Friday, September 5, 2014

Facebook Posts

It's not often I get involved with a discussion on facebook. Even less often do I start one myself. But yesterday's news got me thinking.

Here it is reported via Slowtwitch

Essentially, what it boils down to is that Revolution 3 Triathlon merges with the Challenge Family of races. 

First off, here is what I posted to FB:

"Here is food for thought for those to whom the "merger" between Rev3 and Challenge is a great and promising thing:

You are celebrating failure. Rev3 WAS a great event production company (and will likely continue to be great as Challenge employees) with a grand idea and scheme that NOBODY supported. If given the choice, do you think Charlie would PREFER to continue forward as Rev3 and make a bit of money and continue to operate under his own authority and discretion? Or is he pleased to be absorbed into a bigger conglomerate, thereby mostly losing the brand he imagined, created and developed...?

The answer is obviously a bit of both, but only because money was probably funneling out of the system too fast. Am I guilty? Sure. But so are we as a community. I thought Rev3 events were great (of the 5 I did) and left very little to be desired (although the pro races were too damn competitive haha).

So yes, a celebration of failure.

Now, at first glance it appears as though I am attempting to be argumentative; that I am "taking a stand." The majority of the feedback that occurred yesterday in various forums and social media outlets was overwhelmingly positive.  I don't really mind dissension, but that is not why I posted that. I was, in effect, trying to get people to look at it from a different perspective.

Is it a good thing? Obviously yes, it is a good thing because the other option was Rev3 lasting another year or two before folding (in my opinion) OR being purchased by a different company (i.e. WTC).  It is great that Charlie and his employees (at least most of them) will still be employees of Challenge and be able to exert their influence and direction on the brand and its races.  They are a fantastic team that truly cares about the athlete's experience.  I think it will help legitimize the Challenge brand in the US, which I believe has had mixed results depending on which race you did (Challenge AC or Challenge NA).  I think it's great that some sweet venues will continue to host races (at least in the short term).  I have only done Andersen, Williamsburg and Florida but I have thoroughly enjoyed each of those (although Andersen was not nearly as good as the other two, in my opinion. But that had nothing to do with the race and was due to the location of the race).  

I got some pretty choice thoughts from this post and here are some of my favorites:

"You are the first pro athlete I have heard on this side of the argument. My thoughts are that having races is better than not having races. Same with pro purses." - James Thorp

First of all, I am not on any SIDE. In re-reading my post I don't think I come across as being on one "side" or the other. I am on the side of better athlete experiences.  I think this will continue. Whether I am a pro or not is a moot point when considering the context of what I am saying.  OBVIOUSLY, having races is better than not having races.  Pro prize purses is a whole separate discussion.  My thoughts on that DO certainly take a side, however.  One could argue that me saying that we as a community are celebrating failure is a "stretch" but it is still true, just slightly over blown.  I said that as a discussion prompt.  Remember: "If it bleeds, it leads."

"Is it a failure of a business model or is it two businesses identifying synergies and economies of scale." - Ferg

Ultimately, it IS a failure of a business model.  If it wasn't, Rev3 would be continuing status quo (in my opinion).  Just read the interviews in all those links up there.  Charlie (Patten) sounds pretty resigned.  My guess is that he is celebrating the merger with Challenge because he gets to continue putting on great races.  In the end, this is an extremely synergistic partnership that will help both companies moving forward.  My point was not really to dispute that but to identify the underlying issue at stake.

I am not, ultimately, arguing that this is a BAD thing. I am not really arguing at all. I am trying to promote a discussion of what is happening, both on a national and local level.

Think about it this way (especially if you're local to NC/VA/SC/GA/MD etc): we have a "major" player in event production, Setup Events.  For longer than I've been around they have been the go-to triathlon production company if you live in this area.  In fact, at one time I believe they were touted as putting on the most triathlons in the country (correct me if I am wrong).  Athletes got very "used" to the Setup "experience."  I can really only speak to the NCTS, but that's part of what made those races so desirable.  There were questionable decisions made (as there are with any company that is selling a product) and over the past 12-18 months the athlete experience has diminished (in my opinion) for a variety of reasons.

From that has emerged Jones Racing Company, founded by the two people who had been running NCTS division of Setup for quite some time.  To be honest, they were what really drove the positive experience that WAS NCTS for most people, even if those people didn't realize it at the time.  Now, JRC is putting on and/or timing a lot of races in NC. Triathlons, running races...mud runs even? Anyway, the triathlons (which is ultimately my concern) have not been particularly well-supported.  People ultimately speak with their dollars and, so far anyway, the words have been "I'm still fine with Setup."  I think that will change over the next 12-18 months quite a bit, but time will tell.

Other triathlon production companies include (but are not limited to) Start2Finish (emerging in NC but long-standing in TN), FS Series (mostly in Triangle area), Trivium Racing (run by a very experienced triathlete), etc.  So there are several companies vying for a piece of the pie.  Who puts on the best experience? Well, I have my own opinions on that to be sure but ultimately my opinion is a biased one (as are most opinions).  It boils down to the average triathlete.  That one right in the middle of the bell curve in terms of age, ability, means, location, etc.

Each of those aforementioned companies (with the exception of Setup) are basically small business owners.  Hope and Benji, Jen and Donny, Rich Swor, etc.  They are in a competitive marketplace.  They don't do event production to make a lot of money.  They do it, presumably, because they want to provide a great athlete experience to their customers.  They are selling a product.  Each of them started with (again, I'm assuming here) a vision of what they wanted to accomplish when they set off on their own terms (or when they started from scratch).  My guess is that each of those people or groups of people would NOT be excited to merge with the other due to the competitive landscape that is local/regional event production.  Sure, maybe then they can combine forces to "take down" Setup Events (are you sensing an analogy here?) but would that REALLY be good for the community as a whole?  Competition is a good thing.  Varying experiences are a good thing.

Rev3 and Challenge provide quite different athlete experiences (N=1).  Challenge NA was a good race experience, but it wasn't REALLY a Challenge race.  It was an HFP race.  My issues with the race were the exact same as when I did Giant Eagle back in 2011.  It was the exact same feel.  That's not a bad thing, but I think HFP has some things it needs to work on at its race production.  People continually cite how AMAZING Challenge Roth is when expressing pleasure at the merger (keep in mind, I think it's a great idea).  Challenge Roth is in Germany.  That's really far from here.  In the US, Challenge has heretofore licensed their production to local teams.

Rev3 races are a fantastic experience.  They are all the same, but in a good way.  A huge and helpful team, great branding and a desire to truly provide you with the experience you paid for.  They created that company with a specific vision on what they wanted to accomplish and have, for many years, stuck to that vision.  A big and competitive professional field and a challenge age group race on challenging courses in family-friendly venues.  That's WHAT Rev3 is.  Or, I should say that's what Rev3 was.

My hope is that Rev3 continues that mantra under the Challenge umbrella and thus, to an extent, homogenizes (and improves) the Challenge experience.  I think that is what will happen.  It will be great for everybody if it does.

But at the end of the day, Rev3 was not supported adequately by the general triathlete population.  That's what made this merger (takeover, purchase, whatever) a possibility.

That is the point I am getting at, ultimately.  I am not "taking sides" nor am I arguing that this is a "bad decision" or that it is a "failure" at its core.  I think it is a failure on the part of the triathlon community to do anything other than verbally support a brand.

Everyone likes to say "Oh I totally want to do that race" or "Man that sounds like a great venue" or "Rev3 really puts on a fantastic event" or "Challenge Roth looks incredible" (I've said that) but at the end of the day you have to put your money where your mouth is.  I'm not saying I'm not guilty; one of the only reasons I have any Rev3/HFP/Challenge experience is because I raced as a pro and thereby received free entry into the race. So that perspective allows me to chastise, but I am also chastising myself.  I don't know anything about economies of scale, synergistic business opportunities, or races in Germany but I DO know triathlon. I've gotten to talk to a lot of triathletes over the past 4 years.  I'm not saying that AS a triathlete, but as a retail sales associate.  You get a much better sense of what people know and are looking for than by browsing Slowtwitch or talking to your other above average triathlete friends.

So, let's support races that do a GOOD job.  Challenge Family is hopefully going to be one of those, more so now with their new crew.  Honestly, Ironman does a pretty good job too.  Locally, I haven't done a race I haven't enjoyed in some way.

In the end, people love being a part of something that is bigger than they are by themselves. They love competition. They love getting what they expect even if they don't know that it's what they want.

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