Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jumping on the WTC Bashing Bandwagon ...

This is in response to Patrick's post at The Road [A Mulit-Sport Blog].  I started to write this in his comment section and ran out of space so decided to finish it up here.  As opposed to me paraphrasing his words check out Patrick's Post to give you some background.   This in not really a dissenting view from his, just a little different:


Title:  Perception is Reality

As a business person and someone who understands the value of a brand AND the painstaking hard work that goes into branding - I found WTC's initial announcement of the Access Program utterly baffling.

Let me explain.

For the bottom line of the P&L statement the Ironman Access Program makes financial sense to WTC.  They are a for profit business and have a right to charge whatever they want or implement anything they think will make them profitable. But a savvy company knows that the value of the brand is also linked directly to the perception of that brand.  And this is where I take issue with what  WTC  did with the Access Program.

The IM brand is synonymous with terms like community, hard work, and determination.  The access program does not align with any of these perceptions. Part of the experience of doing an IM is the story of how you registered by volunteering at the race or by hitting refresh a hundred times when Active registration opens.  Seriously, ask an Ironman the story of how they registered for their race and they undoubtedly will have a colorful story!

Back on point, the Access Program  creates the perception of cheating the system.  If I have to wait in line a year before a race than dammit so should you!  Heck, what other sport has regular Age Groupers like us racing right next to the pros?  None. We are different.  We are special.  WTC attacked this foundation and the consumer responded in kind. Like it or not a successful business will remain successful by reflecting the values of the consumer - P&L Statements be damned!  

Now the Access Program was just the proverbial nail in the negative press release coffin. With the onslaught of changes (5150, price increases, new venues, IM branded products ..etc) that WTC has announced lately I found the access program to be not only poorly conceived  but also poorly timed.  They are changing things t0o fast and too dramatically.  We are okay with minor changes but big changes like these are tough to swallow - if you don't believe me look at how well Change is working for Obama and the democrats.

What I mean by the last paragraph is how could a company that does Triathlon have no idea what the reaction of the Triathlon community would be with the announcement of the Access Program?  How could they not have a finger on the pulse of their base? No consumer surveys? Focus groups?  Really?

Well, WTC found out the hard way when the community went nuts they pulled the program as quickly as it came out.  For us consumes it is sort of like biting into a spoiled piece of food  - you realize it is spoiled and spit it out right away, no real harm - except for that awful aftertaste!

For me and many other triathletes the perception is that WTC doesn't give a crap about it's consumers - the apology video was a step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, the reality is that they are not going to stop doing things like this until a viable competitor surfaces.  (Time to step up Rev3!)

Thanks for Reading,



  1. And THAT'S why all my half and full distance events this year will be non-Ironman branded!!!! It's too corporate these days, and I want to enjoy my race, not feel like I am being processed as another source of revenue.

  2. You are right they took a step in the right direction but they still have a long way to go before the heal the damage. Let's hope they step up to the plate and do the right thing.

    I also hope Rev3 steps up and grabs this opportunity by the horns!

  3. It was definitely a slap in the face. I was planning my first Half Ironman this year, but now I'm considering other brands (even though Ironman is most convenient).

  4. Well said. I can certainly empathize with those who are long time Ironman competitors in terms of their reaction to change. And I don't mean to sound crass, but WTC is owned by Providence Equity Partners. As such, earnings and growth are a must. The fact is, some brands are better at diversifying than others.

    But remember, we didn't put them in this situation, they put themselves in it. That's why my whole thing is "cool, whatever happens, I'm sure I'll find what I need from the sport regardless." Because I can't control WTC's destiny.

  5. The whole "we are special" club isn't alone in the endurance sport world.

    To get into the NYC Marathon the fastest (without running a qualifying time) is to do their 9+1 program. Run 9 races, volunteer for one.

    Well now you don't even have to volunteer for one now. You can pay $1000 and you have fulfilled the volunteer requirement.

    What happened to the pride of giving back to this sport from which it was founded on?

    I don't really care about what the companies/organizations do, I just want the people who are racing these events to have a soul.

  6. In my opinion, this year Ironman (the business) took a giant needle and popped the balloon of pride and community that Ironman (the event) built over time. I get the business end of it - just as you stated. WTC clearly doesn't any longer get the community aspect of our sport. Too bad for them.

    I'm going to do what a good consumer should do, and that is vote with my wallet. I'll be hard pressed to do another M-dot event. I'm not saying never, but I think I'll need a really compelling reason.

    My vote goes with Rev3 from now on...

  7. Well said Jeff!

    I'm sort of curious as to how many people actually paid for the access program? I know they said it "sold out", but I am wondering if the WTC just closed it down prior to releasing the press release.

    I look forward to seeing what changes the WTC implements in the future and how they roll them out.

    They still have a long way to go to redeem themselves in my book - I'm hoping they get on the right path quickly.

  8. I was planning on an M-Dot tat after my first full. Now I'll have to consider a REV3 tat.

  9. Well put, Thanks I needed someone to put it calmer terms then I did, I was too ticked off.

    I really do not think WTC is hurting for money.

    Mike made an interesting comment about the tattoo. This conversation can easily go on forever. But what if we got an artist to make an universal 140.6 symbol that represents acheiving that distance and just plaster it on any social media site there is?

  10. Very well written Jeff and too the point! (Those Dems could use a guy like you!)

  11. I am torn. I feel both sides. To be honest, I COMPLETELY understand the business side. I actually am not mad about it at all. They have studies done on typical athlete's salaries to back them haha.

    BUT, I REALLY like that you have to volunteer, that is class act and shows SO much respect in the sport.

    Good post, as usual great logic in your argument.

  12. I'll admit openly that I was baffled by people's response to WTC, it seemed purely emotional, as if WTC and triathlon was one and the same and they were somehow pissing on the altar of endurance sports or something rather than make a profit. But...many people are claiming a victory in the fact that WTC rescinded the program. It has been reported that the program had already sold out. If that is true,or if anyone purchased the membership, how canit be explained to them that they were wrong for wanting to participate?

  13. i think this also demonstrated the stregnth of viral marketing. The news of the program spread fast and so did the feedback.

  14. I didn't agree with the program, but I'm also torn. I'm a marketer and I understand why they did it, and I'm not surprised it sold out. If volunteering were the ONLY way in I'd think it was a far worse choice. But I've done three Ironmans and only volunteered at one. There are other ways to sign up so I don't think the Access program was a direct blow to volunteering. The volunteer experience was magical, I loved it. But I can't do that for each race, it just isn't realistic.

    I agree they need to calm down the overt marketing pushes. This year was borderline obnoxious with the drinks, the cereal and the merchandise. It's a very successful company, otherwise people wouldn't voluntarily tattoo the logo on themselves. I think they are doing too much too fast and need to pause a bit.

  15. IRONSTAR: TMINUS 1 WEEK(and 1 day)!!!

  16. I'm with BDD on getting the idea of 140.6 as the tattoo and not just the M-Dot to represent going the distance. As I've posted in other places my thoughts have changed to getting a 70.3 on one side and a 140.6 on the other when I complete them because it is about the distance. For me it is about the journey to that distance and not the Ironman (anymore.)

    In terms of the access program I wish they would have addressed how they plan on addressing the registration issue going forward. I'm not saying I expected a final answer, but something along the lines of a panel to address this issue. Get AGers, Pros, Sponsors, etc to get into a brainstorming session to determine how to avoid the issue of multiple registrations and only a sinlge entrance.

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