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Jeff Matlow
November 01, 2017

Data Insight Series, v1: How Far Participants Will Travel

Welcome to the imATHLETE Data Insight Series.  This is a monthly series of articles where we explore consumer behavior in the athletic industry and come to conclusions/assumptions based on the data we collect.

imATHLETE works with thousands of endurance events, including large marquee events (5-Boro Bike Tour, Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon, Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, BMO Vancouver Marathon, Cooper River Bridge Run, Gasparilla Distance Classic, OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, etc.) and many many smaller sized athletic events.

We have aggregated hundreds of millions of data points about consumer behavior. On top of that, we conduct an ongoing survey that, as of this writing, has 297,006 responses to questions. Simply put, we know a lot about what athletes say they want and we know a lot about what they actually do/buy.

Data is only as good as that for which it is utilized. So we figured the best way we can utilize this data is to share it with you. For free.  Because we're all in this together and we are all focused on growing this industry.

Or, as it was much more eloquently put by the great philosopher Jerry Maguire, "help me help you."

imATHLETE Data Insight Series v1

Do you know the top 4 reasons most people participate in your event (according to our survey)?  Whether you think you do or not, let me tell you.

  1. Distance.  It’s the distance event they want
  2. Date.  It’s around the date they want to run that distance
  3. Place.  It’s in a place that makes it convenient for them to run that distance on that date
  4. Fun.  Seems like it would be a nifty time

These four reasons may seem like a no-brainer to you, but think about what are NOT amongst the top four reasons.  Here are a few.
    - Cost.  If the distance, date and place are right, cost is almost irrelevant.
    - Medal or other finisher gear. 
    - Free race photos / videos.

So as you spend your marketing dollars to try to get people into your event, you’ve got to understand the participant’s decision making process.  It primarily revolves around Distance, Date, Place and Fun.

For the sake of focusing our Data Insight, let's limit our discussion to Distance and Place. Specifically, how far people would travel for a given distance.


From our millions of data points and 297,006 athlete responses on our survey questions, here is what we learned about how far people will travel:

Marketing Radius - 5kHow far they will travel for a 5k
   <5 miles             14.0%
    5-10 miles         15.6%
    11-20 miles       22.7%
    21-50 miles       26.8%
    50+ miles          20.9%


Marketing Radius - 10kHow far they will travel for a 10k 
   <5 miles             12.6%   
   5-10 miles         12.3%
   11-20 miles        20.9%
   21-50 miles       27.9%
    50+ miles          26.3%



Marketing Radius - Half Mar

How far they will travel for a half marathon
    <20 miles            27.4%
    21-60 miles        22.8%
    61-120 miles      14.1%
   121-180 miles       7.0%
     181+ miles         27.7%



Marketing Radius - Mar

How far they will travel for a marathon
   <60 miles            39.1%
    61-120 miles      14.1%
    121-240 miles    10.4%
    241-480 miles      7.4%
    481+ miles         28.9%


OK, if you're anything like me, you just browsed over those numbers. You probably looked at the charts, admired that we made them different colors, but still wondered what it all means to you.

Let me explain...



5K + 10K
People will travel a lot further for your 5k/10k than you think they will.  That said, they will probably *not* travel an hour for it unless you've got something special with the four key factors. 

Is your event on a special date - like a holiday run?  What about the place - does the course run through a zoo? Hows about the fun factor - is there a theme?  If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then bring that marketing range out to the 50 mile radius.  If you answered "no" to them all, maybe focus your marketing dollars within the 10-20 mile radius.

Also keep in mind that transportation in markets could be different. Traveling 10 miles to a 5k in Los Angeles is significantly different than traveling 10 miles to a 5k in New York City. What would be more prudent is keeping travel time as top of mind.

Half Marathon + Marathon
This one is a little more interesting and extremely valuable for all of you putting on longer distance events. In a nutshell, here's what it boils down to: your event should either be a day trip or a longer vacation. 

Runners do not want to drive 2-3 hours to do a half marathon or marathon.  They do not want to have to stay in a hotel for a race they would consider close by - nor do they want to wake up at 3am to drive to a race. 

This is critical information for your marketing dollars.  For a half marathon, do not waste your money on promoting your event to people who live a 2 or 3 hour drive from your event.  They are least likely to show up.  Focus on the locals (within 100 miles) and then those just outside of the 3 hour driving range.


Please share your comments or questions below about your marketing strategies as it relates to distance traveled to event.

Also, if you want to read more, go peruse the comments about your bad communication strategy.

Oh, another also... got other ideas you want to see some data around? Let us know in the comments below.


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