Columns › CEO's Column
12 Nov 2020
4 min read
Column by Super League Triathlon CEO Michael D’hulst
Super League is heading to the USA with a mission – to make professional short course racing cool again.
Our exciting announcement this week that we have acquired the Malibu Triathlon has certainly got people talking and speculating on what all this might mean.
In the context of Super League’s overall strategy, it is a very natural move.
We have come such a long way since our inception and the first test event in Hamilton Island in 2017.
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It really has been a rapid journey, but we don’t want to rest on the success we have already achieved and have bigger and better ambitions for triathlon, driven by our goal to make it a spectator sport.
The plan for 2020 was to take Super League events to the world’s biggest triathlon markets. Three of those are in Europe – Germany, UK and France. The other is the USA. Obviously COVID has proved a major disruption this year, and so those plans had to be postponed. Postponed but not cancelled. The acquisition of Malibu Triathlon goes to prove that.
The US market is very different to the European one. In Europe professional short course triathlon has been booming. The pros are gaining increasing profile, they are earning good money and there is a lot of buzz and interest around the major races. We only need to look at our own growth, for example on our digital channels and the uptake from broadcasters, to see the demand and appetite for the sport.
That is not so much the case in the USA, and that’s what we aim to change. Over the last ten years, the US has started to forget a bit about short course racing, and has instead focussed on Ironman and 70.3. Much of that, however, has been from a participation point of view with the pros being somewhat marginalised.
There is still a very hardcore audience that follow them, but it is small when you compare it to the popularity and success of the short course athletes in Europe.
I got into triathlon after seeing my fellow countryman Luc van Lierde win Kona, and I have enjoyed the stories of the Ironwars between Mark Allen and Dave Scott.
But increasingly people are talking about them less and less as those incredible races move further into the past, and these guys are not being replaced by new heroes who are revered in the same way. That is where we come in.
I am not in any way underestimating the size of this challenge. That is one of the reasons we didn’t want to just tackle this alone. I felt we ideally needed an existing player in the market.
For me, the Malibu Triathlon was the obvious choice. It is one of the only surviving short course races in the USA that has a long history and tradition of professional racing.
Super League is all about entertainment and there is a nod towards that as well with the fact that Malibu caters so well for the entertainment industry.
At Super League we have also spent a lot of time working in the communities of our host venues.
Community is something that is really important for the Malibu Triathlon, and that synergy was another thing that attracted me towards it.
In particular, the incredible work it has done over the last 34 years in raising more than $15m for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We want to add plenty more dollars to that total in the years ahead.
People have already asked me for the exact details of what we will be doing. I have to ask for just a little patience here.
Michael Epstein, the long standing Executive Producer, has done a fantastic job in growing it year after year into what it is today and we don’t want to try and disrupt it. Instead, we want to add to it.
We are going to take the next couple of months to review the schedule, to look at the course, to speak with stakeholders, and expect to announce more detailed plans for 2021 in the first quarter of the new year.
For now I am just very excited that I can share the news of the acquisition and we can get to work on bringing Super League to the USA. It’s going to be fantastic.
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