Is Mass Participation Dead?

min read

In late April, ACTIVE Network hosted its third annual Race Director’s Lunch in London. We were honored to be joined by Rick Jenner of Limelight Sports who gave an insightful presentation titled, “Is Mass Participation Dead?” The answer to that question, in short, is a resounding no. The industry would appear to be in good health.

Over the last three years, running has seen a 42-percent increase in race starts, with cycling and triathlon also seeing significant increases.

Mass participation is alive and well, but in the ever-changing events industry, having the willingness to adapt is key.

“Overall, the message I was trying to convey to people is to start to think longer term,” Jenner says. “Look to see what is happening outside of our space, and how digital technology is disrupting all kinds of industries. We are at an interesting juncture where we could see huge growth and innovation, or the opposite could happen.”

Jenner says everything has a positive and a negative side.

“You can look and say, ‘Oh my god this is going to kill us,’ or you can say, ‘This is how we need to adapt and take advantage of these changes.’”

His first piece of advice is to embrace digital innovation. He says things like virtual racing and doorstep sports are only going to continue to grow.

“You can now ride a virtual route in France from anywhere in the world,” he says. “That fundamentally changes the way people interact with events, and it’s important that companies recognize that and adapt with it.”

Jenner also added it’s important for event organizers and planners to really understand modern consumer behavior and how changes are impacting their sports.

He says we live in an experiential economy in which endurance events are not only competing against each other but competing against things like concerts and going out as well.

“The time where to sell your race you just needed to get on the right listing site—that time is completely gone,” Jenner says. “Events are now competing with brands and social platforms like Strava for people’s attention. Those that understand their audiences, tell their stories well and develop sizeable and engaged audiences are those that will flourish.”

Having that knowledge and meaningful relationship can be key to securing commercial sponsorships too.“It no longer works to take the same standard pitch and rights to the big brands,” he says. “You have to show a lot more creativity in your pitch and show true value. You have to display to bigger brands that you understand their business and that your audience can provide a true return on the brand’s objectives.”

Overall, Jenner’s presentation highlighted the many opportunities events have for growth if they are willing to adapt. Before wrapping up, Jenner left the audience with four key takeaways:

  1. Understanding and building engaged audiences is vital.
  2. Think creatively about partnerships building mutual value.
  3. Be digital first and use that to further augment the live experience.
  4. Greater collaboration will make our sector bigger, and everyone benefits.
There is a massive opportunity out there; it should be a boom-time for our sector,” Jenner says. “Now is the time to take decisive steps to embrace digital disruption and grow mass participation for the benefit of everyone, and help more people enjoy the benefits of an active life.”

Click here to view Jenner's entire presentation.

CONTACT: LIMELIGHT SPORTS // RICK JENNER // DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY & INSIGHT // 07881 621452Limelight Sports Ltd: 30 Stamford Street, London, SE1 9LQ Registered No: 3700632 VAT No:735584116Registered Address: Fourth & Fifth Floor, 14-15 Lower Grosvenor Place, London SW1W 0EX.

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January 24, 2020
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