The Business of Long-Distance Triathlon: A Follow-Up

Last August, I was thinking about the business of professional long-distance triathlon. As I was thinking, I created a chart.

The chart illustrates the challenge facing pro triathlon and its athletes: the sport has an incredibly small audience. Even smaller than other niche sports, like cycling. Even surfing. This makes it hard for pro long-distance triathlon and its athletes to attract and keep major sponsors. 

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The Business of Long-Distance Triathlon: A Playbook for Growth

All in a Day’s Work: $30,000 vs. $3 million

At 6:40 a.m. on Sunday, July 5th, pro triathletes Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf toed the line of the shore of the Langener Waldsee in Germany. They were there to compete in Ironman Frankfurt—along with 65 other professional and 3,000 recreational triathletes from all over the world. Like the better-known Ironman World Championship, held each October, in Kona, Hawaii, the Frankfurt race was a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.   

Frodeno crossed the line victorious 7 hours and 49 minutes later—a blistering pace. Ryf dominated in kind, taking the women’s field in 8 hours and 51 minutes. Both broke course records, on a day when temperatures hit the 100 degree mark, and 35% of the registered athletes did not finish the race.

For their efforts, Frodeno and Ryf each won $30,000. Runners up Sebastian Kienle and Julia Gajer collected $15,000 a piece. The prize purse for the race was $150,000, and the balance of the money—$60,000—was divvied up between the remaining top ten male and female pros.

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All Hail Chrissie Wellington

Chrissie Wellington is one fierce bundle of awesome. If you've never heard of her--and if you're not obsessed by triathlons or you don't know someone obsessed by triathlons, you may well not have--she is one of the dominant triathletes racing today.

Chrissie's specialty is the Ironman distance--a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a marathon--a 26.2 mile run. This past weekend she raced Ironman South Africa. She won, naturally, just as she's won every single other Ironman she's raced since debuting at Kona in Hawaii in 2007.

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