SBJ/20110103/This Week's Issue

Triathlon industry forms advocacy group to share best practices and promote the sport

Business leaders in the sport of triathlon have created an industry advocacy group called Triathlon America, which they hope will become a clearinghouse for best business practices and promote the sport to more mainstream audiences.

Representatives from the Competitor Group, the Active Network, the World Triathlon Corp. and other retailers and manufacturers will meet at Triathlon America's first conference from Feb. 27 to March 1 in La Jolla, Calif.

"Triathlon is growing extremely quickly, which means we have had a lot of new folks come into the industry," said Dave Alberga, CEO of the Active Network. "We have needed some kind of event that gets everybody into the same room and talking. It just hasn't happened before this."

According to Alberga, triathlon previously relied on the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, as informal points of business. But the prohibitive cost of traveling to Kona and Interbike's cycling-dominant culture kept triathlon from embracing either venue as an industry-wide meeting point.

Jack Caress, race director for the Los Angeles Triathlon and Triathlon America's newly elected president and CEO, said the idea to start the group came from an informal meeting of industry heads in New York City in 2009. The group hoped to pattern itself after Running USA, the advocacy group for distance running.

Susan Weeks, CEO of Running USA, said a membership with the running group includes a regular e-mail blast of news from the industry, access to an annual conference and a healthy Rolodex of contacts.

Caress said an annual membership with Triathlon America ($95 for individuals, $295 for midsized companies and $495 for corporations) would include similar benefits. "We will be an advocate to the sport, but not a governing body," he said. "We'll hopefully be able to influence the sport in a way that a governing body can't."

Alberga is a keynote speaker at the conference, alongside Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi and outgoing Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, a top age-group triathlete and an advocate of endurance sports. Topics of discussion will include sponsorship sales, maximizing social media and mergers and acquisitions in the endurance sports lifestyle, among others.

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