USA Triathlon Seeing Best Membership Growth Since '12
USA Triathlon is seeing its best increase in participation and membership since ’12, which comes following years of decline after the NGB experienced a fast growth period in the early and mid-‘00s following the sport’s Olympic debut at the ’00 Sydney Games. USA Triathlon has experienced 5.66% year-over-year growth (from ’18 to YTD ’19) for total annual and one-day members (adult and youth combined). Additionally, eight out of the last nine months have shown year-over-year growth for USAT annual memberships (adult and youth combined) -- the longest period of consecutive monthly growth since ’12. USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris was brought in to lead the NGB in August ’17 and credits the organization’s BOD for making some “pretty significant changes” once it was clear the sport was not trending in the right direction regarding participation. The biggest philosophical change was transforming USAT into a true non-profit, with any revenue earned from ’17-20 being re-invested into growing the sport. “The board really set us up for success by changing direction, changing philosophy,” Harris said. “Then we (the leadership) came in and listened to people and made really good business changes, organizational changes and plans that are now allowing us to see some growth.” He added the NGB is continuing its efforts to make triathlons more affordable for kids, whose increased participation will help achieve USAT's goal of growing the sport long-term. USA Triathlon this year distributed 8,000 free youth memberships to underserved kids as part of a buy one, give one effort with members.
AREA OF GROWTH: Corporate sponsorships have also been a focus for USAT, which has started to engage with bigger brands outside of its endemic partners in the endurance space. USAT in January announced Toyota as its exclusive Mobility & Automotive Partner for the next two years, marking the first such category partnership in the NGB’s history. The NGB also partnered with sponsorship sales agency IPG360 in ‘18. Harris noted the two organizations created a hybrid sponsorship model where USAT “didn’t outsource all of our rights like college athletics does, or totally take them on ourselves and try to manage everything like pro sports does.” USAT this year is currently trending for over 70% growth in corporate sponsorship revenue.
GOING VIRTUAL: USAT in the fall will roll out its first-ever all-digital virtual triathlon. The “Time to Tri Virtual Triathlon” is the first major step in the NGB’s efforts to advance how technology is used within the sport. Harris said the hope is that once participants complete the virtual triathlon, USAT “will be able to convince them to take it to the next step” and compete in an event. “Every kid does a triathlon every day -- you swim in your pool, run around the block and bike around your neighborhood,” Harris said. “The virtual triathlon will help bring all those things together and show people that they are triathletes just by doing the three disciplines that we have as part of our sport.”