British success at the London 2012 Olympics and Ironman has thrust triathlon even further into the spotlight this year...

Eyes of the world on British triathlon

At the start of the year a new trade body for the triathlon trade was formed – the Triathlon Industry Association (TIA). Formed to represent the growing industry and the businesses within it, the TIA is about to embark on a large research project, in line with one of its key aims. Almost 12 months on from its formation, BikeBiz speaks with chairman Ryan Bowd…

It’s been a busy year to set up a triathlon industry association…
As you say, it’s been a very busy year for the triathlon industry in 2012. With more and more people taking up the sport, we’ve also seen many new multisport businesses hit the UK. For the newly formed Triathlon Industry Association (TIA), progress has been good. In recent months we’ve really picked up speed, with many new members now on board and more joining as we speak.

The sport continues to hit the headlines, which in-turn has a ‘halo effect’ for the industry. The Olympics was a frenetic time – with race organisers having to adapt their event scheduling around this. During the Games, we saw the phenomenal successes of Team GB across the board. This has been phenomenal for sport in general. Cycling had another great year. Meanwhile, tri delivered Olympic Gold and Bronze in front of hundreds of thousands at Hyde Park, and 5.6 million TV viewers; so the eyes of the world have really been on triathlon.

Are you looking to recruit more members to the TIA?
Yes. New members are always welcome. We have a drive on membership running at the moment, following an initial bedding in of the association. We wanted to get everything structured correctly at the outset, setting up a board of directors and having the systems and objectives in place.

And the plan is to sub-divide members into groups like retailers, event, etc, so different concerns can be voiced?
Yes. The Triathlon Industry Association (TIA) represents all the main groups across the multisport spectrum. Although the triathlon industry has a common aim to grow the sport and the interests of these groups can be different. So we have sub-groups for: brands, coaching and camps, events and venues, media and content, pro athletes and agents, and retail and distributors.

As a collective, under the TIA banner, the industry has a single voice. Within each of the sub-groups there may be a commercial or trading issue that needs airing and resolving. We have retained the services of an arbitrator to assist in the case of any disputes. More than this, each group will focus on how to raise the bar in terms of trading practices and, ultimately, business growth.

The TIA is setting up a research project. Why does the industry need it and what sort of key findings do you hope for?
The research has a number of objectives. Firstly, we need to understand as much as possible about all triathletes to serve the needs of the wide ranging community better. Secondly, we need to quantify the number of active triathletes in the UK to see how big we are now for us to plan for future growth. From this, we shall look at expenditure on tri products and services to build up a value of the industry.

With information on market size, triathlete demographics, etc, we can raise the profile of the sport through on-going PR. In tandem with this, we need to attract further investment and new sponsors to the industry. So, the research will help us continue to make the business case for triathlon.

How will you encourage people to take part in the survey?
Ultimately it’s about goodwill and asking the UK tri community to spare a little time. We know that triathletes are enthusiastic, driven individuals, so we hope they will connect with our request to help the industry continue its growth path.

We have a number of media partners who are either members of the Triathlon Industry Association already, or who have offered their help in spreading the word. And our member companies will be spreading the word about the research.

But we do recognise that time is money, so we have a number of prizes up for grabs to those triathletes that are kind enough to spare their time. These prizes range from race entries, to wetsuits, nutrition, etc.
Our national governing body British Triathlon has also put up some prizes and we are working with them to reach as many triathletes as possible.

And there is talk of a TIA event taking place next year?
We are reviewing a few event gatherings for 2013. We are still in the planning stages on this and will be able to share more in the next couple of months.

Has the victory of the Brownlee brothers at London 2012 made an impact on the industry so far?
British triathletes continue to raise the bar. With Alistair Brownlee as the reigning Olympic champion and Jonathan Brownlee as the ITU World Triathlon Series champion, the profile has never been bigger. And let’s not forget GB’s Leanda Cave, the current Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Champion – who this year became the first woman to hold both titles. Mainstream media is now starting to recognise this success and we’ve seen more coverage and interest than ever.

There are countless other British triathletes out there, training hard, getting results. All of these guys help inspire a new generation of triathletes. So, yes, we are seeing more interest in triathlon, which is great news for the industry.

Is the industry growing in terms of number of companies and retailers?
There are new brands coming into the triathlon space and new retailers too. The current economic backdrop does present a challenge to High Street retail in particular. But triathletes like to buy gear. So, we see an opportunity for specialist bricks and mortar retail, alongside online. Triathlon is also an area of diversification for specialist run and cycle stores of course; and more of these retailers are recognising the opportunity.

Any final words for the industry?
The TIA is open to all of those with an interest in this exciting and fast-growing sport. All TIA member companies will get access to the research report in March 2013 and the interim research findings early in the New Year. We’ll be selling the research to non-member companies, so it’s advisable to sign up early to get the member benefits and access to the research.

We also welcome a dialogue with the bike industry to help us all grow together. Whether it’s more information on the basics of the sport, working together to educate consumers, merchandising – there’s growth to be had in these testing economic times.

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