RunSignup released the results of its survey of the endurance industry indicating that both virtual and in-person races are expected to be important in 2021.

The survey created a snapshot of revenue and event expectations for the industry in 2020/21 and offered a comparison to attitudes from a similar survey it took in May 2020.

While its recent survey reinforced the significant impact of COVID-19 on endurance events, it also demonstrated optimism as races prepare for a range of options in 2021.

The survey, completed by 398 race organizers, covered a range of organization and events sizes with 33 percent of represented organizations serving 501-to-5,000 participants, 21 percent representing 5,001-to-20,000 participants, and 17 percent representing more than 20,000 participants annually. Ninety-five percent of respondents operate primarily in the U.S. and were spread across 44 states.

The survey showed cautious optimism with significant revenue reductions in 2020 gradually improving over the coming months. At the heart of the recovery are increased event options as compared to March — including virtual races, virtual challenges, modified in-person races, and hybrid races that combine both in-person and virtual elements and options.

Key takeaways from the survey include:

  • While expectations for modified in-person events grow over the course of 2020, with 57 percent expecting to host one in the first half of 2020 and 66 percent anticipating one in the second half, it’s clear that virtual isn’t going away. During the same period, 62 percent and 46 percent, respectively, expect to host a virtual race or challenge. Another 46 percent percent of all respondents indicated that they expect to host a hybrid event, both in-person and virtual, in the second half of 2021, and that number is expected to grow as races realize the value of increasing their reach;
  • May expectations for 2020 revenue appear to be relatively accurate, with 45 percent of 2019 revenue predicted at that time, and 43 percent of revenue expected by the end of the year;
  • Expectations for 2021 revenue are less optimistic now than they were in May, with revenue predictions for the second half of the year falling from 76 percent in May to 64 percent today. However, a gradual recovery is still expected with revenue increasing steadily from now until late 2021;
  • Smaller organizations fared better, with organizations representing fewer than 1,000 participants in a year exceeding the revenue they expected in May;
  • While organizations still indicate that they are using cost-saving measures, including reducing operating and employment expenses, an increasing number are also making up for shortfalls by creating new revenue streams including fresh race, challenge or virtual event concepts. The share of organizations focused on expanding revenue sources rose from 41 percent in May to 49 percent in November; and
  • While the endurance industry has been hit hard and challenges continue, only one percent of respondents indicated that they expect bankruptcy, down slightly from 1.4 percent, with the same expectation in May. This suggests that industry experience will still be around when the demand for events rebounds.

RunSignup Founder and CEO Bob Bickel said, “While this survey confirms that a slow recovery is expected, it also demonstrates that the industry is far better prepared to handle the uncertainty in 2021. Through safety modifications and communication with health officials, we have seen an increase in successful in-person events in recent weeks. What is really encouraging, though, is how the breadth of options has grown. Compared to March, event organizers are much more prepared to create engaging virtual races and challenges and are building their events as Hybrid events – providing options for different types of participants and creating built-in contingency plans to avoid last-minute cancellations.”

To read the full survey, go here.

Illustration courtesy RunSignup