I don't want to turn this into an ITU vs. long-course debate and how there is a lot more money in long-course racing, etc.; I am well aware of that, but with the WTS getting an NBC deal and the Olympic cycle kicking into full gear, I'm still convinced that there are ways to unlock more value for ITU racers. Guys like Ben Kanute have had to add 70.3s into their annual schedule, both because they can get a lot more prize money but sponsors also prefer seeing their product at the front of those longer races with big age group fields. I think it's also very dangerous how USAT does a reimbursement policy for ITU races as opposed to covering costs upfront; currently you have to get top 15 at a WTS race to get reimbursed by USAT, and that creates a tremendous amount of pressure on young athletes who are already struggling to get by. You had a mechanical incident on the bike in Yokohama? Well, guess you won't get reimbursed for that $2,000 flight/hotel/meal combo. But I think that's a separate discussion.
Is there truly a market for "content creation" in triathlon, and how do pros start to really monetize that? I think the videos of Talbot Cox and Triathlon Taren are a step in the right direction, and I've actually been pretty impressed with the views they are getting and the social media activity that comes along with that. However, it comes down to a question that hasn't really been solved yet: what is the monetary value of a view/like/retweet on social media? Say a pro does a 30 second plug for a bike company prior to a workout video starting, and that content is pushed aggressively to the triathlon market, even if that leads to a couple of people around the world looking into purchasing said bike, wouldn't that be worth it to pay up a few hundred dollars? I know that the current going rate for Instagram is if you have roughly 50k followers, companies will pay around $200 for a sponsored post, but I think there is still room for negotiation there.
I also know it's important that, unless you're Jan Frodeno Olympic/Ironman World Champion, the athletes are the ones that have to pitch their value proposition to potential sponsors, as opposed to have companies come flocking to them. With my times/national success I had no business being a "pro swimmer," but I reached out to an old friend a couple of years ago who works for Blueseventy with a pitch. I looked up the photographer that they had been using for their previous catalogue shoots, found out roughly what his rate was, and then reached out to my contact saying I would take photos in their entire new swimwear line for half the cost (my roommate at the time was into photography) and I'd wear their new suits at my races for the rest of the year. Two weeks later we had a check for a couple grand and a living room full of swim gear, spent four hours the next day shooting and editing, and sent them back a google drive with 40 photos, which I still see them regularly post today. My point being that I think that there are opportunities for budding athletes out there, it just does take some effort and smart value propositions.
Another side story. I had a friend from high school who dropped out of college 6 years ago to sign a $20k/year contract with an eSports team and moved out to LA (the game he played is called League of Legends, and his gamer name is Meteos for anyone who knows the game). I also don't want to start a debate about the legitimacy of eSports, but I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from their meteroic rise in the last five years. A few months ago I was helping him with his contract negotiations for $600k/year with his new org. The industry went from playing out of parents' basements to 7-figure deals in about six years, and I think the biggest factor in that is the content creation industry and the financial support of large companies (for example, Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, is now a multi-billion dollar company and invests a lot of money in the pro league). Meteos has a big following on Twitch (the streaming platform), YouTube, and Twitter, all of which provide additional visibility for sponsors and give him the ability to grow his personal brand and connect with fans.
I'm sorry for the brain dump, but I'm really passionate about growing endurance sports and making it feasible for endurance athletes to make a good living while doing so. I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts and brainstorming other ideas.
The Gram: @agyenis
My latest story on Swimswam: More than a title