>This past Saturday afternoon, triathletes all across this great country (as well as some outside of the USA) stopped in their tracks so that they could watch the Super Bowl of Triathlon on TV. As we all know, the annual broadcast of the Ironman World Championships aired.
We all watched Macca and Rinny race their way to victories, in full high definition glory. We loved hearing about 80-year old Lew Hollander and how he’s done 20 of these races. We shed tears as the junkie/convict guy finished his race & as boot woman hobbled the marathon. We were awed by the super slo mo views of Chris Lieto’s quad muscles as he ran down the Queen K. We empathized with the lady who didn’t make the swim cut-off and had her day end before she really had a chance to get it going.
In reading blogs and forums this week, one could find polar opposite perspectives on the quality of the broadcast. Some folks lamented that there was insufficient time spent covering the professionals. The last five miles of the men’s race was so dramatic, but the show didn’t do it justice, people argued. Some wanted the show to focus on nutrition strategies, transition set-ups, pacing.
Other folks loved the human interest stories that are such a trademark of this annual show. They loved watching and learning about the father/daughter pair who couldn’t finish, the French guy who wiped out on his bike and had to walk the full marathon, the Iraq war vet who survived cancer, ran laps around the nurses’ station, and ultimately became an Ironman.
The genius of this broadcast is that in the span of two hours, WTC and NBC were able to satisfy some of our insane desire to experience Kona, to watch what might have been one of the best races in a decade, and in the process, they did a stellar job of advertising our sport to the masses. Let’s face it. Triathletes probably aren’t the primary demographic for this show. Of course we watched it this year (just like we do every year). No, this show wasn’t for us. It was for all the folks who caught glimpses of the show while at Christmas parties. The folks that, just because they saw boot woman huffing her way to the finish, might think to themselves, “Hey, I could do that.” The show was for all the joggers, the overweight, the less-motivated, the newbie triathletes. The show was to stir a fire in their belly.
Did it work? Unequivocally, yes. How many thousands of athletes over the years have said that they got into triathlon merely because of this show? I’m sure that we can’t quantify that easily. I do know for a fact that two separate people that I’ve interacted with this week watched the broadcast and were blown away by what the athletes were doing. Will they become Ironman athletes? Who knows. Will they think about becoming triathletes? I know that one in particular is strongly thinking about signing up for his first sprint tri this spring.
So despite many of the varied opinions of the WTC and how it is treating the Ironman brand, when it comes to this show (and the broader, underlying intent), WTC gets it. Pure marketing genius. Good for them. Good for triathlon.
And by the way, I totally enjoyed the show. Some of my favorite parts were the slow motion capture of the smoke ring put off by the cannon at the start, the swim footage, the raw emotions displayed by the athletes. I loved that the show was in high definition. I didn’t enjoy the blatant Ford and RoadID product placement so much – I thought some of it was contrived.