Finweek English Edition - - COVER -

has be­come one of the most widely an­tic­i­pated and iconic sport­ing events in South Africa. We caught up with the event co­or­di­na­tor, to ex­plore what has made this an­nual race such an in­sti­tu­tion. WHEN WAS THE FIRST IRON­MAN HELD IN SA? Al­though Iron­man was f irst held in South Africa in 2000 in Gor­don’s Bay, the cur­rent for­mat of the event was first held in 2005, with the first full Iron­man in Nel­son Man­dela Bay.

The Gor­don’s Bay event is not in any way af­fil­i­ated to Iron­man South Africa in Nel­son Man­dela Bay. Event or­gan­is­ers, World En­durance Africa Hold­ings (pre­vi­ously known as Tri­an­gle Events), brought Iron­man back to SA in 2004 stag­ing a half Iron­man (known as Iron­man 70.3) in Nel­son Man­dela Bay as a test event. A year later, in 2005, the first full Iron­man took place in Nel­son Man­dela Bay. This year Iron­man South Africa cel­e­brates its 10th an­niver­sary in Nel­son Man­dela Bay. YOU HAVE A GREAT LINE-UP OF SPON­SORS – HAS THERE AL­WAYS BEEN STRONG COR­PO­RATE IN­TER­EST IN THE EVENT?

Iron­man is an es­tab­lished in­ter­na­tional brand and car­ries mas­sive brand ap­peal world­wide. The Iron­man mantra of ‘any­thing is pos­si­ble’ as well as ev­ery­thing that Iron­man rep­re­sents, such as en­durance, strength of the hu­man spirit, de­ter­mi­na­tion, over­com­ing the odds and pas­sion, res­onates not only with ath­letes but with spec­ta­tors, cor­po­rate spon­sors and is able to align with cor­po­rate spon­sors and their brand mes­sages. Iron­man South Africa is an in­ter­na­tional sport­ing event and the big­gest an­nual sports event in Nel­son Man­dela Bay. Nat­u­rally, the event at­tracts ex­ten­sive me­dia at­ten­tion both na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally with some of the world’s best Iron­man ath­letes trav­el­ling to SA to com­pete.

From a de­mo­graphic per­spec­tive, the aver­age Iron­man ath­lete is in the LSM bracket 8 to 10 with high dis­pos­able in­come. These are goal ori­ented, driven in­di­vid­u­als of­ten hold­ing inf lu­en­tial po­si­tions. This al­lows spon­sors to talk di­rectly to a highly seg­mented tar­get mar­ket and com­mu­ni­cate their brand mes­sage to po­ten­tial clients. Iron­man South Africa of­fers cor­po­rate spon­sors ac­cess to this pre­mium tar­get mar­ket through var­i­ous touch points in and around the event. THE EVENT IS GROW­ING IN POP­U­LAR­ITY EV­ERY YEAR. WHAT DO YOU BE­LIEVE IS DRIV­ING THIS GROWTH? At its most fun­da­men­tal, the growth in pop­u­lar­ity is largely due to the shift to­wards an ac­tive, healthy life­style in SA. This shift has be­come a trend and since the coun­try is home to some of the world’s big­gest and most iconic en­durance events across var­i­ous dis­ci­plines, it makes sense that ath­letes con­tin­u­ally seek to push bound­aries. Iron­man is seen as the next step as ath­letes are able to com­bine swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning – all very pop­u­lar in­di­vid­ual dis­ci­plines in SA.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, Iron­man South Africa is known as one of the most wellor­gan­ised events on the global cir­cuit and in ad­di­tion, the spec­ta­tor sup­port in Nel­son Man­dela Bay is of the best in the world, with well over 77 000 spec­ta­tors sup­port­ing.

Last year’s win­ner, Ron­nie Schild­knecht, was con­vinced that the crowd thought he was South African as a re­sult of the sup­port that they showed him. Right up un­til mid­night, the fin­ish line will be packed to ca­pac­ity as the spec­ta­tors wait to cheer on the last ath­letes. We will also see the high­est num­ber of in­ter­na­tional ath­letes par­tic­i­pat­ing this year, with 22% of the field com­ing from abroad. IRON­MAN IS NOW A BIG BUSI­NESS IN IT­SELF – WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHAL­LENGES YOU FACE AS THE EVENT GROWS IN STATURE? There are many chal­lenges we face as a busi­ness. One of the big­gest chal­lenges right now is ac­com­mo­dat­ing the de­mand for the races. With Iron­man South Africa, Iron­man 70.3 SA and the 5150 African Triathlon Se­ries events sell­ing out an­nu­ally, ath­letes are cry­ing out for an­other Iron­man or Iron­man 70.3 race in SA. De­spite this de­mand, we take into con­sid­er­a­tion var­i­ous as­pects be­fore es­tab­lish­ing additional events. We are com­mit­ted to rolling out events in a re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able man­ner. We have worked hard to grow the triath­lete pool in SA through our events so while we are con­tin­u­ally look­ing at pos­si­bil­i­ties in es­tab­lish­ing additional events, we try to avoid di­lut­ing the cur­rent ath­lete pool at ex­ist­ing races.

Nat­u­rally, as the event grows and more events open, the de­mand on the staff also grows. The World En­durance Africa Hold­ings team is a small, closeknit group and the com­pany cur­rently or­gan­ises eight events an­nu­ally with over 13 000 ath­letes across these events. One of the big­gest chal­lenges there­fore is de­liv­er­ing a world-class race ex­pe­ri­ence across each and ev­ery event with a small but ex­tremely ded­i­cated and pas­sion­ate team. Most of the fun­da­men­tal busi­ness as­pects are done in-house, such as mar­ket­ing, me­dia, pub­lic re­la­tions and lo­gis­tics down to the ac­tual race ex­e­cu­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion.

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