Boomer Megatrend Embraced By Millennials: Sports Shoes As Everyday-Wear

Running for fun is booming: especially in Boulder, Colorado

Peter Pan 2016In 1970 around 100,000 run-for-funners – or was it runners-for-fun? – participated in a U.S. road or cross-country race. Pretty much all of us were Boomer jocks.

Thanks to their Peter Pan DNA Boomers rejected the idea of aging, and drove the amazing fitness craze of the seventies and eighties. Aerobics, gyms, soccer, mountain biking, running – you name it and Boomers pioneered it.

Data from Running USA shows just how rapidly the run-for-fun movement took off; in 1990 almost 4.8 million people finished a running event, doubling to 9.4 million in 2005, doubling again by 2013 to 19 million. Along the way, the sport went from a strong male skew – around 95% in 1970 and still 75% in 1990 – to one in which over half the participants are women.

Running USA 1970-2014

In 2016 we estimate around 20 million will finish a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, marathon or some other distance race at some 28,000 events across the U.S.

Perhaps the most impressive of these is the Bolder Boulder 10K, founded in 1979 by Baby Boomer Frank Shorter – one of America’s all-time great distance runners and the 1972 Olympic Marathon champion. Run each year on Memorial Day at an elevation of 5,300 feet – a mile high, where the air is 20% thinner than at sea level – it takes a lot more huffing and puffing to get around the course.

The full 2016 stats won’t be available for a couple of weeks, but last year’s were pretty amazing: in 2015, with 45,336 finishers, the Bolder Boulder was the #3 race in the nation. Only the Atlanta/Peachtree 10K (54,752) and the New York Marathon (49,365) had more.

  • Bolder Boulder for bulletsThe number of Bolder Boulder finishers is equivalent to 44% of the town’s population (102,500). New York City would need another 3.6 million Marathon runners to match this ratio
  • Thanks to pioneering Boomer moms of the sixties and seventies, 60% of the 15,000+ Millennial finishers were women.
  • And those Boomer moms (and dads) are still going strong: 21% of Bolder Boulder 2015 finishers were aged 50-plus (9,390) – over three hundred were 75-89 years of age.

How Boomers created the athletic and sports wear industry

All that Boomer running around and working out in the sixties and seventies sure involved a lot of athletic shoes and workout clothes.

Converse 1970s AdIt was the heyday of do your own thing, so we of the jock-wannabe persuasion soon figured out that wearing our running shoes and tracksuits around town was a way to sidestep the domesticated imagery into which our conformist peers were steadily sliding. Of course, they called it growing up but, hey, what’s in a name?

Well, we must have looked cool because by the mid 1970s sales of Nike, Reebok, Puma, Adidas, Tiger and Converse were zooming. Athletic shoes as everyday casual-wear had gone mainstream and sales never looked back.

Inevitably, athletic/sports wear expanded beyond just shoes. In fact, from Air Jordans, Under Armour and Peyton Manning jerseys to Fabletics, just about anything goes when it comes to sporty-cool self-expression. Today, according to data tracker Statista, the retail sporting goods industry – footwear, clothing and equipment – is a $65 billion business.

Athletic_Sports Purchases 2002-2015

Looking closer at the Statista data we see that footwear accounts for around a third of athletic/sporting goods sales – $21 billion in 2015.

Looking even closer brings shocking news …

Peter Pan and Wendy Boomers: still taking care of business

Given the active symbolism of athletic shoe culture, it’s only natural that Peter Pan and Wendy Boomers are still addicted. Okay, okay, we hear the myopic 18-49 demo herd muttering “yeah, maybe a few old timers tottering around rest homes in ancient velour leisure suits.”

Athletic_Sports Purchases 2002-2015C’mon, didn’t we just report that 21% of Bolder Boulder racers, key word racers, not shufflers, were 50 or older in 2015?

Brace yourselves.

Consumers aged fifty-plus buy a third (34%) of all U.S. athletic footwear, far more than any other generation (Statista).

In fact, not only are consumers over fifty the most valuable generation for sports shoe marketers, we are also number one when it comes to automobiles, CPGs and home improvement products, and we’re the fastest growing segment for smartphones.

These massive numbers are hardly surprising: the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940 to 1966, is 94 million strong and the third largest economy on the planet behind the USA and China.

So it’s beyond bizarre that we only get 5-10% of the ad targeting dollars (Nielsen) because mainstream marketers claim we are too old to adopt new ideas or switch brands.

Fortunately, scattered among the old school Florsheim wingtip and penny loafer thinkers along Madison Avenue, a few upstart Millennial Tigers are stirring. We can help them lace up and hit the ground running before the crowds arrive.

Opportunity_Bolder Boulder 2016

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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