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The fastest growing event category in America is participatory events. Marathons, half marathons, specialty runs (mudders, color runs, etc), and triathlons are exploding. Consumers formerly paid to attend events. Now, consumers pay to be part of an event. Participatory events are growing as part of the experience economy.

Event organizers face the same challenge as businesses: they have to define their target audience and influence them to take action. We’ve had the privilege of serving a number of participatory events. Here’s a few things we learned along the way:

DEFINE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

Every event draws a particular demographic:

  • Marathons attract 35-55 year olds who have a college degree.
  • Cycling events draw men in their peak earning years (40-60).
  • Color runs draw young women.

Don’t just define the demographic of your target audience. Define the psychology of your audience:

  • Marathons appeal to people who are goal oriented.
  • Cycling events appeal to men who are driven by challenges.
  • Color runs appeal to women who want to make memories with friends.

Defining your target audience in this way will drive the marketing for the event.

CREATE CONTENT FOR YOUR AUDIENCE

We have one client whose target audience is 90% male. We have another client whose target audience is 90% female. The content for each client is dramatically different.

Here’s an example: we serve a cycling event as a client. The average participant is a 45 year old male in the peak of their career. We created a digital campaign focused on a question: “Are you up for the challenge?” It features live-action shots of men on bicycles as they climb hills and challenging roads.

To spread the event’s message, we invited men to issue a challenge to their friends. People tend to cycle in groups. The best (and cheapest) way for us to spread news about the event was to invite participants to issue a challenge to their cycling friends. Using a Facebook page as the center of activity, we grew the event’s followers and spurred registrations.

Marketing for the event isn’t about just spreading information. It is about creating a meaningful connection with your target marketing. Once you understand your audience, you can create content that will give your event a favorable position with them.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING

Events are a point in time. Organizers tend to market leading up to the event and go quiet afterwards. With social media, event organizers can keep in contact with their target audience all year long. You can share pictures from the event and content that will interest your audience. Even better, you can help sponsors get the full value of their investment.

Events are growing. Organizers have the opportunity to bring value to participants and sponsors through effective marketing. No matter the type of event you are organizing, the goal is like any business: make a meaningful connection with your target market and create loyal customers.