The Mass Participation Event Industry Will Recover – If We Learn How to Collaborate

Interview Chris and Fanny

There’s no doubt our industry has taken a hit in the years moving out of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not getting easier for races to survive with the current recession raising the input cost of organizing races by between 20% – 40 % in most parts of the world in combination with participants’ increasing inability and unwillingness to meet registration fees. 

But don’t fret, there is still hope, and good fortune for our industry is within grasp. We got to speak with the renowned author and speaker Chris Robb, who is an active voice and leader within the Mass Participation and endurance racing industry. He is the founder of Mass Participation World where he acts to promote the benefits of Mass Participation Sports and events in the world and supports collaboration across sports, nations and verticals. In answer to the question “How will the race industry flourish again?”, Robb states that evolving the current flawed business model as well as learning to collaborate more is the key. 

Watch the interview below and get Chris’ story, with his thoughts on how much our industry is actually affecting society for the good and his ideas on how we can prove our worth, as well as his best tips for organizers that want to create a sustainable, successful and future-proof event. 

Key Takeaways from the Interview

The health impact of Participation Sports Events is bigger than we think

The positive impact of endurance & mass participation events on people’s lives is much more than we currently think – the compounded ripple effect can be up to 1:200! Every person who decides to participate and train for any given race has an estimated impact on improving the health of 6 people in their circle and this effect can be compounded to the next 6 people and the next, and so on. Further research is required to fully prove this effect. As an industry, we are not telling our story right – to get additional attention from brands and sponsors, we need to tell it differently and health research can help us prove the significance of our events.

Cities & Race Organizers need to partner and strategize

Rather than working in a strained and adversarial approach to each other, governmental bodies and mass participation events should work as partners and see the essential benefits for cities when events are held. It should be a strategy for cities and governmental bodies to improve health and tourism. 

Current times are challenging 

The business model of endurance racing is challenging; organizers now have even fewer levers to pull in order to survive. We are down, in general, 20% on entries. Reduced revenue combined with an at least 20% rise in overall input costs present tough challenges for race organizers. Events have also lost the trust and focus of participants during the pandemic, we need to build that back. It will take courage, effort, and time to overcome these obstacles. 

In the previous recession, mass participation flourished 

During the 2008/2009 recession, we saw a strong boost in Mass Participation Events as people saw it as a cost-effective way of enjoying health and entertainment. With the outdoor sports frenzy at the beginning of the pandemic, we thought this could hold, only to find out the opposite. At best 80% of participants have returned after the pandemic. It is however too early to say – we might see a general rise in participation again, and we already have a few examples of registrations increasing in the 2023 season. 

Organizers, treat your race as a business 

Ask yourself: what is the problem that you are solving for your customers? Is the problem they want to be solved, really delivered in a race and competition? Participants nowadays want an experience and a journey. It is not just about turning up to a start-line and competing for a result. Don’t narrow your focus too much, instead open up your offering and invite your customers to a full-on race experience from sign-up to the after-race party. 

Collaboration is Key in the new era of events

The key to getting out of this recession and challenging times is collaboration, between events, organizers, sports and cities. Race businesses need to come out of their survival mode – everyone should share ideas and resources such as volunteers, staff, deals with suppliers and more. We should not be afraid of cross-marketing and responsibly share our data to help promote each other’s events. Competitive collaboration is the way forward. 

Enjoy an in-depth discussion on each of the topics in the full interview video linked above – it is well worth your time and will leave you inspired by Chris’ innovative ideas on how to organize the races of the future. 

About Chris Robb

Chris is a 35-year Mass Participation veteran which has seen him at the helm of events for over 1 million people including the 60,000-participant Singapore Marathon. He is also the author of Mass Participation Sports Events as well as an international speaker who has spoken in 15 countries.

At MPW (Mass Participation World), we passionately believe that Mass Participation Sports have a massive role to play in the future health and well-being of the world. Without a doubt, the best results can be achieved through partnership and collaboration across the entire industry ecosystem. Our dream is to see an industry that works together across all verticals to help raise the tide so that all boats rise. Together, we can positively impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Connect with Chris through Mass Participation World:

Get inspiration & ideas at the next MPW Conference in Bangkok: