Are you aware how important it is to market to women? Do you understand the reasons why? On the heels of International Women’s Day, it’s time we take a deep dive into the importance of marketing to women.

Across the board, gender parity in sports is becoming an increasing focus. Even the International Olympic Committee is on board. The IOC Gender Equality Review Project launched in February 2018, with the goal of increasing women’s Olympic participation to 50%. For many of you, women already make up more than half of your event field. For others, there’s a lot of room to add more women to your roster. And there are plenty of compelling reasons to try to reach as many women as possible. There’s so much to say on the topic, we’re splitting it into two posts.

  • Part I of our series will dig into the WHY: the data that explains why marketing to women is important.
  • Part II of our series will focus on the HOW: tips and tools to help you get it right.

Let’s start by looking at the data in three categories: women in sports, women and the economy, and women and social media. We’ll also offer some key take away points.



  • Women account for 9.7 million finishers nationwide and represent 57% of event fields.
  • Women account for 60% of half-marathon finishers, 58% of 5k finishers, 59% of 10k finishers, and 44% of marathon finishers. In three of the four most popular road race distances, women rule the field.
  • 53% of women runners are in the 25-44 age range (27% are 25-34, 26% are 35-44).
  • 45-54-year-old women make up 19% of female competitors.

Source: Running USA 2017 U.S. Road Race Trends

Take Away: Running race directors, more than half your participants—aka your target audience—are women. The majority of these women range in age from 25–54, so research their behaviors and how to reach them. And if you want to create a women’s-only event, the half marathon, 10k, and 5k are excellent choices.


  • Total USA Triathlon membership plateaued in the past few years. Since 2000, however, USAT’s female membership has grown from 27% to more than 37%.
  • Reasons for this growth include: society’s acceptance of “active” women, women feeling more comfortable living an active lifestyle, the growth of women’s-only events, and races focusing on charity involvement and fundraising.

Source: USAT Annual Membership Report

Take Away: The growth opportunity in triathlon lies with women. The popularity of women’s-only events and caused-based event participation is especially encouraging.


  • The number of women cycling decreased by 13% between 2000 and 2010, except among those women who are enthusiasts, and rode 110 days per year or more. Their numbers increased by 8% that same decade.
  • 87% of U.S. competitive cyclists are male, and 12% are female.
  • According to a survey of 710 female mountain bikers, 46% said they first learned about mountain biking from a partner and 44% said a friend invited them out to ride.

Source: People for Bikes participation statistics

Take Away: Women are a minority among competitive cyclists, but their numbers are slowly growing. With encouragement, more women are likely to ride.

Ultraendurance Events (6+ hours):

  • Between 2000 and 2016, the number of ultramarathon finishers jumped from about 13,000 to more than 88,000. Women finishers increased from less than a quarter to more than a third.
  • A growing pattern of race results suggests that the longer and more arduous the event, the better the chances women have of beating men.
  • At the infamous Hardrock 100 race, a woman has been among the top 10 at eight of the past nine events, with two women breaking the top 10 in both 2015 and 2016. Women have also begun to crack the top 20 at the prestigious Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Sally Bigham took 14th in 2017 and Annika Langvad did the same in 2016.

Sources: UltraRunning Magazine finishes over time, Outside Magazine article, and Athlinks data.

Take Away: More women are going longer, stronger, than ever. These stats and stories may motivate even more women to participate in ultra events.


  • Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. They make more than 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions.
  • Women spend 80% of all sport apparel dollars and control 60% of all money spent on men’s clothing.
  • 92% of women pass along information about deals or finds to others.
  • American women age 50-plus are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in history. They also own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.
  • 91% of women say that advertisers don’t understand them.
  • Nearly 50% of women say they want more green choices. 37% are more likely to pay attention to brands that commit to environmental causes.
  • When women are aware that you support women-owned businesses, 79% will try your product or service. 80% will solidify their brand loyalty.
  • 51% of women would give a company a second chance if a product or service missed the mark the first time.

Source: She-conomy Facts on Women

Take Away: Women control the majority of purchases related to your event. Your sponsors, partner brands, and environmental practices influence their decisions. Women are likely to share about your event with their friends and family. They’ll even allow you to make things right if something goes awry.


  • 72% of female internet users are on social media.
  • 83% of these women use Facebook.
  • 56% of online US women check their social media several times per day.
  • 94% of women interact with brands on social media. The ways they do this most are through showing support (54%) and accessing offers (53%).

Source: Women’s Marketing infographic

Take away: Social media, especially Facebook, should be one of your top priorities when marketing to women.

Wow. That’s a lot of data. Now, what does it mean in terms of the best practices to market to women? What are the best ways to connect with women and encourage their participation in your event? Stay tuned for Marketing to Women Part II to find out.