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Re-pricing Triathalons

2008 September 11
by Skip Sauer

Some interesting items reported in this NYT story on triathalons. First, the demand to compete in a triathalon is increasing and so is price.

The triathlon is a sport that has grown increasingly expensive in the last five years. Entry fees for the sport’s premier Ironman-branded events have risen 40 percent since 2003. But even at $525 for a standard Ironman entry, the price has not put a dent in demand.

Second, branding is important:

Today the Ironman logo (a symbol called M-dot) can be found on baby strollers, suitcases, organic Kona coffee and even tattooed on the bodies of race finishers.

Entry slots for the original Hawaiian Ironman race (now called the Ford Ironman World Championship, to be held Oct. 11) are so coveted that last year, more than 8,000 people entered a lottery for 200 slots; the handful of entries sold through a race-sponsored charity auction on eBay regularly go for more than $40,000 each.

The lottery and auction are the only ways for athletes who are not the fastest in their age group to race the Kona event; organizers reserve most of the 1,800 entries for athletes who qualify through a top result in another branded event.

Races without the M-dot logo generally cost about $300 versus $525 and don’t garner high demand.

“I don’t know of one that sells out in panic mode,” said Mike Greer, the founder of the Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock, Tex., and a three-time Ironman Hawaii finisher. “When you spend a year training for something, you want all the hoopla. You want the M-dot.”

Finally, public agencies appear to supping at the trough:

Tom Cotton, a race organizer with Firstwave Events in Los Gatos, Calif., said that over the last few years, his budgets have increased by 50 to 100 percent, mostly because of city, county and state agency fees.

“California State Parks now wants 25 percent of the gross,” he said. “Police overtime has doubled in one city I work in.”

Memo to Tom: maybe it’s time to play the “economic impact” card!

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