The endurance sports industry is a veritable bastion of marketing opportunity. Last year, 15 million people in the U.S. competed in some type of running or triathlon event and countless more pounded the pavement as part of their daily exercise routine. These highly motivated athletes tend to be savvy, trend-setting consumers in their 30s and 40s with advanced educations and household incomes in excess of $100,000.
And yet, as recently as four years ago, there was no broad-based platform from which to reach this desirable demographic. That is, until early 2008, when Competitor Group was formed through a series of media and event management firm acquisitions. “We felt if we could combine world-class publishing and digital assets with grassroots events, we would not only fill an important void but become the market leader in the endurance sports industry,” says Scott Dickey, president of Competitor Group.
Today, Competitor Group controls 20 percent of the market for all long-distance running events in the U.S. With headquarters in San Diego and a growing international footprint, the company owns and operates 60 annual events, including its core Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, Kids Rock Series, Columbia Muddy Buddy Ride and Land Rover
TriRock Triathlon Series. Leveraging four print titles (Competitor, Triathlete, Inside Triathlon and Velo) with a combined readership of 1.3 million and a digital platform that draws as many as 4 million unique monthly visitors to Competitor.com, the company delivers integrated sponsorship and advertising packages to such diverse clients as Sports Authority, Land Rover, Sony, Dodge, P. F. Chang’s, Gatorade and Refuel chocolate milk.
“We’re the entry point if you want to reach healthy, active Americans who are using endurance sports as their core motivation,” says Dickey. “We’ve expanded our properties into Europe, specifically Spain, the U.K. and Portugal. We’ve got the scale now to deliver ROI for big-time non-endemic brands.”
Land Rover, for example, recently became the official title sponsor of the new TriRock series. The automaker’s ads are “skinned” onto the TriRock landing page at Competitor.com, where the brand has been featured during segments on the online video channel Competitor TV. On-site activation will include a test-drive program and vehicle displays with roof racks featuring bikes and wet suits hanging off the door. “Land Rover’s premium brand matches up well with the triathlon demographic,” says John Smith, senior vice president of sales at Competitor Group. “This is a true vertical space for them to really reach out to that high-end consumer.”
Dickey says that Competitor Group’s comprehensive database capabilities and direct marketing programs enable it to compete on a much broader level with other national sports marketing platforms. For example, unlike other racing event operators that must rely on third-parties for data capture, Competitor Group owns its online registration platform, Raceit.com. In addition, each event features a two-day health and fitness expo that participants must attend to pick up their race numbers. “It’s an almost guaranteed touchpoint with consumers, and the 200-plus exhibits are a huge opportunity for sponsors to showcase products,” says Dickey.