill, Founder & CEO, Electric Run  

4. People are starving for content
A hero pose at the finish line is no longer enough. People want a picture at every mile (or obstacle) and if you’ve got video, all the better. It’s extremely important for your participants to be able to share the experience, particularly through social media (otherwise known as Facebragging). As an event director, figure out how you can satiate that need for content.

5. Sponsorships are getting really creative
With events becoming more of a year-round, full-blown experience, sponsors expect to be in front of your participants more and want more bang for their buck. A sponsor simply writing a check or stuffing a coupon in a goodie bag isn’t going to cut it—they won’t get the results they want. Event directors need to activate sponsorships at a high level, infusing creativity and thoughtfulness.

“It’s all about experiential marketing and making sponsorship part of the event. You can’t just hang a banner for Hyundai. You need to put that car on the course and get zombies around it so people think ‘This is the car I need when the apocalypse comes.'”
-Liam Brenner, Founder & Event Director, The Walking Dead Escape

6. Female participation is escalating
More and more women are participating in events, especially in half marathons. Women have gone from representing less than 20% of half marathon fields in 2000 to almost 60% in 2012. If you want to grow your event, tailor your marketing to target females and try reaching out to crossover activities like yoga.

One event director told us that he markets almost exclusively to moms. Moms are the decision makers—they’ll register, drag dad along, sign up the kids, and bring three friends.

7. There’s a lot more opportunity
About 60 million people work out regularly but don’t do events. This is an untapped market with a ton of opportunity for event directors. And it also provides evidence to dispute the claim that nontraditional events like the Mobs and fun runs are cannibalizing the participation of traditional endurance events.

In fact, nontraditional events are bringing in new participants—people who never wanted to or thought they could participate in an endurance event.  If you manage a traditional endurance event, you have the opportunity to capture the gateway runner and turn them into a triathlete, marathoner, or half marathoner.

“We’ve been successful to date, but I always think that you should be most focused on your growth when you’re the most popular. That saying ‘don’t get high on your supply’ works for both drug dealers and for event directors. You can’t get too comfortable, every year the race has to be fresh.”
-John Korff, Event Organizer, Aquaphor New York City Triathlon

SEE ALSO: 5 Road Race Trends You Should Know About