Here is what a person in the sports marketing business would say about that:
- Rock and Roll Marathons were a slam-dunk: brought marathons to a whole new market for the consumers (walkers) and packaged a "festival" for the city (like a "Taste of the town").
- Timberman started at a time - and place - when/where there was not a lot of competition and built their "brand" by being in the right place at the right time at the beginning of a growth phase for the sport, allowed them to capture a market (lots of repeat customers and good location for lack of competition)
- Triathlon is actually a "mature-growth" market - it is growing, yes, but it the supply and demand is fairly well-established and new suppliers have difficulty a real challenge distinguishing themselves. Don't you think? Are their many new races that have grown a lot in the last few years, compared to all the new races that have been added to the calendar?
I really think all this talk about "brand building" is way off the mark. This sport isn't like toothpaste, where people regularly by it at the same local store and see Crest and Colgate and Rembrandt side-by-side, so they might switch if you sell them hard enough. Just because Wildflower or Auburn have great brands, I live on the East Coast, have a pretty full schedule and see plenty of similar events all over the place, which prevents me from going to either one or the other very often. Wildflower has a great brand because of the nude specators and vodka at aid stations. ;-)
The "product" that fits participants "need" is not really a "brand" thing, no matter how hard it is marketed. People, I think, "buy" based on race 1) distance & calendar, the 2) location, then 3) event "type". Yes, 3# includes "brand", but the primary reason for attending is not really brand. If a new entrant can't distinguish itself in #1 & #2, then it is very expensive to build a brand. Look at the money spent in the late 1990's on brand building internet companies. Most all of them were mistaken.