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Greg Whyte OBE

Physical Activity Expert


8 October 2015UK triathlons set investors' pulses racing

The rapidly growing sport of triathlon, a supremely testing combination of swimming, cycling and running, is enjoying an increasingly high profile.

The burgeoning public appetite for marathons and the boom in biking paved the way for success at the 2012 London Olympics for Britain’s Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonathan, who won gold and bronze in the men’s triathlon. And there are more and more potential participants in endurance events who are keen for a cleaner experience than Tough Mudder, decidedly down-and-dirty obstacle races.

British Triathlon says that the number of people who are participating in UK triathlon events has risen from 120,000 in 2009 to 196,000 last year, at more than 850 registered events. The sport now has TV coverage in 160 countries with an estimated global viewer audience of 207 million and serious prize money available. The Abu Dhabi triathlon is worth $230,000 (about £151,000) to the winner.

The growth opportunity has been spotted by Dalian Wanda, the property company that is controlled by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. It recently paid $650m for World Triathlon Corporation, the owner of Ironman, which organises more than 200 races a year from Tenby to Buenos Aires and this year expects revenues of more than $180m.

Triathlon’s growing appeal is a global trend being led by the US, where the Triathlon Industry Association (TIA) says participation in the sport is growing by 20pc a year.

At the sport’s elite level, International Triathlon Union events now take place in an increasing number of cities, in a similar model to Formula One racing. Former F1 world champion Jenson Button competes in triathlons when he can fit them around his race schedule. And while the wealth on show is not the same as in motorsport’s top tier, amateur triathlon has an appeal skewed towards affluent demographic groups. In the UK, a TIA survey in 2013 reported an average salary of £45,000 and a household size of 2.6 people. British respondents averaged 40 years of age, with 83pc having completed a degree or college education.

And while two-thirds of participants are male, the women’s triathlon market is also growing fast. The number of serious female races signed up for Triathlon England Membership grew from 3,525 in 2010 to 4,155 in 2013.

A possible reason for the skew towards affluent participants is that the sport is dominated by equipment and technology, with the average competitor having spent £1,500 on their bike and expecting to lay out around £2,000 to upgrade it.

Of course, all this makes the sport increasingly attractive to sponsors who are keen to promote merchandise, equipment and more.

The London triathlon in August, the world’s largest event with 13,000 entrants, attracted sponsors and partners such as AJ Bell, the stockbroker, and the Bose audio products group. The Chicago triathlon has 20 sponsors, including Panasonic, while last month’s Los Angeles triathlon was backed by sports nutrition group Herbalife.

Panasonic is the headline sponsor of next year’s New York Triathlon, and says its global sporting partnership programme is based on events and activities that resonate with its philosophy of “contributing to society by providing cutting edge technology.”

Fitness-related technology companies such as the step-tracking company Fitbit and the heart-rate monitoring equipment maker Pear Sports are already heavily involved with the sport.

The treadmill and exercise bicycles manufacturer Landice recently became a sponsor of HITS Endurance, a sporting festivals group that began its triathlons business in 2011 and attracted more than 10,000 participants in its first year – seasoned and novice athletes.

Dave Rainis, Landice owner and vice-president, says: “HITS has proven its ability to run world-class athletic events that are accessible and fun.”

With the growing awareness of this accessibility, the public image of triathlons has shifted from that of extreme events for an eclectic, tiny minority to a more mainstream endurance sport. Their intense challenge, in combination with their high- achieving, affluent participants, means their appeal for sponsors looks likely to gather pace.

All-round success
I competed in the first major triathlon in 1989 and there has been an exponential rise in participation and profile ever since. once you had to search hard to find one triathlon once a month; now they and similar events, such as aquathlons and biathlons, are numerous.

Visibility, availability and accessibility are all key factors. Triathlons have been marketed amazingly well so everyone now knows what they are, and they have a structure that allows all age groups to compete and win categories.

at a personal level, it is the ability to push yourself and work on weaknesses and strengths in three different areas that people like. It also attracts people who love technology and want to be competitive about that as well.

There’s a huge middle-class participation. They have disposable income. They buy sporting technologies and spend money with sponsors coming into the sport.

– Professor Greg Whyte OBE
Professor in applied sport and exercise science and author of Achieve the Impossible

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/business/business-sport-series/11919457/uk-triathlons.html