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  • Gary Roethenbaugh

April 2021 endurance sport motivations research finds athletes raring to race

Tracking the sentiment of triathletes, cyclists, runners and other endurance sport athletes, in April 2021, MultiSport Research is pleased to have released summary findings from a new and updated study.

The study explores athlete motivations during the current Covid-19 crisis, and compares with previous studies undertaken in January 2021, June 2020 and April 2020.

With year-on-year comparisons, between April 2021 and 2020, the research has been provided free of charge to industry partners in order to help them plan amidst a continued challenging environment. The latest April 2021 study includes analysis of over 3,300 survey respondents across a number of key endurance sport markets.

Gary Roethenbaugh, Managing Director at MultiSport Research, said “Firstly, once again, a big thank you to all athletes who gave up their time to give their input.

“With indications coming through from the previous study earlier this year, in January, athletes now appear increasingly keen to toe the start line at a variety of endurance sport events. This is so encouraging for the future of the wider endurance sport category.”

Summary findings from the April 2021 Endurance Sport Athlete Motivations Study include:

  • A desire to return to racing is indicated by a strong increase in sentiment areas, such as: ’expect to race as soon as restrictions lifted’, and ‘training regime important for event goals this year’.

  • There is an increase in positive sentiment around event goals when compared with all previous reporting periods.

  • Data points related to coaching sentiment have seen an uplift when compared with June 2020, and are in line with January 2021 levels.

  • While there is still some caution around Covid safety at events, athletes’ motivations are shifting notably towards getting out there and racing. 86% expect to race this year – with 69% expecting to race by spring/summer 2021. (This compares with 83% in January 2021 expecting to race this year and 68% who expected to race by spring/summer.)

  • When respondents were asked about the numbers of other athletes that they would feel comfortable racing alongside, one-third stated that they would be comfortable with an event field of 3,000+ participants.

  • 38% of respondents participated in a virtual run event during lockdown. 32% participated in a virtual bike event. Although, in April 2021, underpinning a desire for real-world events, a number of athletes indicate no interest in virtual racing.

  • National events are currently more preferred than international event travel. However, there has been a pick-up in interest in international events, as well as the distances athletes are prepared to travel within their own country. A notable 49% are willing to travel more than 100 miles for a national event (35% in January 2021). For international event travel, this resonates with just over 10% of respondents.

  • In January 2021, levels of worry about the health impacts of Covid-19 had previously picked up, but have since dropped back. With vaccine rollouts progressing in many countries, the level of concern has now fallen to a low of 38%.

  • Financial concerns about the impact of coronavirus on household income have dropped notably. Only 21% indicate that they are either ‘very worried’ or ‘worried’ about the financial ramifications of the pandemic – down from 43% in April 2020.

  • 71% of athletes appear willing to tolerate some form of price rise to keep events viable in 2021. A low of 29% are unsure, or unwilling to accept a price rise.

Gary Roethenbaugh added, “As the pandemic is a way off being eradicated, there is understandably still some caution from athletes. However, the mood around event participation has picked up notably – in anticipation of an active race season in 2021.

“The proportion indicating international events has also edged up. So, there is a sense that (a smaller cohort of) athletes are prepared to travel overseas to race – when permitted to do so.

“After more than 12 months of considerable challenges, the event industry has been taken to the edge – with forced cancellations and tremendous financial pressures. Yet, there is hope that a corner has been turned, and the signs are encouraging for healthy event activity in 2021.”

The research was undertaken via an athlete survey. This went live on went live on April 1, 2021 and closed on May 4, 2021. In total, there were 3,332 responses across all countries (with 1,437 in the USA and 1,160 in the UK).

The survey covered a number of areas, including:

  • Athletes’ current vs typical participation in endurance sport

  • Increase or decrease in activity due to social distancing

  • Levels of concern about Covid-19

  • Attitudes to training & rescheduled events

  • Views on race cancellations

  • Virtual racing

  • Gear expenditure

  • Athlete types, levels of experience & training hours

  • Summary demographics

  • Attitudes to training & coaching services

  • Attitudes to a safe return to racing, with selected athlete comments

  • Views on increased entry fees & race travel distances

  • April 2021 vs April 2020 survey index to compare shifts in sentiment

  • January 2021 and June 2020 indices vs April 2020

MultiSport Research is planning an update to the research in order to track sentiment as the Covid-19 crisis evolves. To participate in the research or find out more, please get in touch with us directly.



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