Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ironman - My Take

As I've stated before, the blogging community is the most vibrant community I have ever come across.  I consider you all my friends.  You are my friends because you've been so damn supportive of me and have never been judgemental.  I hope I have fulfilled that role back to each of you as best I can.

In the last couple of weeks, the World Triathlon Corporation has made a few policy and expansion announcements.  Though I wouldn't say our reaction to these announcements has hurt the community, it's definitely been a hot button issue and has polarized opinion more than other issues I've seen come and go over the last year.

Differences of opinion are good.  Opinions make the world go around.  Opinions are what's supposed to keep a free society in check.  And being able to state an opinion is a basic human right as far as I'm concerned

Still, I'm a little shocked by reactions I have been reading relating to what the WTC is doing.  With respect, I think we all might be taking the changes that a company (who has never denied that it is a for profit business) is implementing in it's own best business judgement too personally.  We are reacting to these changes as if the WTC owes us something or they are reneging on some sort of sacred promise.

I'm sorry to say it, but the WTC doesn't owe us anything.  We all know how the corporate world works - unless you are a shareholder, a company is not beholden to you.  So technically the WTC is not doing anything wrong.

But who cares?  We still hold the best hand.  Because without athletes, there is no WTC.  A handful of professionals competing to get paid does not sustain a business.  We as age groupers sustain the business.  We have all the power.   And if the WTC makes a move in terms of policy or price increase or whatever else, we still get the last vote.

But you have to be willing to cast that vote.  Who told us that the "Ironman" is the most prestigious triathlon event in the world?  The WTC did, with the help of a public relations firm that has probably also tried to convince you that unless you brush your teeth with a certain toothpaste you'll get cavities.  Do you believe the toothpaste argument?  Probably not.  Then why do you believe the WTC?

There is no doubt that the "Ironman" brand has a legacy.  But that legacy was created by the athletes, not Madison Avenue.  All the marketing wonks did was take history and spin it for mass consumption.  Let's be careful not to be sucked in by the spin.  Rather, let's stay accountable to triathlon and to each other.  Which means that any well run race anywhere in the world can become the stage for our moments of personal glory.  Because if the WTC oversteps it's bounds, someone will see the opportunity and step in to fill the void.  As a result the WTC will become less relevant.  Because we will have cast our vote for the racing experience we want.

Then a new legacy will start to build.  And this, by the way, is a legacy that will include us.

Do not fear change, embrace it.  Better yet, do everything in your power to be part of it.

Postscript:  Two minutes after I published this Lesley @ Racingitoff posted a link to the official statement by the WTC rescinding it's "Ironman Access" program which has been hotly contested over the last day.  Here's the link.

The reasons they did this could be numerous, but I can't help but think that they too realize we as athletes have "all the power", and had to immediately self-correct their blunder.  This is a good thing.  They are not obligated to listen to us but they chose to in this case.  Perhaps they've learned a few things about their brand from us today.


Anonymous said...

Did you see that they rescended the program???

KovasP said...

Nice reasonable approach Patrick, leavened by some passion for the sport, not the brand. For those that think the $1000 is a rip-off, DC Rainmaker has a pretty good analysis of that.

Unknown said...

I like what you wrote. I appreciate your point of view! I'm an Ironman and have paid over $1600 in entry fees to race multiple Ironman branded event.

What makes me sad isn't just what Ironman the company is doing... It's that the price of a races every where keeps growing and growing. My race season becomes less and less as the race entry fees increase. I think I got a little turned off by the new WTC program because in my opinion by implementing a program that gives someone with more of a racing budget an edge in registering for a race over me because they can afford "the club" is hard to stomach.

I was disappointed in the quality of the race that WTC offered to me in Louisville - quite different from my two races in Florida. Unfortunately that turned me off from the company for a while. I felt like they didn't deliver a product to me that I paid for. It doesn't matter if the race had been $100 or $600...

That being said, I think any triathlete needs to look at races and race companies just like they do anything else - it's a personal preference. I'm excited to try different races other than Ironman based a little on my bad experience, but also because it'll broaden my horizons and allow me to try new venues.

Unknown said...

Ok, I just kept typing and typing and this window won't hold it -- gonna put up a reply on my blog.

Unknown said...

Sports are expensive. Swimming, tennis, gymnastics, skating are just some examples. As a parent, we find ways to pay for our kids involvement in sports; as adults, it is much harder for us to come to terms with.

There are many reasons that fees have gone up. It doesn't mean that I like or agree with it. One of the reasons I moved away from Tri's is the cost; with two children, training and racing is expensive.

In life, we have to make choices. Sadly, our athletic pursuits also are driven by finances. But so are so many other things in life.

Joel said...

Interesting post tonight. I actually really agree with you. We must bifurcate what Ironman (the company) does from Ironman (the movement/community/lifestyle). I think people are ticked at the business decisions because they infringe upon their prerceived ability to have the "experience".

Personally, I am not a big fan of the business decisions made by WTC - and my way of showing that isn't goint to be to bitch on my blog or on Twitter or on Facebook...I'll use my wallet to show my allegiances. I'll just spend my money elsewhere. Will I personally cause an impact to WTC? Hardly. But if there are others that react in a similar fashion, then it becomes tangible.

Quinton J said...

smart business sense...never bite the hand that feeds you. they kinda' HAD to pull that back.

Jason said...

Patrick -

This was well written and spoke from a point of reflection.

In today's world of 24/7 news cycles and instant gratification the outpouring was tremendous.

I was swept up in it in that I thought about what I wanted to say I did. Did I want to say I was an Ironman or was it more important to do the distance of 140.6. After contemplating it I would say that the distance was the most important and that my thoughts of getting a Ironman tattoo to getting the distance tattooed meant more to me.

Being able to say I did a 70.3 and a 140.6 became more important and it took an annoucement like this from WTC to make me realize it.

Now back to training.


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