Nearly 42 million Americans are considered runners/joggers today – and nearly half of those are between the ages of 18 and 34 years-old.1 The millennial generation (born 1980 – 2000) has a profound ability to influence everything from philanthropy and technology to the workplace, culture and recreation. This influence also holds true for the sport of running. Now, more than ever, event directors are tasked with executing triathlon or running events (defined as public, organized run/walk events) that are compelling enough to both attract and retain runners of this generation.

In 2016, Facebook is the most visited website/social media platform;2 just four short years ago it didn’t even break the top 10 list. In fact, in a recent poll 95 percent of millennials said they followed brands on social media.3 With the ever-evolving role of social media and digital marketing, it is imperative for event directors to use technology to strengthen their brand.

To truly get millennials to build loyalty with your race, event directors need to create intentional conversations to keep millennial runners coming back year after year. Here’s five ways marketing can help build brand loyalty:

  1. Open registration and begin online promotions at least six months in advance. Forty-eight percent of millennial runners reported registering for running events at least three months prior to the event, and 41 percent reported registering at least one month prior. To entice this generation of runners, registration and promotional tactics should begin at least four to five months in advance, if possible, a longer promotion time (six to 12 months) is most effective.
  2. Establish your event online through branding and promotion. Eighty-four percent of participants were more likely to consider registering for an event if it is well-known or highly regarded. To establish this status, a running event must be branded and promoted successfully. Incorporate elements of SEO, targeted ads, email marketing and social media to ensure your event stands out from the crowd.
  3. Use social media and keywords to promote running events. As previously noted, millennials are more likely to participate in an event if it is well-known. To reach this status events should disseminate information where their audience lives, and according to respondents from the study 64 percent learn about events from social media and 57 percent do so through a Google or Bing searches. Many event directors hesitate to spend the time and resources needed to wow their event participants, but investing in tools like social media strategy and management can quickly improve your connection to your audience.
  4. Optimize event registration for desktop use. While the use of smart phone devices continues to rise, very few millennial runners surveyed in this study use a smartphone or tablet to register for running events. With 80 percent of millennials using a desktop computer or laptop to register, race directors should work with a reputable technology partner to create a responsive, mobile-friendly website and registration form that is both mobile and desktop friendly.
  5. Communicate purposefully with registrants via email. Once registered, nearly all (94%) millennial runners surveyed prefer to receive event information via email. Our research from Millennial Running Study Phase I found that nearly two-thirds of respondents reported that their number one motivation to run was to maintain or increase their health and well-being. While over-communicating can be a deterrent, sending health and fitness tips and highlighting new trends a few weeks prior to the event can be a great way to engage with participants.

Establishing a strong brand identity through an integrated digital marketing campaign that incorporates different elements such as SEO, email marketing, social media and custom landing pages allows event directors to increase the appeal of their event to millennials and retain their participation for years to come.

Interested in knowing if your event’s marketing is helping or hurting you?

Let’s review your existing marketing plan or create one together.

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