Ironman and the Secret Access Club

The Internet is burning. And, no, it’s not about Miley Cyrus’ twerking at last week’s Video Music Awards.

Some of the more well-known triathlon communities are up in arms over what they perceive as a slight by the World Triathlon Corporation with how registration for a new iron-distance race happened.

Here’s the backstory: MDot announced a new race location in Chattanooga, TN a few weeks back. They opened registration online earlier this week (I think it was Wednesday) at 12 noon ET. About three minutes later, according to the CEO of WTC, general entry to the race sold out. Subsequent to all that happening, news came out that Active.com, the online vendor WTC uses to process their registrations, went down during the heavy registration traffic, potentially leaving hundreds (or more) of potential registrants in a perpetual “hold” status. Later on, word came out that WTC opened pre-registration for the event to members of certain triathlon clubs, both in the immediate vicinity of the race, as well as nationally.

So what’s the fuss? Another Ironman race sold out quickly. It seems to happen all the time; why should this particular race be any different?

It turns out that some folks are upset that WTC offered preregistration to clubs. Moreover, WTC apparently had instructed the clubs that they offered this capability to not openly advertise or broadcast that this was being done. According to some, this is bad mojo and poor form. WTC, people said, was being deceptive, elitest, and driving a wedge into their potential customer base. People couldn’t believe that WTC had the audacity to pull a stunt like this. There must be some conspiracy or collusion between WTC and key triathlon clubs to corner the market on race slots! Other folks claimed that there must have been an agreement between Active and WTC to “pull the plug” on the servers once the race sold out so as to shut out some athletes.

I’m not sure I agree.

Let’s not kid ourselves…the race was most likely going to sell out. There would be people who would not be able to register for the race because it would sell out before they could get through the system. MDot’s CEO claimed in a post on Slowtwitch that by offering preregistration slots to clubs, they were working to drive the growth of triathlon through clubs. Okay, maybe that’s the truth. Perhaps it isn’t. I have no idea.

To me, this all boils down to market economics, and ultimately, how a firm manages supply and demand. Right now, MDot is enjoying a period of super-high demand. This is really clear given the fact that virtually all of their races sell out quickly. Many “bucket listers” want nothing more than to cross off the list that they did an “Ironman”. So long as that is a prevailing attitude, we’ll continue to see WTC’s races sell out. All MDot did by opening preregistration to clubs was offer an enticement to a targeted, captive group. It isn’t a bad business play, at the end of the day.

And for those that think WTC colluded to pull the plug, well I can’t see that as being true either. There’s some amount of negative publicity that WTC received from both the Active snafu and the whole preregistration for clubs thing. I can’t imagine that any company focused on building brand would purposefully set themselves up for negative publicity. Well, maybe getting negative publicity would be a good ploy for an on-your-knees, about to crumble company, but I don’t recall ever learning anything about that back in B-school.

At the end of the day, what happened is that a race company announced a new race, opened registration, and some people got in while some people didn’t.

I suspect that most of the people complaining about all of this just happen to fall in the later category, and not the former.

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2 thoughts on “Ironman and the Secret Access Club

  1. My tri team is part of the IM Club, we did not get an invitation for an early signup.

    On that same day, in my opinion, a huge announcement was made that seems to have made little attention here in America. The Challenge Family is having their first US race. And from what I seen and read, they really know how to throw a party at a race in Europe. I am interested to see if they as successful in the States

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