3 Ways to Retain Millennial Participants in Endurance Races

3 Ways to Retain Millennial Participants in Endurance Races

As a race director in the endurance sports industry, your biggest challenge is (most likely) participation. So what’s your plan of attack to drive registration for your event?

Endurance races today are consistently losing participants – specifically when it comes to loyalty and retention. Too many race directors are only focused on the number of participants instead of retaining past racers or increasing loyalty. The most neglected generation? Millennials.

As of 2015, the millennial generation makes up the largest living generation, which is why you as a race director should be very mindful of trying to retain them as participants in your event. Millennials (those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) are driven most by word of mouth – but to take a millennial from a one-time customer or participant to a loyal one takes more than just a good review. It takes a high level of engagement.

Millennials are experiential, not transactional. They want to be involved and feel like they belong. So how do you engage with and retain millennial racers?

1. Make technology your best friend.

To say technology is everywhere these days would be an understatement. From clipping coupons to learning a new language, there’s a smartphone application for everything – and that’s how millennials thrive.

Your endurance race is no exception. Your participants are using smartphones for training (think Run Keeper, Map My Run, Nike+ Running, etc.), cross-training, nutrition help and more, and some even use tracking apps during races. The best of today’s fitness apps integrate all of those things together – while tracking heart rate, utilizing GPS, and even incorporating a person’s playlist.

But the possibilities don’t stop there. Consider integrating existing apps into your race experience, or think about creating your own. On the most basic level, set up a system where participants’ timing chips are linked to text messaging, allowing for real-time notifications when a runner hits milestones and immediate results when they cross the finish line.

Great race apps also cater to participant’s support group with real-time tracking, maps of the race route and parking suggestions, general info and more. Some even offer ideas on things to do in the area. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with and retain your millennial participants with something as simple as integrating technology into your race.

2. Create a brand movement.

Millennials aren’t stationary. They want to see things and do things, to put their mark on the world. This isn’t a generation that vacations at the same time-share each summer; it’s one that is always seeking out new experiences.

This generation is also very achievement-oriented. So while they enjoy completing – and being able to brag about – running a dozen marathons or a handful of triathlons, it’s more important to this age group to diversify, to travel and experience new races, than it is to participate in the same race over and over again.

On the flip side, millennials also tend to live in a constant state of FOMO – that is, Fear Of Missing Out. They want to be part of a movement that’s exciting and on the forefront of change.

So put yourself in your participant’s shoes. If the only value proposition a race has to offer is a killer view, how many times would you participate in it? Once you’ve seen the view, you’ve seen the view – so what is there to keep you coming back when you could be seeking out new views to take in?

Bottom line? Your race participation cannot be sustained on view (or weather or costumes or glow sticks or zombies or whatever) alone. It’s time to think broader, to create a brand movement around your event – one that keeps racers always coming back for more.

3. Make it all about them.

Think about the last time you had an experience that was completely customized to you. Maybe you had a suit or a dress tailored exactly to your body, or maybe a connoisseur chose the bottle of wine that perfectly matched your tastes. Think about how special you felt as a result of that experience, like it was all about you.

The millennial generation isn’t called the “Me Generation” for nothing. 20- and 30-somethings thrive on that feeling of personalization, on the idea that something was created or delivered specifically for them and no one else.

Customization comes from knowing and understanding your audience, which starts with research. Analyze how your participants feel, what they think, what they would change and what their goal is for your race – then speak or market to them directly to respond to and/or help meet those needs. Directly engage with your participants in a way that forces them to want to come back, year after year.

As we continue with the Millennial Running Study, we’ll look into more ways events can differentiate themselves as well as understand millennial participants in order to communicate with, attract and retain this group of individuals.

S. Slade Sundar

S. Slade Sundar

Chief Operating Officer at Forte Interactive, Inc.
S. Slade Sundar is a senior executive, strategist, and international speaker on topics including fundraising, endurance registration, millennial management, performance culture, and online technology.

As the Chief Operating Officer of Forte Interactive, Slade leads marketing, operations, human resources, and product development, while overseeing a staff of Millennial employees.
S. Slade Sundar

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