Long Course Triathlon At Its Saturation Point?

Long course triathlon, for purposes of this post, will be defined as the 140.6 mile distance.  There is of course the 70.3 distance, Ultraman races and to some Olympics are long course.  I am going to use the 140.6 mile race as the definition for long course triathlon.  Now that we have that covered let's move onto the point of this post which is:  have the race series hit the breaking point at which each additional race waters down the product and one more is too much? Yesterday I posted about Challenge Family introducing their first race here in the United States scheduled to be raced in June 2014 in the Mid-Atlantic region.  When discussing this with Kevin and Jeff via text message last week Kevin asked the question:  Are we at the saturation point?  The question hung in the air for me and is something that I thought about for a while.  My first reaction was no we have not because races are still selling out in minutes, i.e. IM Chattanooga. As a matter of fact IMTN sold out so fast that even the charity slots, which 'cost' a $5000 fund-raising limit, are being snapped up.  Maybe it is the newness of this race, but this gives a glimpse into the answer of whether or not long course triathlon has reached its saturation point.

{Spoiler Alert: Click Here For A Sneak Peek At The Location For Challenge USA.}

Then this morning while drinking my coffee I came across a post on Facebook by Phil Graves on TriRadar.com discussing the exact topic of long course triathlon reaching the saturation point.  When I finished reading the article I sent it to Kevin and he sent back a comment with this video from Craig Alexander about the KPR system:
After watching the entire video and reading the article by Phil Graves I came away with the theory that for Age Groupers the long course triathlon has not reached a saturation point and if you are WTC or Challenge Family that is the bread and butter of your revenue.  The Pros make up ~75-100 total athletes out of 2500 at a WTC event or what is equivalent to 4% at most.  If 96% of your participants are registering in record numbers and buying merchandise, including pocket books and deodorant, then adding races in destinations that can handle the population increase and actually want the race there then why would you stop adding races? The thought then occurred to me regarding sponsors and their thoughts about long course triathlon reaching its saturation point and I again I thought about the age grouper versus the pro triathlete.  If you are the head of TYR and WTC or Challenge Family comes to you with a package that has 20-30 races and 2,500 athletes per race would you, depending on cost, care about the addition of another race?  As a company you know that those 50,00 to 75,000 athletes are going to see your logo and your brand everywhere and triathletes are loyal individuals with discretionary income so owning 3-4 pairs of goggles, 5-6 pairs of sneakers, 2 pairs of cycling shoes and refilling their pantry with powders for nutrition is not beyond reason.  Wouldn't it make sense to continue your relationship with these series despite the pros having issues with them system? Also, if you are one of these companies and more races means more revenue then you have an opportunity to sponsor either more athletes or better athletes so that your name and brand get out into the triathletes eye even more?  Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these additional races are to appease to the public because they are not.  They are to generate revenue for the bottom line because after all these are businesses and not charities.  Adding races will continue until the day that a race doesn't sell out and I do not think we are there yet. Ironman Wisconsin went on sale yesterday and while it did not sell out as fast as it used to it still sold out in one day.  The more established races may take a bit longer to sell out compared to the past but until a race actually starts without a sellout, even IMTX and IMLou eventually sell out, I do not think WTC will stop adding races.  If Challenge Family gets 1,500 to 2,500 at their inaugural race in the United States then I do not see them not adding another event in the United States for another date in 2014.  The long course triathlon saturation point will only be hit when the public decides that they are no longer interested in racing long course triathlon and as of right now that is not happening.

When Do You Think Long Course Triathlon Will Have Hit The Saturation Point?

Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.