Since Lance Armstrong's blazing return to triathlon at the Panama 70.3, there has been much debate about what his presence will mean for the sport. There is certainly great potential for both growth and impact; but, if managed poorly, could it precipitate the decline of multisport as we know it?
Beyond Celebrity Status
Triathlon has long had a history of participating celebrities ranging from Robin Williams to Jennifer Lopez. And the sport itself has its own share of big names including Julie Moss, who's known round the world, to Chrissie Wellington who's regarded as one of the fittest women in the world.
To understand the Lance Effect, we have to recognize that he's both a star and a star athlete. He brings the attention of millions wherever he goes. While his efforts have been predominantly directed at raising funds and awareness for the fight against Cancer, the ripple effect across other industries, such as cycling, has been palpable.
Anyone thinking that Lance was going to play the star card for a Kona slot, however, was proven seriously wrong when he took a very close second place against some of the best 70.3 athletes in the world in Panama.
Lance is here, and he's clearly all in.
So what does that mean for multisport as we know it? Here are three specific ways I believe the return of Lance Armstrong could impact triathlon:
#1: Increased Exposure – The Media Play
The coverage of Panama 70.3—both on the official site and on Twitter—immediately showed a significant spike in interest. I don't have real stats, but it very well could have been Ironman's biggest media day outside of the Ironman World Championships. That's huge considering it was a new event that took place at the start of the year, in wintertime.
But that's only a hint of Lance's real impact.
The World Triathlon Corporation recently revealed that they are in talks to have portions—if not all—of the 2012 Ironman World Championship event broadcast live for the first time ever. No more month-long production turnaround; real live action. This is a huge development, essentially moving triathlon from the one-time pop of the Olympics to the world stage.
The Win/Loss Ratio
- WIN: For the media outlets. Triathlon has huge appeal and it doesn't hurt that Lance, and many other insanely fit people, will be front and center. This will trickle down to both online and hard copy formats.
- WIN: Exposure for the brands in the triathlon space, especially the long-time supporters who have insider access that was built over years and years of support and participation.
- WIN: Positioning of the World Triathlon Corporation, who gets to sell access to both media and brands.