If I Owned Ironman

The WTC have been on roll the last two years. Last Sunday, on my flight from San Diego to Denver, I asked myself what I’d tweak if I owned Ironman.  Having spent two decades in Private Equity, I guess old habits die hard.  Here are a few things that I think would improve the strategic position of the company.


Maintain Brand Integrity

Wave starts have been an excellent change for 70.3 racing.  They make the swim safer (and less frightening for new athletes).  Waves also spread the fast agegroup men throughout the field – historically we have skewed the female, and our own, results by offering drafting opportunities. Two ideas:

A – test wave starts with full distance racing.  I haven’t raced Louisville but its TT start seems to work.  Challenge Roth moves a lot of people safely through a looped course.  Mass swim starts with 2,600 people are dangerous – even if everyone signs a waiver, do you really want to make the call when an athlete dies.

B – continue to drop hoax races.  Dropping Clearwater for the 70.3 Champs was a good move – a championship series should have hills with a non-wetsuit swim to spread out the best athletes.  If the championship brand identity is truly “the best of the best” then be willing to make less money to preserve the market position.  I’d let the competition run long distance events on flat courses.  Ironman is a great brand.  Ironman Florida is a joke.

I have my doubts about the ability to run non-drafting short course events with integrity.  Unless you’re going uphill for eight miles from the swim start (Boulder 5150), it always packs up.  For this reason, I’d limit the investment in 5150.  Let others struggle with ‘fixing’ short course racing.  Drafting might be a structural feature of that event distance with large field sizes.


The Best of the Best

Sticking with this theme, extend the points system to agegroup racing.  I’ll never race head to head with Andy Potts but I could score as many points as him.  Athletes love rankings and you’ll enjoy the benefits of owning the races that feed into the ranking system.  You can create:

A – an incentive for athletes to race more of your events

B – a barrier to entry for both federations (your ranking competition) and event directors (your race competition)

This keeps Kona special and gives you World Champions & World Ranked athletes.  Better for you and your best ambassadors.  This will increase your revenue per relationship.


Don’t Be Evil

The largest agegroup in last weekend’s Cali 70.3 was the men’s 40-44.  We have jobs, kids and other things to do with our time.  We don’t mind paying $250 to enter the race.  However, taking extra vacation and time away from our families limits the number of events we can do each year.

Reduce the time I spend on site.  Time is my most valuable resource.  Get me in/out of your race with limited overnights.  How to do this:

A – mail shot my registration package // I’ll pay a premium for this

B – speed up awards // There is a lot of deadtime on race day.  See if you can speed that up. // Boise 70.3 seems like an interesting model with all the action on the same day (sign up, race, awards).


When thinking business – consider both your share of time and share of wallet.  Also remember that the complainers will complain regardless of what you do.  Solve the problems of the people you want to retain.

The product is great and its been fun to watch it develop.