Pulse survey gives unique insights into the state of mass participation sports

Massive, specialists in mass participation events, have published the Pulse, an in-depth report of the market, with 4,000 respondents, spanning, running, cycling, triathlon and swimming.

The survey reached out to men and women race participants – as well as those who make the events happen.

‘Midlifers’ with money

The respondents had a median age of 46 and were high earners with an average household income of £60K. There was a 59% male, 41% female split, with 83% of respondents being white. They took part in an average of four events in 2022 (five in 2019, pre-COVID).

A wealthy group, it is perhaps not surprising that financial confidence remains high, with 43 per cent not expecting a drop in income. Our athletes are splashing the cash on apparel and shoes. The average spend on trainers was between £200 and £299, and on events between £100 and £149, with almost 20% spending more than £300.

“It was also interesting to find that when it comes to marketing to this group, a large proportion (particularly men) spend time on LinkedIn, offering potential opportunities for marketing,” suggests John Tasker, partner at Massive.

But it’s about more than just the money

Thirty-six per cent rank sustainability as an important factor when it comes to the future of races, and this rises amongst women. “We predict that this will be a big consideration for race organisers, sponsors and brands in the coming years,” says Tasker, “finding the balance between improving sustainability while maintaining the overall event experience will be crucial,” he adds.

Fundraising was also a driver with more than half of those who took part in events raising money for a charity. Of these, 27% said they chose a cause that was meaningful to them. 36% chose their race before deciding on a charity – offering charities an opportunity to recruit more fundraisers.

Reputation also counts (24% said it was a factor when choosing a race) reinforcing the need for great marketing, and community building on and offline.

The COVID effect

Most of those questioned (61%) were ‘over’ COVID and happy be back in crowds at races. However, 11 per cent remain cautious and 12% are interested in virtual events, “There may still be some opportunities in the hybrid race model,” suggests Tasker.

Post-COVID has seen a drop off in participation amongst the over 65s. “Efforts should be made to re-engage this group,” suggests Tasker, “perhaps by encouraging them to try a range of events such as walking, swimming or cycling,” he adds.

Running remains the most popular event, with 80% having raced an event in the previous five years. And the half marathon tops the race league, with 36% ranking it as number one choice, compared to 22% for marathon, 23% for 10K and 15% for 5K. In cycling, single day events, of medium toughness, around 120KM long, were the number one choice for 36% of those questioned.

However, there’s a huge cross over, with 40% of runners taking part in other events – and a massive 83 per cent of cyclists taking part in running events. “Once again, this interest in trying out a variety of different events presents an opportunity to ‘cross fertilise’ for those of us encouraging mass participation in endurance events,” concludes Tasker.

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