I am really struggling with this post. I have a few strong opinions on this subject and I don’t know how they will be received by others. So let me first preface this by saying that I am still loyal to the sport of triathlon and to ironman. And I am not bashing anyone personally or professionally here, but I am raising my hand and making a little noise with the hope that the powers that be might bring it down a few notches and return to the basics that made this sport and ironman so great.
I, like many, was once practically enamored with the highly recognizable M-Dot ironman logo. There was a time when I thought that logo stood for something meaningful. There was a time when that logo stood hand-in-hand with words like strength, pride, and endurance. There was a time when that logo, and the organization behind it, was about the accomplishment itself, and not about the production of that accomplishment. And not about the corporate brand behind the accomplishment.
Something has happened that has turned the once respected logo into a veiled symbol for status and greed. M-Dot branding has reduced the logo to be nothing more than a status symbol that says “I can afford to do triathlons”. Walk through any WTC expo and you will see product branding that practically requires a co-signer to purchase. The logo can now be found on some of the most bizarre household and personal products that speak very little about strength, pride, endurance, and accomplishment. But speak loud and clear to the fact that someone; several people, are getting quite fat on our love of what was once a pure sport.
The inaugural New York City Ironman opened for registration a couple of weeks ago. The general registration entry sold for $895. At first I was furious at the thought that the World Triathlon Corp would gouge that deep. But here is the sick part – the race sold out in less than 20 minutes. So, while I know for a fact that I am not alone in my beliefs, how can we control anything if we continue to feed the machine and agree to fight tooth and nail for the “opportunity” to spend $895 to race? If we keep spending, the prices will continue to skyrocket. This is about business, right?
The other piece of this that irks me is that fact that so many first time ironmen and women rush out to get that beautiful M-Dot tattooed on their body. I see many displayed on the lower leg or shoulder blade to make sure that they are visible to more people while people are out racing and training. It’s their own little sign that says “Hey, look at me!! I am really an amazing athletic specimen…. I did an ironman …. And you didn’t”.
Folks can’t wait to emblazon that corporate logo on their bodies. Which is actually kind of comical since that logo is not public domain, it’s only a matter of time before WTC finds a way to tax or charge for its usage. But why not also get a tattoo of the Pepsi logo? Or Dominos Pizza? Or some of the other corporate monsters whose wealth you contribute to…. I do have to say this, I have MANY good friends with M-Dot tattoos who do “get it” and who do understand. I don’t want to lump everyone together in this rant. Only you know why you got that tattoo and what it means. I still wish you weren’t feeding the corporate monster with your advertising, but I mean no personal disrespect to many of you.
The fact of the matter is that you don’t need to hang a banner to tell everyone of your athletic accomplishments. Be proud, but for God’s sake, please be humble. I know my opinions are strong, and I know you are good people. But… come on…. At least try to create a tattoo that is personal and unique and can serve as a reminder to yourself without being a flashing neon sign.
In my mind, the solution(s) are simple. In a perfect world, the WTC would take a deep breath and attempt to get back to basics. But they will first have to realize that chasing the almighty dollar is not what this sport should be about. The WTC can still redeem themselves if they can find a way to reduce pricing and also find a way to de-saturate the brand and make it mean something again. They seem to be of the understanding that if M-Dot is good, then more M-Dot and higher priced M-Dot must be better; and that’s not true.
We can do our part as well by supporting our local race directors. The ones who pour their own dollars and sweat equity into events and do so for the athletes. There are plenty of independent ultra distance (a.k.a. “ironman”) races out there as well that are fantastic events, and cost a fraction of the price.
Thanks for reading. I’ll echo my thoughts that I opened with… I am still loyal to the sport of triathlon and to ironman. And I am not bashing anyone personally or professionally here, but I am raising my hand and making a little noise with the hope that the powers that be might bring it down a few notches and return to the basics that made this sport and ironman so great.
I also have to say that WTC DOES put on one hell of a race. Their productions are big and memorable. There is no question in my mind that hearing Mike Reilly call your name as you cross the finish line is among the greatest moments you may ever experience. And when people ask me how I feel the branded events compare to the indies, I tell them they should experience both because each carries their own set of pros and cons. But if we don’t control this runaway freight train now, there won’t be anything left to appreciate and the M-Dot and all that it could stand for will fade away into oblivion.
Maybe I shouldn’t care so much, and perhaps tomorrow I won’t. But today, I do.