We have been doing the race registration market analysis every 6 months for many years. We include a ton of analytical data, and also include our analysis of happenings and directions in the market (of course that analysis is done from our perspective and is sometimes biting to competitors but tries to be honest). Here are the old Market Analysis reports:
- September 2015
- March, 2016
- September, 2016
- March, 2017
- September, 2017
- March, 2018
- September, 2018
- March, 2019
- September, 2019
- April, 2020
- September, 2020
- March, 2021
- September, 2021
- March, 2022
Are Participant Levels Returning to Normal Yet?
The big question everyone has been asking this year is why is the average race down about 20% from their 2019 level of participation. The most concise view of this problem is to look at races that happened in both 2019 and 2022 on our platform by month and the total registrations:
There is obviously variability on a monthly basis, but there is a general feeling that things were improving in August. Coming into September, we are seeing more positive signs. We did some early YTD analysis of races happening in September and of the top 100 races on our platform for this September, 84 were also on the platform in 2019. And it looks like 43 will grow, and overall growth for the whole cohort of 84 looks like it could be up by over 10% on average and even more than that if we take two outliers out of the data. And to put this into 2019 context, September of 2021 was down 17% from 2019.
We will publish those September results in our Q3 report in October. Bottom line, keep your fingers crossed, but it looks like participants might be coming back…
We also track race churn, and much like the participant data above, we have enough market share to make the data meaningful. This graph shows churn and new races that are over 500 participants on our platform on a % basis versus 2019:
The pink line on top shows the growth in new races that are on our platform in 2022 and were not with us in 2019 – one of our foundational growth elements. Here are the exact stats (again, this is all for races that have over 500 participants and happen in the noted month):
The Light pink line in the graph is the key one that the whole endurance community is watching, which is how many races will not return:
As you would expect, the races that are not returning, while over 500, are typically less than 1-2,000. Two points to note. First, this churn is over a 3 year period – so the 19% in August translates to about 6% per year, which is actually our historical average going back to 2017. Second, there seems to be some evidence that some races took 2-3 years off and are now coming back. Again, maybe too early to say definitively, but an optimistic sign for the endurance community as a whole.
The bottom grey line is our “Competitor Churn”. Much of churn is to Enmotive that happened as part of Gannett buying Rugged Maniac and other races and also buying Enmotive and IMAthlete back in the 2018-2019 timeframe and forcing those events off of RunSignup and onto those platforms. A total for all competitor churn of 26 out of over 1,400 races from 2019 to 2022 is not too bad (although we would welcome them all to come back!)
RunSignup Gains Market Share
As has been the case since we founded the company a dozen years ago, we continue to gain market share. The new races data above shows that, but the total number of new races created on our platform is kind of amazing each month with over 11,000 created (not all of these go live, some are tests and some wind up being very small):
Similarly, the number of new customers (TaxID’s) on a monthly basis shows the pace of our growing customer base:
These get reflected when we turn to look at RunningintheUSA.com, the standard data source we have used since the beginning of this report. Bill and Mary Flaws run an impressive site that is the #1 site for searching for races. They collect the data via automated API feeds from RunSignup, Active and Race Entry, as well as their 15+ years of history putting this race collection together. And then they hand curate the data to ensure it is a legitimate race. Right now they list almost 39,000 races on their site. We have been hand counting the logos (provided via the API’s) of races happening next month since 2015 when Active was the market share leader (we keep this in mind as we strive to keep making great software for our customers):
As you can see if you look at their calendar, RunSignup has about a 50% share of the races on the list:
We estimate that our market share has risen from about 25-30% to about 35-40% since 2019. There are probably three major themes to the reason for this:
- Continued technology advancement and superior functionality compared with other vendors
- Investments in RaceDay technology (see below)
- Quick pivot to virtual when the pandemic began and building the best virtual and challenge platforms. This helped many of our customers survive, enabling them to come back and continue to grow post pandemic. It also brought a lot of new customers. And it is still useful as you can see a totally first time user set up a virtual run to honor Eliza Fletcher on Tuesday this week and by Sunday there are over 50,000 people signed up (for free) and over 9,000 people reporting results.
Website Traffic Rankings
Alexa.com used to be the website we used for getting the old rankings. Amazon bought them because of a certain voice activated device business that has been kind of successful :-). Anyway, we needed to find a new ranking service, and we chose SimilarWeb. The data is two months old (July for this report – a down month for the endurance community). Like Alexa, data is not necessarily accurate, but it is kind of close. As an example, it estimates our traffic at 6,272,000 sessions and our Google Analytics says our traffic is 6,230,304 sessions (18,634,577 page views) in July. It also has the benefit of being able to see just the US traffic estimate, which is what we report here (for example Race Roster is larger in Canada than we are as you would expect since they are a Canadian based company).
We try to manually curate the Top 100 races. We will produce a separate report this winter to go more in depth once the year finishes. The results data we have collected, along with the registration data we have shows some trends:
- Average race is down about 30%
- The low end of the Top 100 might be as low as 6,000 – 6,500 participants
- NYRR looks like they will add 5 races to the Top 100 this year
- Our estimates are that the Top 100 only represents about 5-6% of the total race endurance market
RunSignup still commands the top spot in terms of the number of races and the number of organizations, although (as we discuss below) Race Roster and Asics are making major investments trying to capture market share. And Haku continues to maintain their strategy of focusing on the high end and building custom software for these high end races who think they are large and unique enough special enough to pay extra. Active seems to be more in maintenance mode of their large customers, and Enmotive has captive races like Hot Chocolate,
Race Day Technology
One of the reasons why RunSignup has continued to take so much market share is our investments in Race Day technology solutions. We have a belief that the most important part of a race is the experience on race day – did people have to wait in line, did they get their results, could their friends and family interact with them, can they see video and photos after the race? One of our core strategies is to partner with timers since they are the common professional that actually helps many races come to fruition. And they are key to making the experience great.
Allison happens to be running a half marathon up on Maine this morning and sent this picture of a typical timer at a typical Saturday or Sunday race – this one was the Lake Auburn Half and the timers (including Eric Cobb, the owner) from Back 40 Events (they use Race Result for much of their race day technology). Bringing all the timing gear, computers, wiring, power and years of weekly knowledge from hundreds of races is what gives great experiences to so many endurance athletes.
We have continued to invest about 25% of our development resources in race day technology, and have an absolutely amazing team in place to create and support timers and race directors in delivering a great experience. We have market leading technology in these areas:
- RaceDay Scoring and Race Director – scoring software for timers that has scored over 1.6M finishers so far in 2022. Over 30 releases this year.
- RaceDay CheckIn will check in over 2 Million participants this year. Now with label printing. Over 20 releases this year.
- RaceJoy provides the only widely available real time GPS based runner tracking and interactive platform for cheers and sponsor visibility. This brings a great experience as well as new levels of safety and course management to races. We provide this only thru our certified timer channel with hundreds of timers available to help races with this advanced technology. Over 10 releases this year.
- Free Photo Platform. Over 5 million photos have been uploaded and auto-tagged by our platform for thousands of races. Big V2 release early this year.
- Free video results integration. Available as an option from many timers. Better split handling earlier this year.
- Free corrals and bib management. Big enhancements earlier this year.
No other vendor has the base of customers or the financial strength of our registration business to support this type of development, which means that we will continue to gain market share with timers.
Industry Moves and Observations
Let’s Do This $60 Million Investment Round – Let’s Do This took a huge investment round earlier this year. They have previously focused primarily in the UK, and with the new round they started to become very aggressive in the US market. RunSignup had to come out with a firm statement that they are NOT partners with us. We have not heard as much from them since that point and question whether their investors understand the limited size and revenue available in the endurance market.
Race Roster Becomes Aggressive with Large Races – Race Roster is approaching large races with a bundled sponsor offering with Asics, their corporate parent. As we covered in our RunningUSA debrief, they have a general offering of increasing the processing fee paid by the participant and using the extra money to basically fund the purchase and distribution of Asics gear (they hate us referring to trading money for lots of Asics socks). Obviously, race directors can charge more on RunSignup and use that money to strike a deal with their local running store or with one of the dozen other running shoe (and sock) vendors. But they are being even more aggressive in up front money and in discounting below RunSignup prices. This has helped them win the Philadelphia Marathon for 2023, who had been on RunSignup for the past 5 years when the City of Philadelphia government made their decision a month ago. We wonder how scalable of a model this will be. We also wonder about how they will react when existing customers will be asking for similar treatment.
Race Roster Becomes Aggressive with Smaller Races – We had noted this back in the spring that Race Roster had a very aggressive sales organization making calls to RunSignup customers. We have not seen much, if any movement away from our platform to Race Roster, however they may be having success with other vendors. We have won a number of customers who had been using Race Roster, and the common message we are getting is that we have a superior product and set of functionality. So our observation is that Race Roster has a decent product and probably better than a number of the others in the list above. Coupled with Asics continued apparent interest in investing in Race Roster make them a viable option, but it does not seem they are making any real progress in catching our technology or pricing lead. The one concern is that we have heard various reports of technology problems – one with loss of data and one with outage of their system. Hopefully they are investing enough in their core platform.
Haku – Haku is the only other vendor who seems to be making progress in the market. They continue to have a focus on high end events building custom software for them and sending personnel to all races. Promising to do many of the jobs that require people helped them win the Oklahoma City Marathon from us for 2023. They also are beginning to expand internationally attending the European Running Business Conference in September. The custom approach and spreading themselves thin could expose financial issues over time.
Registration vendors success is strongly linked to how races are doing. The past three years have been hard for races and hard for registration vendors. If recent upticks in registrations continues, that is good news for all of us.
We continue to be concerned about the small size of many registration vendors and the increasing complexity of operating a platform service that has enough focus on maintaining the overhead of security, software upgrades, sales tax compliance, payment technology and cash flow. We know ourselves that operating these basics consumes a significant investment from us, however we are fortunate to have a large enough base of customers supporting our efforts to maintain high quality and security and availability and consistency.