LAST UPDATED: 22 November 2021
RunSignup | GiveSignup’s Annual RaceTrends Report shows 48.1% participation decline, gradual recovery
Socially distant virtual events and challenges were the big winner in 2020, with virtual races making up 33.4% of all events.
RunSignup | GiveSignup released their Annual RaceTrends Report evaluating the state of the endurance industry. The impact of COVID-19 was reflected in every data point for 2020 as the evolution of events from in-person to virtual and back again caused eye-catching participation declines, shifts in marketing strategies, and an increased focus on fundraising.
The explosive headline is a 48.1% drop in participation amongst the cohort of races that were on RunSignup | GiveSignup in 2019 and did hold an event of some type in 2020. While that decline is undeniably significant, it is not necessarily an indication of a full 48% drop in participation across all endurance events. If new events on RunSignup | GiveSignup are included in the participation numbers, the downturn from 2019 to 2020 falls to 35.5%. Much of the discrepancy between the 48.1% and 35.5% can be attributed to new events on the platform that were built specifically for the pandemic, such as virtual challenges and themed virtual races.
The report was built by mining RunSignup | GiveSignup registration and finisher data over a five-year period to generate transparent statistics, identify trends in the industry, and provide recommendations to make endurance events viable amidst a crisis. In 2019, it was estimated that the data on RunSignup | GiveSignup accounted for 20-30% of the US endurance market. Market share in 2020 is harder to ascertain, but the data evaluated includes more than 46,000 race events and 4.7 million participants.
Socially distant virtual events and challenges exploded in 2020, with virtual races making up 33.4% of all events, compared to just 2.8% in 2019. Virtual challenges (multi-activity events with long term goals) comprised another 6.3% of 2020 events. The influx of virtual participants changed the overall profile of endurance event participants, leading to demographic shifts, lower prices, and fewer repeat participants.
Other significant takeaways include:
- 56% of virtual challenge participants and 53% of virtual racers are over the age of 40, compared to just 46% for in-person event attendees.
- Repeat participation in the same event fell from 18.4% in 2019 to just 10.1% in 2020.
- Average prices dropped across all race distances, including an 18.2% decline in price for half marathons, likely because of the lower overhead costs of most virtual events.
- Mobile devices continue to dominate, with 72.9% of website views and 55.1% of transactions taking place on a mobile device or tablet.
- Referral rewards, always one of the most effected marketing programs for races, accounted for 17% of transaction dollars in 2020 – more than double the 7% they represented in 2019.
- Email marketing was key for both logistical communications and marketing from afar, with more than 258 million emails sent from the RunSignup platform in 2020.
- Races that enabled fundraisers for their event raised an average of $5,733, more than five times as much as races that allowed only simple donations without fundraising.
- Facebook helps nonprofits raise more. 49% of runners who connected their RunSignup | GiveSignup Fundraising efforts to a Facebook Fundraiser via the free API reached their fundraising goal, compared to 30% for races that fundraised via RunSignup | GiveSignup alone.
- RaceJoy had a record-breaking year, surpassing 1 million lifetime users with a 168% increase in races using the GPS-based runner tracking app.
RunSignup Founder and CEO Bob Bickel said, “As staggering as some of the numbers may seem, it’s important to think of them in context. Nearly 40% of races this year were virtual, a testament to the innovation and determination of race organizers and timers around the country. We know that endurance professionals will use their fresh virtual race expertise and new protocols for safe in-person events in 2021 and 2022 to restore the industry.”
RaceTrends can be found online and downloaded for free at: https://runsignup.com/trends