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Sports Boom: Who is Driving the Sports Travel Market?

4 Nov, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
In Study After Study, Baby Boomers are the Big Spenders and the Key Decision-Makers

Who’s running with the ball and driving the sports travel marketplace? The baby boomers. Boomers, those often defined as being part of the post–World War II baby boom and born between s 1946 and 1964 (although there is some leeway in that definition) are a key demographic that is continuing to influence the way events are presented.

According to MediaPost, savvy marketers already know 10 key facts about the boomers’ spending habits. But how does what they know (and what others have discovered) translate into something the sports event planner can harness? Here are a few tips:

The boomers are the spenders: According to the U.S. Census, Americans 50+ now spend more on consumer products and services than those under 50, meaning they lead Millennials and Gen X (who get all the attention.) They represent just 45% of all adults, so we know they spend more per capita than younger adults—so much for the notion that spending slows down after age 50.

The take-away for sports event planners: These are people who are willing to invest in sports, whether that means registration fees for events, souvenirs once they get there, or better equipment so they, or their kids, since many still have teenagers at home, can perform better.

They are active: According to the lifestyle website HowStuffWorks/Health, boomers have absolutely no interest in sitting around and waiting for their golden years to descend upon them. Instead, they’re out actively pursuing sports they might not have tried previously. There's evidence that individuals from this generation want more adventure in their lives and are more likely than their parents to participate in competitive sports as well as aquatic sports including rafting, swimming and more.

And they get injured as a result: According to the sports event registration website, Active.com, statistics show that most sports-related injuries affecting this age group come from bicycling, running, skiing and in-line skating, and the first two of those activities comprise a lot of the larger sports event market where weekend warriors come out to play.

Sports event planners should know: It’s not unwarranted to have first-aid services at large events such as marathons, triathlons and gran fondos, but local sports medicine practitioners might be interested in setting up a table at smaller events (area tennis tournaments, etc.) to provide quick consults and to build business.

They have bucket lists and they’re not afraid to use them: Among the demographic, extreme sports such as rafting, skydiving and paragliding commonly frequent boomers' itineraries. They are also embracing triathlons, marathons and obstacle course racing. One source states that more than 60 percent of boomers want to be involved in extreme sports, regardless of their age. “Adult teenagers" is the way Phil Goodman, co-author of the Boomer Marketing Revolution, described boomers in a recent article by the Association of Travel Marketing Executives. A consultant to the National Tour Association on its boomer market assessment plan, Goodman noted, "Boomers will always try to act much younger than their chronological age." As a result, boomers still want to fulfill the dreams they had at 25, even if their bodies aren't always willing or able.

Sports event planners, take note: If there are vendors in the area of your event who offer extreme activities or even just unusual sports tours and activities, you might want to make sure people know about it. Maybe offer a section in your registration materials pointing out the services available.

They value the social aspect of sports: In contrast to their parents and perhaps even younger generations, baby boomers prefer more public, face-to-face outings. Interacting with people in public rather than staying at home comes natural to this outgoing generation. In fact, National Senior Games officials (where the minimum participation age for events is 50) have noted that many of the participants will be competitive – but just as many are there to see friends and enjoy the experience.

Sports event planners can use this information: Effective planning for sports events that involve baby boomers means giving them the space and the opportunity to catch up with one another. Is there a bar? A lounge area? A restaurant? Count on it to get heavy usage from these folks.

They like to volunteer: If they’re retired, or nearing retirement age, they may have more time to spend doing the things they want to do.

Hey, sports event planners: Here’s a great demographic to tap into for worker bees at an event. If people can’t participate in a sport directly, they’ll often want to volunteer to assist at it.

They love to travel: Unlike their parents, boomers consider travel a necessity, not a luxury, according to the Association of Travel Marketing Executives. They also enjoy the creature comforts of travel and they’ll spend on luxury and personnel expertise if they think it will improve the travel experience.

Sports event planners can see: This is the generation that already understands and embraces the concept of travel teams. However, they’re still participating in their own sports, so count on them to invest in travel to a marathon, triathlon or senior games event.

They support brick-and-mortar businesses. Over the past 3 years, 50+ have been endorsing the ‘shop local’ philosophy, keeping brick and mortar retailers (local running shoe stores or tennis shops, for example) in growth mode. They may also be asking about ‘Made in America’ products in an attempt to keep things in-house, as it were.

Sports event planners can use this fact: The use of local businesses as sponsors or vendors in an event is going to appeal to this generation.  

They’re tech-savvy: Okay, they’re not as dialed into technology as their children and grandchildren, but for the most part, boomers are cyber-aware, using online registration portals for sports events, booking hotels or flights online and connecting with their fellow weekend warriors on social media.

Sports event planner, take note: The understanding that this crowd wants it all online is nothing new. In addition, using social media to build a community of participants can increase your reach for future events.

They’re eco-friendly and civic-minded: This generation has been imbued with the concept of an endangered planet and a sense of connection to others in the world.

Sports event planner notes: Recycled goods, compost bins for uneaten food, drop-boxes for used athletic shoes and workout clothing that can be donated to various charities will all go a long way toward making boomers feel happy about their participation.

MediaPost notes that due to the American culture’s obsession with youth, boomers will continue to cede the media spotlight to Millennials, but it will be a long time before they give up their spot as the nation’s dominant consumer group. Savvy marketers will prioritize evidence, not popularity, when deciding the best way to deliver profits and grow share of market.

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