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The power of triathlon branding

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Ironman or Iron-distance? Many organizers offer Iron-distance triathlon events (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run), but they are not as popular or as well known as Ironman-branded events. Just the fact that there is not set term for races of these distances (though some people suggest 'full-distance') other than "Iron-distance" spells the status of Ironman branding.

What are the differences between Ironman events and non-Ironman events of the same distance, other than logos and name recognition?

Non-Ironman-branded events

  • Organized by various race organizers, ranging from single organizers to corporations.
  • Typically lower in cost (lower entry fee).
  • Most struggle for registrants, though there are exceptions.
  • Independent races can sometimes be more challenging than an Ironman race.
  • Many enjoy a laid back atmosphere with an emphasis on fun.
  • Most are relatively new.

Ironman events

  • Ironman events are run by World Triathlon Corp. (WTC).
  • There are 35 Ironman races globally with over 85,000 entrants. Races sell out. Each race gets about 3,000 participants and most have waiting lists.
  • Ironman as a brand is established with a well known name, even among non-triathletes. The first Ironman was held in 1978 in Hawaii and became well known after being regularly televised. Now, finishers do their own Ironman marketing through the self-promotion that comes with finishing via tattoos or gear.
  • Each race's course design and location and the resulting quality associated with these races is praised.
  • Festival-like production at each event, with post-race parties, lavish dinners and award ceremonies.
  • Age-group champions earn entry into the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (fewer than 3 percent qualify each year).

Have you competed in a non-Ironman yet Ironman-distance event, as well as in an Ironman event? If so, what are the differences you have noticed?

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