SBJ/Oct. 7-13, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

GoPro cameras buy Ironman title sponsorship

The World Triathlon Corp. has signed a multiyear deal with camera manufacturer GoPro for title sponsorship of the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Financial details of the deal were unavailable.

Andrew Messick, CEO of the World Triathlon Corp., said the partnership would boost the race’s media footprint. He said both parties are still ironing out inventory details, though footage from GoPro cameras would likely be used in the event’s two-hour broadcast, which traditionally airs on NBC several months after the race.

“We’re a company whose financial DNA is in race operations, but this will accelerate the journey towards being a more professional media organization,” Messick said. “We want to have a broader reach, and this is an important first step.”

Leanda Cave won in Hawaii in 2012, a year the event went without a title sponsor.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
The deal comes one year after the WTC was unable to secure a title deal for its marquee property for the first time since 2004. Ford held the title position at the race from 2005 until 2011. Previously, the WTC had title deals with Gatorade, Timex and Bud Light.

WTC officials called 2012 a “rebuilding year.”

Ironman is the latest property to join GoPro’s expanding sports portfolio. The camera maker owns a global sponsorship deal with ESPN’s X Games, title sponsorship of the Vail Mountain Games, presenting status with the Mavericks International big-wave surfing contest, and category-specific deals with the AMA Supercross series and the Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar event.

Todd Ballard, director of sports marketing for GoPro, called the Ironman deal a “last-minute opportunity,” and said the company had been searching for ways to step into endurance sports in an “authentic” capacity. He said Ironman’s affluent customers and the WTC’s broadcast relationship with NBC attracted his company.

“The core sports we’ve been in are a little more natural because of the quick-action type of content you see in surfing or motocross,” Ballard said. “We’ve wanted to step into endurance for some time and this was the first opportunity that made sense.”

GoPro is finalizing its on-site activation for the Oct. 12 race. Ballard said the company would bring signage and sales booths to the event and would promote its latest product, the Hero3 Plus camera.

GoPro has an existing personal sponsorship with Australian triathlete Pete Jacobs, who won the Kona race in 2012. Ballard said Jacobs and American triathlete Chris Lieto are currently using the cameras during their training, and the footage will be incorporated into the broadcast. Whether athletes would wear the cameras during the race, however, is yet to be determined.

“We want to show fans a perspective they’ve never seen of their sport,” Ballard said. “This first year is an experiment. We want to grow into it as time goes by.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

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