Forget golf: If you want to get in good
with C-suiters, sign up for a triathlon
High-achieving executives are racing to join rapidly growing sport, opting to hit the bike,
the pool or the road instead of the links to decompress—and they’re spending big to do it
■ BY NATALIE ZMUDA firstname.lastname@example.org
ANDREW KATZ IS a 35-year-old married father of three. He’s spent thousands of dollars on sports drinks, nutrition bars and athletic gear. He’s co-founder and principal of Prusik Group,
a New York-based retail-real-estate
firm, where he’s more likely to suggest
a bike ride than a golf outing to colleagues.
In short, he’s your average triathlete.
According to a study initiated by
USA Triathlon, the average triathlete is
a married 38-year-old with an income
of $126,000. Forty-four percent have
kids living at home; 60% are male.
They spend in excess of $4,000 annually on bike gear, athletic footwear, race
fees and nutritional supplements.
Nearly half have traveled more than
500 miles for a race.
The demographics are intriguing.
Factor in the explosive growth the sport
is seeing, and it’s enough to make any
marketer look twice.
An estimated 2. 3 million people
completed a triathlon last year, a 55%
increase over the year before, according
to a recent report from the Sporting
Goods Manufacturers Association.
Likewise, the number of races has more
than doubled to 3,486 sanctioned
events in the last six years. (Even so,
races are often mobbed—next year’s
New York City Ironman sold out in 11
minutes, despite an $895 price tag, the
highest entry fee in the sport.) Last
month USA Triathlon announced it
had reached 900 official clubs, with
more than 140,000 members, nationwide.
Mr. Katz, who completed his first
IronMan in July, co-founded one of
those clubs, Mapso Tri, late last year.
“We figured we’d have 10 or 12 people
the first year. Eight months in, we’ve
got 63 members,” he said. “These are
bright, driven people. They’re Type A
with good jobs and most are making
good money. They’re looking for some-
thing else, whether it’s to blow off
steam or have some ‘me’ time.”
Indeed, triathlons are fast becoming
the new sport of C-level executives, said
Chuck Menke, director-marketing and
communications at USA Triathlon.
“People are going from the boardroom
to their bike or pool, instead of the golf
course,” Mr. Menke said.
The triathlon is the fastest-growing
sport in the U.S. Olympic movement.
It’s also one of the youngest. The first
The average triathlete spends in
excess of $4,000 a year on bike gear,
footwear, fees and supplements.
Almost half have traveled more than
500 miles to compete in a triathlon.
24 BIKE QUIPMENT
Sources: 1-USA Triathlon, 2-Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
ILLUSTRATION BY DORLING KINDERSLEY
modern triathlon was held in San
Diego on Sept. 25, 1974, and the sport
made its Olympic debut during the
Sydney Games in 2000.
It’s no surprise then that USA
Triathlon is in the early stages of its
development, from a marketing and
Brands like Blue Competition
Cycles, Tyr and Garmin are key sponsors, but many sponsors are smaller,
niche brands like Gu, BodyGlide and
Fuel Belt. Gatorade is the organizations’ longest standing sponsor, at
more than 25 years. Tom Prochaska,
director-sports marketing at Gatorade,
says it’s been “thrilling” to witness the
sport’s growth rate. This summer, the
brand featured Chris Legh, a two-time
Ironman Triathlon Champion, in its
“Endurance” campaign, promoting the
G Series Pro line of products.
“[Our demographic] is right in the
wheelhouse for Madison Avenue,” said
Mr. Menke. “Historically we’ve done a
wonderful job of capturing the endem-
ic market. What we’re seeing now is
more interest from non-endemic
Avis is one example. The car-rental
company experimented with a one-
year sponsorship this year and, pleased
with the results, is now pursuing a new
two-year contract. Individual events
are also seeing increased interest this
year. Saucony was the presenting
sponsor for the Collegiate National
Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,
while Subway was the presenting
sponsor for the Age Group National
Championship in Burlington, Vt.
Subway spokesman Jared Fogle hand-
ed out finisher medals to top athletes
and hosted a lunch.
“If that sort of success can translate,
in the nonendemic sense, that repre-
sents a whole new ballgame,” Mr.
Menke said. “My marketing philoso-
phy moving forward is to have fewer,
more meaningful sponsorships, as
opposed to smaller one-offs. We’re try-
ing to cull the herd, get rid of some,
fold some of the categories and add
If what’s happening on the local
level is any indication, sponsors are
going to be flocking to the sport. Mr.
Katz’s fledgling club already has 11
sponsors, including a local sports
retailer, a wetsuit brand and a sports
rehab center. “Our little club was able
to go out and get some really nice
sponsors,” he said. “People were eager
to jump on it.”