Women Get Down and Dirty in the Latest Fitness Fad

Marketers are getting on board, too

Last year, some 100,000 women showed up at events with names like Utopian Tubes and PMS (that’s Pretty Muddy Stuff) where they scrambled up rope ladders, sloshed through mud pits and managed various other obstacles.

Put on by events organizer Dirty Girl, they are among a growing number of gatherings for people who want to escape their cubicles, test their mettle and bond with others—and young women increasingly make up their ranks.

While male-dominated events are seeing more female participation (women make up 25 percent of one of the most well-established ones, Tough Mudder), all-female happenings are on the rise. Dirty Girl expects to draw more than 500,000 participants at 62 events this year, up from three events in 2010.

Sponsors are following. Dirty Girl this year signed Paul Mitchell as its first national sponsor while Tough Mudder is broadening its testosterone-driven base of partners—including Degree Men and Bic for Men—to include more gender-neutral brands like Wheaties and Degree for both genders.

For marketers, it’s a chance to meet consumers face-to-face and also to amplify their messages by taking advantage of the events’ highly social nature. This year, Dirty Girl plans to send participants photos of themselves to their Facebook pages courtesy of a sponsor.

Organizers want a diverse range of partners, including marketers of beer, athletic apparel, energy bars—and detergent. After all, those fun-loving millennials have to tackle those mud stains.