Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Plugged In: Andrew Messick, World Triathlon Corp.

Triathlon’s Ironman series and its sister series (called 70.3) have added 24 events and attracted approximately 200,000 registrants in 2014. As CEO of the series’ parent company, World Triathlon Corp., Andrew Messick has overseen that growth. The former president of AEG Sports talks here about Ironman’s future.

We spend the bulk of our time trying to convince sponsors and often their agencies that a smaller audience of more engaged people is more valuable. But when they are thinking about our space broadly — and by that I mean running and endurance — they are just thinking about 50,000 people at New York and 40,000 at Chicago [for those respective marathons]. Those numbers are easy for them. Our value proposition is a little more complex. You have a smaller group of people, but they are engaged for a longer period of time.

On selling series-wide sponsorships: We’re getting better. We have a global partnership with Red Bull, Mercedes is a sponsor for all of Europe, and Subaru for Canada. But we’re not where I want us to be yet.

On Ironman borrowing $240 million earlier this summer to pay a dividend to its ownership group, Providence Equity Partners: Providence bought Ironman with cash in 2008, which is rare for private equity. They anticipated that we were going to need cash to make acquisitions, and over the last five years we’ve bought 27 different companies, 10 of which happened under my watch. You need cash to buy companies, and we’re grateful that Providence chose to keep us with cash, but [the dividend] has had no impact on how we run the company.

On plans for media development: We spend a fair amount of time with international broadcasters talking about live shows … but an eight-hour pro race is a tricky live TV product. There aren’t a lot of broadcasters who have the shelf space for an event like ours. So we’ve invested in a streaming product. It’s historically been a desktop product but we have a major initiative to create a better mobile product.

Where there’s the most potential for growth: L’Etape du Tour (the amateur Tour de France bike ride) gets 13,000 participants. The Paris Marathon gets 50,000. Today, there is a culture of mass participation endurance racing everywhere. That’s why we’re bullish on international growth right now.

— Fred Dreier