Recently, the running world has come together to celebrate two very different metrics. First, that rarest of sights, an event that celebrates getting slower with age. Parkrun spent its 15th birthday telling the world how proud it is that average times are increasing, proof of the event’s growing reach among people of all ages, all walks of life and all fitness levels who might once not have considered exercising. Meanwhile on a tree lined stretch of straight road in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge spent his Saturday morning achieving a very different number, 1.59, and the first sub two-hour marathon. To put that speed into context, just five of the more than 50 million Parkruns ever completed have been run at the pace Kipchoge sustained for 42.2km.

One of these achievements began with a group of friends timing themselves in Bushy Park, and one was bankrolled by Britain’s richest man. One is a celebration of the science of running fast, the second the joy of just running at all. One is a weekly ritual, the other (for now), a glorious and unprecedented one off.

What they have in common is that both have achieved something that people once thought impossible and between them, they offer a valuable reminder that choosing the right metrics for benchmarking your business is just as important as measuring them well.

At SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. we are constantly on the lookout for bespoke new ways of helping clients identify and track the most relevant metrics for their businesses.

Selecting what to measure is an art not a science, and it is something that can only be developed through excellent communication between the commissioner and the provider of the research programme.

As well as good dialogue with an insights provider, finding the right metrics for your business takes honest internal debate, vibrant brainstorming and a healthy dose of self-reflection. The process is not entirely dissimilar from setting up a marketing strategy. Good questions to ask might include: What is your USP? With what one word do you want your customers to associate you ? What is your key strategic objective for the next 12 months? What are your customers’ main motivations for purchasing with you?

At the same time, many businesses are finding that one single metric, however carefully chosen, isn’t the right benchmark for different segments of their audience. For Parkrun, more people on the start line does not mean a worse experience for speedsters. If anything it means that faster runners have all the more incentive to introduce slower partners, friends or family members to the events, safe in the knowledge that they will be looked after, whatever pace they wish to run.

For other businesses, things are not so simple. Think of a high-end sports apparel brand who wishes to retain a premium feel, whilst also expanding its range into athleisure. The company will need to think about different metrics for each audience, whilst also polling each group on their awareness of and attitude towards the other end of its range. Will high end users be put off if they feel that the brand is reducing its investment in cutting edge performance technology? Will potential athleisure customers feel intimidated by the marketing or in-store experience if products appear too performance focused? Only by testing these questions and more can one understand and therefore mitigate any potential unrest caused by changing branding and positioning.

There is an additional benefit to this growing trend of individual metrics – customer engagement. Research companies need to put more thought into programme design and find new ways of questioning that put respondents in the correct frame of mind. Better thought out questionnaires or discussion guides will better retain the attention of respondents, who therefore end up producing more thoughtful, valuable insights.

Neither Parkrun nor Kipchoge’s metrics would work for everyone. Imagine being an app builder and turning up to your shareholder meeting to say that all your features are running slower. Imagine trying to keep up with Kipchoge for 400m let alone 42 kilometres.

Imagine what hidden metrics you could use to separate yourself from the competition.

To understand how SMS INC.’s research programmes can help your business run slower, or faster, or both, please contact:

Edward Willis – Sports Marketing Manager



Richard Payne – Director – Sports Accounts.