To quote a ghost: boo. Halloween comes on a Monday this year. And while kids might know that means they have less time to spend trick-or-treating since it’s a school night, sports event directors are ready to leverage the entire preceding weekend to get great mileage from themed events.
According to Running USA, “While Thanksgiving continues to hold top billing as the most active holiday for road race participation in the United States, Halloween sits a close second.” In 2014, Running USA noted, there were 722,237 finishers in Halloween-themed running events.
Costume races, monster dashes, zombie runs and a host of other Halloween-themed events have generated an increased amount of participation across the country, creating runner experiences similar to those generated by events such as The Color Run and Santa dashes.
“Halloween continues to be one of the most active holidays in the United States for a variety of reasons,” said Rich Harshbarger, Running USA CEO. “The growth we’ve seen reflects the year-round trend of greater numbers of runners seeking out events which are themed, social and festive.”
And it’s not just running that ties in with the holiday. Other sports find a niche as well. In Anaheim, California, the 2016 Halloween Classic basketball tournament includes not only participation, but links to local events (Knotts Berry Farm becomes Knotts Scary Farm for the weekend, for example). And in racquetball, Virginia will host the Ghostly Classic and the Ghostly Gateway in the weeks leading up to Halloween. (Want to know which cities and states are most conducive to Halloween celebrations? Our friends at WalletHub have already figured that out, including the best weather for events and the most candy stores. Really.)
And there are plenty of manufactured costumes that help people combine sports with their Halloween celebration; the Prince of Tennis Cosplay outfit is one example, and the faux Team USA sweatsuit is another. Then of course, there’s entirely-politically-incorrect-but-very-popular-nonetheless Blind Referee costume , appealing to those who have a beef with the officiating at matches. Oh, and the Zombie Cheerleader (or as it’s also known, the Cheerless Leader) costume.
And count on pro sports to get into the action. The NFL, for example, compiled this collage of photos from around the country, showing fans, cheerleaders and more getting into the action on game days.
What is it about Halloween, honestly? A psychologist could probably say it helps people tap into their childhood or even lambast pop culture; at no other time is there the ability to wear an outrageous costume (weird-haired politicians come to mind immediately) and get away with it in a social setting. And as sports event planners have learned, it’s a trend that has only continued to grow. After all, there’s big money to be made on Halloween; the National Retail Federation has noted that Halloween spending is expected to reach $8.4 billion this year. And, NRF adds, more than 171 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year, spending an average $82.93, up from last year’s $74.34.
Running USA notes that since 2011, Halloween race participation has grown nearly 60 percent, from 469,602 race finishers in 2011 to 722,237.
The number of Halloween running events have followed a similar chart, nearly doubling from 1,128 in 2011 to 2,042 in 2014. Something interesting: Halloween dominates Thanksgiving in terms of sheer number of events, as 1,032 turkey trots were counted in 2014. Running In The USA has 17 full pages of listings of events in October, with a huge number of these containing words like Pumpkin, Great Pumpkin, Halloween, Ghost and Zombie.
A note from the NRF to those marketing their events: Social media has become the fastest-growing influencer for the perfect costume, particularly Pinterest (17 percent), which has seen 133 percent growth since 2012. Some other places for inspiration include friends/family (19 percent), Facebook (17 percent), pop culture (16 percent) and print media (14 percent). And retailers are getting into the act, with plenty of tie-in promos that spell big returns.
Sports, which has never been at a shortage of finding abilities to tie in with current culture, doesn’t ignore Halloween for good reason: it’s a big revenue stream. NRF’s survey showed 69.1 percent of people planned to celebrate the holiday. A total of 47.1 percent plan to dress in costume, and spend $2.5 billion on candy.
Which, of course, means they can run off those calories in clown shoes at the next sports event.