Runners are optimistic and ready to travel to live events
The global event industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, and seen unprecedented financial losses as thousands of events have been cancelled. Many runners have had their dreams shattered as events they had spent months preparing and training for have been cancelled or postponed. One of the prominent global players in long-distance running events, World’s Sports Group, comprising Worldsmarathons.com and Ahotu.com, saw the effect of the pandemic early in 2020. Events cancelled in China were quickly followed by others across the globe as the pandemic spread. WSG was eager to understand how athletes feel about events for the coming years and whether they are ready to travel and participate again.
“During a two-week period in mid-September 2020, we asked respondents from 85 countries about their outlook on the future of endurance events,” says Charlotte Melchert, CEO at World’s Sports Group. Their response filled us with much needed optimism and we hope the insights from the survey will be useful to event organizers and other industry players!
Runners believe it will be safe to participate in endurance events before the end of 2021, even in a foreign country
The results of the survey indicate that a third of respondents think it is already safe to start racing with a quarter saying it will be safe to participate in endurance events before the end of 2021.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents are willing to travel to another country to participate in a race, even before the pandemic is completely over.
“Traffic to our sites declined sharply in March,” said Voytek Swiech, Head of Customer Service, “but since the end of August we’ve seen a big uptake with an increased number of searches related to endurance events in other countries. This will come as good news to race directors who rely on international participation.”
A guaranteed refund, if the event is cancelled, creates trust.
There are of course many factors that influence where and when participants choose to run. When asked what would influence their decision to register for an event in the next 6 months the most popular response (40%) was the possibility of a refund. Second was the option to defer to next year (20%).
“The endurance industry has had a tradition of carrying out events despite the most harsh of conditions. Therefore, routines and systems for mass-refunds are not usually necessary. A silver lining in the ongoing crisis is that many organizers will need to implement improved terms and conditions along with new ways of working to handle future cancelled and postponed races.” Voytek said.
The pandemic has not affected the love of running events
Another positive response was given to a question about future participation in endurance events. More than half (51%) of respondents are planning to participate in the same number of events as usual, and 26% stated they will participate in more endurance events than before the pandemic. Only 7% will participate in fewer events.
Virtual running events do not beat the real deal
One clear trend during 2020 has been the advent of virtual runs. Many organizers who were forced to postpone events, arranged a virtual run instead. The ambition levels were varied with some creating tailor-made mobile applications designed to allow participants a virtual experience of the place where the race normally takes place and others simply organizing an online gathering for the “race” and collating time measurements.
To finalize the survey we asked about the experience of these virtual events which aimed to fill the gap created by the cancellations and postponements of in-person races.
Over 2 out of 5 (43%) respondents said they have already participated in a virtual race and, of those, only 31% said they would consider taking part in a virtual race in the future.
When asked to rate their experience of a virtual event on a scale from poor (1) to fantastic (5) over 70% gave a score lower than 4, with the lowest two scores sharing equally 40% of responses and 31% going to the average rating. Only 14% of participants rated their experience as fantastic. This might explain why less than half (48%) of the participants are planning to continue taking part in virtual events after the pandemic is over.
“Virtual events are here to stay as an add-on to live events,” Voytek said, “but to ensure that they are successful, organizers must give the participants a much better user experience, in the form of a digital “wow” moment.”
World’s Sports Group was founded in 2016 and offers a range of digital services for the endurance sports industry. Our portfolio includes Worldsmarathons.com where runners can discover and sign up for endurance events, and Ahotu Marathons, the world’s largest running event directory.