Occupy Alii Drive? Come on People, Snap Out of It.
The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii was on tv this past weekend. In typical fashion, the triathlon world is quick to review the show. What we liked, what we didn’t, what they missed, what they spent too much time on. I’m no different. I thought the women’s race was more exciting than they depicted. I also could have done without the bracelet and car infomercials built into the coverage. Like the others dedicated to the sport, I prefer to see the purity of the race and can do without the fluff. But here’s a little known fact. The Ironman pays NBC to cover the race. This isn’t college football folks. There’s a reason the show is always aired on the only weekend that no college football is scheduled. So if you are going to shell out a bunch of cash to produce a show, chances are you are going to try and appeal to the masses and stroke your sponsors.
Without a hitch, I start reading about about people complaining about Ironman and the World Triathlon Corporation. People bitch about the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) and all their corporate greed by raising prices on the entry fees. And never would they want to get an Ironman “M Dot” tattoo because it’s a corporate logo and no different than putting a McDonald’s or Shell Oil logo on. Really? Reallllllly?
The anti business hippies out there might hate it, but WTC has been absolutely great for the sport. It’s the freemarket working as it should. Because of “Ironman”, our sport has exploded. Everyone wants to be an “Ironman” now. Ironman has tried hard to control the brand and experience, and because of their success, they’ve raised prices. This has pushed the ceiling up and allowed other race directors to raise their rates and yet still be considered a bargain. REV3 has Ironman to thank for its success. Ironman brought in the participants, and created a gap in the market for a well run race at a more reasonable cost. If I were REV3 I would be sending WTC a bottle of Dom Perignon every Christmas.Those raised prices allow more directors to make money and more races to show up on the calendar. Thanks to WTC’s explosion in participation those smaller races get filled.
With more athletes and more races, there are more products for us to choose from. Look at any product category 6 years ago and the selection is very thin. Now, you can choose from 10 disc wheel makers and dozens of trispecific bikes. In fact, this year Specialized decided to give the UCI the middle finger and develop a tribike that’s not UCI legal. I expect to see more of that, as we as a sport can now support a move like that where before we couldn’t. Some mentioned that the little guys get pushed out, but everything I’ve seen is just the opposite. This year they put Ironman Texas in my backyard and I can’t even count the number of events, camps, coaches, etc, that have popped up around here. And all this stuff is pretty much selling out.
Some don’t like like the whole corporate logo thing and I understand the sentiment that “Ironman” is the public’s term, not some corporation. The same can be said of the Olympics. Created in a public forum a very long time ago, and now a tightly regulated corporate brand in the modern era. The reality though, is that people desire to be an Olympian even more now than ever. One good event there and you are potentially set for life. Bruce Jenner anyone? (And I wonder if these same people are poo-pooing someone getting an Olympic tattoo because it’s some corporate logo?) Same could be said of Ironman on a smaller scale. Look at the insane demand to get into Kona. The demand and growth were created because it was tightly guarded, not because a bunch of drunk military buddies came up with the idea in a bar back in ’77.
Am I personally going to race IM branded races exclusively? Heck no. But Ironman made the race pool bigger, so now I have more races to choose from when I want a great race at a decent price.
And no…I don’t have a tattoo. Been on the fence now since ’97 when I did my first, and I think now I’m just a chicken.
I know that not everyone agrees with me and that’s fine. I appreciate you reading. Now you can head back to protesting corporate greed while you talk on your iPhone and drink your Starbucks.