Engaging Younger Runners

Making inroads with younger generations – like Gen Zers – is becoming increasingly important. As previous generations age out, they’re becoming a larger part of the potential pool of participants for endurance events. Currently runners 18-29 make up just under 16% of participants, which is still below pre pandemic levels above 20%.

For many, connecting with the younger audience has been a bit of a struggle. Race directors may feel unsure of where to go, or uncomfortable trying new things. With that in mind we’ve put together a list of a few ways events can better connect with younger generations and encourage them to participate in events. 

Short form video 

It may come as no surprise, but younger people spend a lot of time on social media. Millennials spend about 2.5 hours a day on social sites. Gen Zers come in even higher at just over three hours a day on social media. 

The most prominent social media sites Millennials and Gen Zers use are:

  • Tik Tok
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

Gen Z spends the most time on Tik Tok, with Millennials spending more on YouTube and Instagram – though they’re increasingly spending more time on Tik Tok, too. No matter what the platform, both are drawn to short form videos. 

In an ideal world, these videos: 

  • Are less than one minute 
  • Don’t contain a lot of “fluff”
  • Are dynamic with multiple angles and cuts to keep attention
  • Include popular songs or trending soundbytes

These videos can provide race information, talk about a cause or community your race supports, or show your race in a fun and friendly light. A few examples of race videos that engage participants in different ways can be found below.

Show off the personality of your event(s):


Celebrating International Women’s Day with the Women of Rev3. #PrettyGirlsWalkLikeThis @rev3tri

♬ original sound – TCR Event Management

Promo Video:

Course Preview:


This beautiful course is something you’re not going to want to miss next year! Indian Creek Trail Runs 2023 was incredible – it was an honor seeing runners push through this course and finish. Whether you ran 5 miles or 50 miles this weekend, you should be PROUD of what you accomplished!! Follow us to see when 2024 registration opens. #ultramarathon #denver #Colorado #run #marathon #trailrun #ultrasignup #newrunner

♬ original sound – Human Potential

Recap Video: 

And if you have a really great video, you can also incorporate it into your race Website V2 via the YouTube Video Component.

Influencer campaigns

Because younger adults spend more time on social media, they’re less likely to see more traditional advertising. They’re also less likely to trust traditional ads, instead seeking out suggestions from trusted influencers. 

Very broadly, an influencer is someone who’s a quasi-expert in a certain area – fitness, food, etc. Sometimes they come from a professional background, but oftentimes they don’t. The main appeal here is that their suggestions feel more authentic to the audience. They don’t feel like they’re being sold something. 

Influencer campaigns may not make sense for all events, but if you can they’re very useful. Data shows influencer campaigns can outperform more standard marketing campaigns as they tend to be more targeted. 

Doing an influencer campaign can be a little tricky. Most ideally, you’d find someone in your niche – this could be the endurance sport your event is or it could be someone who’s involved in any sort of social good or charity that your event supports. It would also help for them to be in your local area. 

Doing a quick Google search could help find some results. Otherwise, it’s probably best to reach out to your local community to see if any names pop up. In most cases local folks will fall into the category of micro (under 100k followers), or nano (under 10k followers), influencers. Their reach may not be as big, but is generally more targeted, so engagement could be higher.  

Influencers are often paid a fee to create posts promoting an event. You can find standard rates for influencers, based on followers, here…but know that every agreement is individual. In some cases you might also do something like an affiliate program where they’re paid a commission on any tickets they sell through their direct link. You can use a referral code or a source tracking link (or QR code) to verify participants referred by your influencer.


Instead of traditional influencers, you could also go the ambassador route. Generally, this means giving someone free entrance to an event in exchange for promoting to their network.

Races with ambassador programs often have a process for people to apply to become an ambassador. While a free entry is often in exchange for some level of promotion online, ambassador programs can also be built around engaging ambassadors as volunteers or pacers. 

Positive impact

Younger generations are very interested in social responsibility. It’s a driver of how they spend their time and where they spend their dollars. In fact, 56% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to buy from brands aligned with their social values. It’s why companies like Warby Parker and Bombas socks have done so well over the last handful of years. 

With races it’s common to have some sort of charitable aspect. If you have a charitable component to your event it could encourage younger people to participate. Make sure you share about the organization and let people know how then funds will have an impact. 

Another thing to know about Gen Z is that they’re very frugal and do their best to keep costs low. That said, if they know that at least a portion of their registration fee is going to a good cause, they may be more willing to register for your event . 

Gen Z specifically also values diversity. Emblematic of that, over 50% said they would turn down a job offer from a company lacking diverse leadership. So, showing that you welcome people from all backgrounds can be meaningful to this group. A few things you can do to make your event more inclusive:

  • Make sure people of different backgrounds are represented in images on your website and other marketing materials.
  • Offer more than one race distance to appeal to a wider range of participants and allow people to join teams across teams so they can participate together, even apart.
  • Offer a non-binary option for registration – and back that up with non-binary awards (just talk to your timer, first).  You can find a guide for non-binary inclusion here

Moving forward

Connecting with younger runners may feel like a conundrum, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure you’re meeting them where they are, in the formats they prefer. If you take the time to put in the effort, it’s likely they’ll notice and be more willing to participate. 

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