Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Runner Identity and Sponsorship: Evaluating the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon

Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Runner Identity and Sponsorship: Evaluating the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon

Article excerpt

Introduction

The economic value of US participation based sport has been reported to eclipse spectator sport by between two to four times each year (Kim, Smith, & James, 2010). With over half of the US population reporting regular sport participation each year (Humphreys & Ruseski, 2009), scholars have acknowledged the lack of research on this important sport market segment (Eagleman & Krohn, 2012; Kim et al., 2010). One sport demonstrating significant growth in recent years, despite difficult economic conditions, is the sport of competitive running. In particular, marathon and halfmarathon distance running events have reported one of the largest increases. The number of runners who completed a half-marathon between 2009 and 2010 increased 24% creating a phenomenon Running USA (2011) labeled half marathon "hyper-mania" (p. 4). Similarly, the number of marathoners, or runners who completed a full marathon increased 8.5% during the same time frame. As a result, the running industry has experienced unprecedented and sustained growth (Running USA, 2013) led largely by a growing sophistication among race organizers and funding by sponsors. As the economic value of this participation based sport has continued to increase, research is warranted to understand the relationship between participants and sport sponsors to better inform race organizers.

The Running Industry

Just as the sport industry has continued to grow, the market segment referred to as the running industry has continued to show impressive growth in virtually every sector measured according to Running USA (2013). With overall running numbers up significantly and related apparel sales extending over the billion dollar mark, what has been referred to as the "second running boom" has emerged. Growth of the sector includes record or sold-out race fields, billions of dollars in shoe sales and running apparel, as well as innovative products to satisfy consumer needs, such as personalized devices to track individual workouts (Running USA, 2013).

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association forecast the running industry in the US to continue showing consistent annual growth, as total participation increased 57% from 1998 to 2008 (Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 2008). Running/jogging shoe sales totaled $2.32 billion in 2010 and sales were projected to continue to grow an additional 1% to approximately $2.33 billion in 2011 (National Sporting Goods Association, 2011). The NSGA also reported a 23% increase since 2009, in running apparel purchases in the US totaling $1.1 billion in 2010. This increase was higher than any other sport category listed in their report on athletic/sport clothing, and apparel in this category was forecast to continue to grow at a rate of 14% by 2011 (National Sporting Goods Association, 2011). These numbers substantiate a trend that started in 1994 and has continued as the number of US runners finishing a race has increased every year with the exception of 2003 (Running USA, 2013). All this growth has resulted in what has been deemed the second running boom with an estimated all-time high of 13 million race finishers nationwide and the largest percent increase (10%) in road race finishers that had ever been reported for two consecutive years (Running USA, 2011).

Yet, little is known about the sport participant as a consumer, in particular runners as consumers. Of note, when considering participant demographics, females now account for a record number of the nearly 6.9 million annual race finishers in the US. Plus, women on average represent 53% of runners in any event field. In comparison, in 1990 women were only 25% of the average field. By 2010, men also set a new high for race participation with more than 6.1 million US finishers. Interesting, nearly all of the reported increase in participation has evolved from two race categories, marathons (26.2 miles) and half marathons (13.1 miles).

According to Running USA "marathon mania" was reported initially in 2009 with a 9. …

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