Friday, July 1, 2011

Marketing to Triathletes.

When I went and got my MBA one of my favorite class was Marketing Management. For most people in the world, you market product by making them cute, catchy, or send the message that this product makes your life easier. This stategy applies to most things including athletic events. How many marathons advertise as being flat and fast or as an ideal Boston Qualifier? Easy, fast, get more for less.

But triathletes are another breed entirely. We seem to respond to the polar opposite strategy. Pain, suffering, pushing the envelope...yeah bring it on!!!

Think about it. What is the image that defines triathlon to most of us. Julie Moss at Kona in 1982 pushing herself way beyond limits most people could even comprehend and even though her body was shutting down, she summounded the strenth to literally crawl across the finish line.

As a 12 year old, I remember watching that moment on ABC Wide World of Sports, not having a clue what a triathlon was but utterly transfixed. To this day I vividly remember two thoughts going through my mind. 1) How could someone push themselves beyond the point where they couldn't even stand and still keep going? That race must be something special. And 2) I wonder if I could ever do that? That was the birth of a dream. 25 years later, I was able to answer that question. Finding out it you have what it takes to push yourself beyond anything you ever thought possible. It was hard as hell, it hurt like heck, but it was one of the most glorious experiences of my life and I would have traded a second of it. Ironically, I finally met Julie Moss at Eagleman this year, and I found myself absolutely speechless.

But that challenge to test ourselfs in the exterme appeals to triathletes more than most groups. I remember listening to a Podcast interview with Heather Golnick who helped design the Rev3 Quazzy HIM course. Here is an triathlete being asked to make a course other triathlete would be excited to race. What did she come up with, only the hardest bike and run course you could make in Conn. When asked about it, she said triathletes love a challenge. And she has proven to be spot on. Rev 3 Quazzy attracts the best and deepest pro field of any race outside Kona, and was completely sold out this in its 3rd year. Why we love a challenge.

Need another example? Look at what happened this year at Rev3 Portland. The Rev3 folks devised an absolutely vicious bike leg and the tri boards were buzzing. But when one of the towns pulled out and forced REV 3 to go thru historic efforts to save the race and get an acceptable venue for the race at the last minute, the buzz on slowtwitch and other boards was full of pissed off triathletes who were REVED up to meet the challenge (and the bar) that Rev 3 had set at Knoxville, Quazzy, and Cedar Point. A flat and fast bike leg just left folks steaming. Why we love a challenge.

Just look at Savageman. The race was voted as the hardest 70.3 race in the world by triathlon magazine. That would scare most folks away, a triathlon uses it as a marketing tool and draws a full capacity 1100 athlete field. We are crazy, and you have to market to the madness!


  1. Good post Andy! Triathlete are a rare breed for sure!

  2. Oh yeah; we're all a little (COMPLETELY) insane. Good idea writing this and stating the fact for those that don't understand why we're up at 4am to sweat for a couple hours before our day actually starts