How Run Denver Series Increased Revenue With Virtual Fitness Challenges

When the COVID-19 pandemic reduced in-person attendance for the RunDenver series, Events.com EveryChallenge helped event organizers to add a virtual fitness challenge. It boosted engagement, increased registrations, and brought in more revenue.

Run Denver Race Series event

About the RunDenver Race Series

The RunDenver series is Colorado’s original running series. Produced by Hal Sports, it features five separate events that motivate people to stay active through the winter months. Participants compete with one another using a point-based system and receive medals for their accomplishments.

The Results

By adding a virtual experience through Events.com EveryChallenge, the RunDenver series saw:

  • ‌42% more registrations
  • ‌10% more registrations from people outside of Colorado
  • ‌70% more engagement with interactive leaderboards
  • ‌29% increase in revenue
  • Decrease in participant support inquiries – Run Denver Series went from receiving support inquiries about upload of activities, to receiving praise for the ease and convenience of the auto-sync feature.

The Problem

Before social distancing entered the picture, the RunDenver race series had thousands of attendees at their live events. COVID-19 restrictions cut the series down to 600 attendees per event. They knew they needed to add a virtual fitness challenge for those who couldn’t participate due to attendance limits or didn’t feel comfortable attending in person.

RunDenver tried a variety of other virtual platforms to solve the problem, but those platforms proved difficult to use for both organizers and participants. Many options required the participants to do extra work, like downloading a separate app to track their results. About 98% of participants wouldn’t take that extra step.

“I think the first mistake so many of us made with virtual was to try and take what we do on event day and do it at home. We’ve realized we can’t duplicate it, but we can give them another engaging option that’s easy to use and allows them to still have that sense of community.”

– Lonnie Somers, Hal Sports

The Outcome

RunDenver ultimately settled on EveryChallenge as a results-based platform, through which participants could engage with each other and share their accomplishments. This gave RunDenver much more engagement on the virtual side, allowing the event to include people who are reluctant to participate in-person.

Virtual fitness challenge event

Challenges and Objectives

When COVID-19 forced RunDenver to pivot to a hybrid model, event organizers committed to making this new event structure as accessible, engaging, and inclusive as possible. They realized that the virtual component could engage participants who might not otherwise be able to participate. Virtual attendees could include those who were concerned about COVID and those who couldn’t make it to the event site.

The event organizers immediately turned to virtual athletic event hosting platforms, but they encountered several barriers. The platforms they tried were not user-friendly, and between 15% and 20% of participants continued to have difficulty using them.

RunDenver encountered two primary barriers to participants. Some platforms required participants to download a separate app to track their performance. Others only offered the option for manual results uploading. Manual upload platforms had a particularly low engagement rate, with only 2% of participants willing to take that next step and add their results.

The same platforms also created problems for the event planners. With one system, organizers had to send an email to participants alerting them to an upcoming email from the platform. These extra steps made it harder to integrate the virtual race into the hybrid event.

RunDenver needed something better. They needed a way to create a hybrid running event that was just as engaging for online participants as for in-person athletes.

Events.com’s EveryChallenge was the solution.

How Events.com Helped

In Events.com’s EveryChallenge platform, RunDenver’s organizers found an easy-to-use and all-in-one solution that provided a frictionless experience for participants and organizers.

EveryChallenge allowed RunDenver to choose from multiple challenge options including best results, total distance, and total elevation. The event organizers could also choose the duration of the event and set up goals and badges that runners could work toward, to further boost engagement.

Participants were able to easily register for their choice of event, then quickly sync their chosen GPS tracking app: Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, Strava, or Suunto. Each app auto-syncs with the participant’s chosen event, so there’s no need to add results after the fact. Meanwhile, a manual entry option made the event accessible for those without a connected device.

Participants also received easy access to an auto-updated Results Leaderboard, which displays each individual’s results in each virtual fitness challenge. There, they could engage with each other by posting words of congratulations or encouragement.

The ease of use, combined with the interactive element of the Results Leaderboard, created the engaging virtual event that RunDenver had aimed to offer participants. 

To quote Hal Sports’s Lonnie Somers: 

“EveryChallenge offers an all-encompassing tool with great value. At the end of the day, we are producing joy for people. No one is offering anything like this tool. Nothing really compares.”

– Lonnie Somers, Hal Sports

Results and What’s Ahead

Thanks to EveryChallenge, this year’s RunDenver event was a rousing success. It:

  • ‌Produced 42% more registrations, including 10% more registrations from participants outside of Colorado
  • ‌Increased event revenue by 29%
  • ‌Boosted engagement by 70% through interactive leaderboards

‌The organizers at Hal Sports are excited about continuing to use the EveryChallenge platform for virtual run events, even after COVID-19 restrictions loosen. The virtual challenge for this year’s event made up between 12% and 18% of the event’s total participant count, and many of those athletes would not have been able to join otherwise.

There’s an incredible potential in a solution like EveryChallenge, even after the era of social distancing. There will always be people who can’t attend an in-person event but still want to be a part of it.

EveryChallenge can continue to engage these participants with a convenient and interactive virtual challenge option. Hal Sports has already begun to analyze participation trends, figuring out engagement metrics and creating projections and plans for next year’s events. 

Expect to see many more EveryChallenge virtual events as part of Hal Sports’s live event planning. Going forward, people at home will be able to participate fully and without unnecessary friction, thanks to the simplicity and usability of the EveryChallenge platform.