“Triathlon America is the first and only industry organization dedicated to promoting the sport and business of triathlon,” according to Jack Caress, President, Triathlon America. The organization is a “who’s who” of people in the triathlon industry, including leading product manufacturers (bikes, wetsuits, apparel), retailers (TriSports, Nytro), race directors (Wildflower, LA Tri, Philly Tri), major event players (Ironman, Competitor Group, Lifetime), and other major players (Active, Slowtwitch) … just as some examples.
The second annual Triathlon America Conference took place on February 19-21 in San Diego, and I had the pleasure and opportunity to help moderate the conference along with “The Voice of Ironman,” Mike Reily. By the way, that’s why I missed the final day of the Timex Multisport Team camp in The Meadowlands … my first assignment was at 3 PM that afternoon.
In this, the first of three parts, I thought I would highlight a few messages and learnings from the conference, thanks to the amazing panel of speakers who were there. Remember the overall theme: “The Business of Triathlon.”
Marisol Casado (President, ITU)
The conference’s first keynote speaker was arguably the most “important” or highest level individual in our sport today, the President of the International Triathlon Union, Marisol Casado. She was accompanied by three of her key staff people. She spoke of the past tensions between ITU and the U.S. She spoke of the emphasis and respect in the rest of the world on the Olympics and the Olympic distance in triathlon, versus the strength longer distances (Ironman) play in the States. And, she further emphasized how important shorter distances are to increasing the size, scope, and opportunities in our sport worldwide. Her very positive message of collaboration and all organizations working together for the betterment of our sport worldwide concluded with noting three key opportunities facing us:
- Getting mixed relay triathlon into the 2016 Olympics
- Increasing our work on ParaTriathlon
- The May ITU World Triathlon Series event in San Diego
The latter – without a doubt – provides the U.S. an enormous opportunity to further the visibility, acceptance, and appreciation for Olympic distance racing.
Olympics, USAT, State of the Sport
Following Casado’s talk, an impressive panel that included Michellie Jones (2000 Olympics Silver Medlaist), Gale Bernhardt (US Triathlon Team Coach, 2004 Olympics), Steve Furniss (Founder, TYR Sports), Jimmy Riccitello (Head Referee, Ironman & Former Pro Triathlete), and Mike Buteau (Bloomberg News). The subject for the panel was “Olympics and the Business of Triathlon.” Talk ranged from the need to utilize sponsored athletes more effectively, making triathlons more media friendly, and the need for more stable, longer-term sponsorship agreements between athletes and companies. Buteau made the observation that triathlon is so not in the mainstream media, with the example that the major debut of Lance Armstrong in Panama could only be followed internet written updates … no video or live coverage anywhere. He said triathlon needs a “Tiger Woods.” (me: could it be Lance?)
Competitor Group, and its President, Scott Dickey, hosted an evening “Welcome Reception,” which allowed attendees an opportunity to socialize, network, and relax after a great first day.
Day 2 began with a choice of a 5K run or an hour long “ActiveX” cross-fit workout (both at 6 AM). Rob Urbach, USA Triathlon CEO, kicked off the formal sessions on Monday, and was both positive and, perhaps, a bit cautious in his remarks. He talked about “fandom” in our sport – the need to create a sport where those watching are not simply other triathletes and their families and friends; but, rather, fans like NASCAR has. He spoke of increased competition in the triathlon marketplace – whether among race organizations or other bodies seeking “power and/or influence” (my terms); and, he noted USAT’s growing membership, but its challenge of only sustaining a 56% retention rate among its members. He emphasized the need for greater media coverage, so as to attract non-endemic sponsors … a common theme throughout the conference; and, quite honestly, heard routinely over the past many years.
Part 2 of my report from the Triathlon America Conference will look at triathlon clubs, an important triathlon market research survey, cycling advocacy, and an amazing awards celebration.
photos courtesy of Paul Phillips