Marathons & Mud Runs. Great Business, But Where's The Tech?

Endurance racing and participation sports is the ticketing industry’s fastest-growing category. The vertical presents a tremendous opportunity for ticketing platforms to help brands realize substantial value, but only if those platforms can understand and adapt to racing’s specific needs.

Fitness gets a lot of attention these days. With the obesity epidemic increasingly a source of national attention and concern, more and more people are making concerted efforts to incorporate fitness activity into their lives, which is a big part of the reason why the popularity of events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Color Run has exploded. Collectively known as endurance racing, this category ranges from serious to silly to downright masochistic, and this breadth has allowed these races to attract a pool of registrants that’s ideal for advertisers.

Attendees are almost evenly split between men and women, ages 23-35, who possess the discretionary spending necessary to drop between $65 and $150 on a single race. They’re enthusiastic about technology, too; the unique opportunities for brand activation and digital sponsorship are enormous. Beyond that, the space itself is attractive, having not yet been corroded by the toxic signing bonus and high processing fees dynamic that has plagued ticketing in the concert, club, and festival space.

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Historically speaking, the space has been dominated by Active. They’ve been around for a long time, which has allowed them to develop a number of powerful features addressing the specifics of race registration. That said, Active has serious problems. Their product is lacking on mobile for ticket buyers, and they persist in making choices that annoy consumers, such as peddling magazine subscriptions at checkout. In other words, endurance-race ticketing is more than ready for disruption.

WIth so much upside, it’s hard to imagine why the ticketing industry isn’t bending over backward to court these events. Eventbrite has begun to focus on the space, as it now handles all ticketing for Tough Mudder, but few other platforms are making serious inroads. In part this is because endurance racing just isn’t “sexy” enough to capture the attention of smaller companies, but it’s also due to the need for slightly more specialized technology in order to support the events and the fact that the sales model is more akin to traditional SaaS sales than what we see in DIY or self-serve ticketing platforms.

Despite these challenges, any platform that truly understands the space and the opportunities it provides is poised for massive success. Given the right supporting technology and brand partnerships, it’s possible to do truly unique things in terms of sponsorships and brand activation at events. Companies like Tough Mudder, Color Run, and the rest have already demonstrated a clear ability to be creative in their branding and marketing, so providing them the right technology should be game-changing

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What’s more, the social side of these events is a huge miss -- not to mention mess -- right now. The onus is on the attendee, and event organizers aren’t in a position to do much to help them. It’s past time for someone to come along and apply the lessons we learned from VC-backed social media companies. There’s simply too much missed opportunity for the space to lie fallow much longer, particularly given the enthusiastic, engaged, and fundamentally social nature of endurance run participants.

As is so often the case in ticketing, the primary narrative here is one of outdated technology and lack of understanding on the part of incumbents leading to significant missed opportunities. Like so many of the best events, endurance and participation sports organizers are really just fantastic marketing companies with a proven ability to create and sustain excitement around their events. Moving forward, the ticketing platforms that will end up dominating this huge and growing space are those that best empower organizers to deploy that creativity on behalf of their attendees and brand partners.

This article was written by a member of the AlleyNYC contributor network. AlleyNYC is one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, helping foster the growth of startups in its flagship location in New York City. Entrepreneur Media is a partner and investor in AlleyNYC. If you would like to learn more about AlleyNYC and how to apply for membership visit here.

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