Les Trois Sports

This month sees Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. explore a sport that has recently caught the public’s attention- triathlon

Since the millennium mass participation sports have soared into the public eye, and have romantically captured the imagination of many a sportsman. One such sport at the forefront is that of ‘Les Trois Sports’ (The three sports- swimming, cycling, running), better known as triathlon.

In 2012, 100,000 UK participants took part in an organised Triathlon event, and according to the Triathlon Industry Association, 20% of these were doing so for the first time, thus it is easy to recognise why many claim that triathlon is the fastest growing sport in the UK.

Breaking triathlon down into its three individual disciplines, we know that participation levels in running and cycling have shown steady growth over the last six years. In 2011-2012, Sport England reported that 4.6% of the British population were cycling once a week and 4.6% were running at the same frequency, an increase of 50% on the number from 2006. Swimming is the one sport of the ‘les trois’ which has seen its participation figures decline since 2005, yet it still can boast that 6.8% of the population, or 2.9 million people in England, swim at least once a week. Although these figures and growth only consider the dedicate participants, swimming is still the overall highest participation sport in the UK.

The London Olympics aptly created British heroes in Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, who both gave medal-winning performances in 2012in London’s landmark Hyde Park. One year later the ITU and London brought back triathlon to the same venue for the 2012 World Grand Final, clearly showing that a legacy was being created.

Throughout the five day competition, Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. conducted an in-depth equipment census of the brands in use during each discipline.

During the swim through Hyde Park’s iconic Serpentine, the top 3 wetsuit brands accounted for 53% of those on show. Blueseventy and Orca tied for top spot with just under a fifth of competitors wearing each brand. @XU was the third most common brand, worn by 14% of competitors. Interestingly, the brand counts in the age group and Open groupings were led by Orca, but their share considerably decreased in the Elite race which was decisively lead by Blueseventy (21%) which adorned Great Britain’s gold medal winning heroine Non Stanford. Remarkably, the wetsuit of choice for the Brownlee’s, Huub, finished as the sixth most popular brand on show with 4.7%.

The dominant running brand was Asics. The Japanese running specialist led the running show count across all six competitor classifications, from the juniors right through to the elite competitors, with one quarter of ITU World Final competitors in Asics shoes, ahead of Saucony in second with 13%, and Brooks in third with a share of 11%. Of the thirty two manufactures that featured in the running shoe count, the multi-sorts brand giants Nike and adidas captured a total of 17% of the market (or 8.7% and 8.1% individually).

The bike census, (fronted by Specialized bikes, ridden by 12.6% of the competitors), saw 101 different brands represented. The second most common bike brand at the ITU World Finals was Cervelo (8.5%), with Trek in third place, 0.7% behind. Specialized also topped the cycling shoe (25.4%) and saddle (18.6%) count, and was the second most prevalent helmet on display (17.4%) behind Giro which had one fifth of the sample.

Equipment is fundamental to the sport of triathlon. Each of the three disciplines requires numerous key pieces, whether the participant is a newcomer to the combined discipline, or part of the Elite segment. The assortment of brands and models paraded in Hyde Park in September confirms the manufacturer’s recognition that triathlon has become a mainstream sport. It also provides ample opportunity for retailers to expand their appeal to customers who are already, or may be considering joining in one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.