SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN)—Less than six months after announcing its formation, new triathlon industry trade group Triathlon America pulled in more than 200 people to its inaugural conference this week in San Diego.
The three-day gathering was backed by the biggest race promoters in the triathlon industry including World Triathlon Corporation (owner of Ironman), Active Network, Competitor Group and Tri-California Events, and held at the Estancia Hotel and Spa in the tony beachside community of La Jolla.
Turnout at the conference may be one indicator of the health of the triathlon sector, which has seen double digit growth in participation every year for the past decade, said Tim Yount, acting CEO of USA Triathlon, one of five panelist addressing the future of the sport during Monday morning’s session.
“Athletes are more stressed about getting registered for events than racing in the events themselves,” Yount said, speaking to a full room of retailers, promoters and supplier representatives.
Total participation in USAT-sanctioned events was 1.8 million in 2010—a number expected to surpass 2 million this year, Yount said. Collectively, the sport had a $2.4 billion impact on the U.S. economy, including everything from registration fees to race travel to gear purchases, he said.
There were 3,200 sanctioned events last year, more than triple the number 10 years ago.
Looking ahead, Yount said the sport will need to contend with factors such as a trend toward athletes not flying to races, but staying closer to home and participating in local or regional events, and cities hiking fees or limiting the number events they will host in the future. The industry still has much more work to do on attracting a more diverse athlete pool, and creating programs to get youth interested in triathlons such creating high school triathlon leagues.
“If I’m a manufacturer, I’m looking closely at this,” he said.
Skip McDowell, president of Encinitas, California’s Nytro Multisport, said triathlon is poised for more growth, but the industry must not get complacent.
As a trade industry, Triathlon America should tackle hurdles such as involving youth in the sport, avoiding doping scandals that have plagued professional cycling and the potential impact to the industry of a break in manufacturing in China, McDowell said.
“Those are the things I think as a group Triathlon America needs to focus on to try to avoid those pitfalls,” he said.
Other sessions during the conference touched on integrating social media into business, mergers and acquisitions in endurance and lifestyle sports, strategic relationships with charity athlete programs, proper tri bike spec and setup and marketing, media and revenue streams for a successful coaching business.
The conference ends this afternoon.
Photo: Felix Magowan, partner of media buy-out shop Pocket Ventures and former VeloNews owner, speaks about mergers and acquisitions as fellow panelists Andrew Messick, of AEG Sports, Andy Ording, former president of Zipp and SRAM Coo Jeff Shupe look on.