Beyond Monumental Personas

Graduate students in Applied Research Methods used a mixed methods approach to identify six runner personas for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

Students conducted research for Beyond Monumental titled Target Market Segmentation: Strategies to Leverage a Decade of Growth, focused on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, the organization’s premier event.

Beyond Monumental approached the Sports Innovation Institute about collecting data that will help them continue their current growth position as the 15th largest marathon in the United States and provide strategic direction under the new Beyond Monumental brand.


Using a mixed methods research approach, students analyzed existing data, conducted 30 interviews with event participants, and collected survey data from over 2,500 runners.

By reviewing 31 event attributes important in road races, the research team conducted a factor analysis that reduced the data into seven factors and explained 63 percent of the variance in what attributes are important to participants when they are choosing road races in which to compete.

The next step was to subject all respondents to a k-means cluster analysis based upon the seven factors. The resulting six-cluster solution formed the foundation of the creative process to create six runner personas. Personas allow a marketing department to enhance their customer’s experience by better understanding them and allowing more empathy and engagement.

Personas were built around the 31 attributes, and differences between cluster groups on demographics, goals, motivations, behaviors, and attitudes also helped illuminated the unique characteristics of each cluster.

The 31 event attributes informed the creation an Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA) grid. IPA is a tool widely used in the management of sport events, providing a better understanding of how well certain event attributes are functioning and the quick identification of areas that need improvement. The IPA gauges how satisfied people are with the quality of service they have received and the relative importance of certain event attributes.

These values help determine which attributes are performing well, need improvement, are low priority, and are a possible waste of resources.

Participants answered two questions designed to capture their perceptions on importance and performance based on a nine-point scale.

1. Importance: Please rate the importance of each of the following attributes when you are prioritizing your upcoming schedule of road races.

2. Performance: Based on your experience, please indicate your level of your satisfaction for the following race attributes at the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental races.

Using the classification of the event attributes on the IPA analysis and the rich context of the qualitative interviews, the research team made recommendations to Beyond Monumental leadership on how fix customer pain points use the persona segments to create focused target market messaging.
Ratio of performance to importance