Host City: The sports events market is crowded with a busy calendar – what were the challenges in launching Super League Triathlon and what is it that makes Super League Triathlon stand out?
Michael D’hulst: We have developed a unique product, a game changing reinvention of triathlon, and Super League appeals to the modern-day consumer in that it is very action packed, entertaining, accessible, green and sustainable, so we tick a lot of boxes.
We are also less disruptive than many other triathlons because of our small footprint.
All we need to operate an event is an 800-metre loop and that can be done in the middle of a city or even using bike ways because we need so little in the way of road closures.
We have a proven concept which we have won awards for and we can deliver these amazing entertainment and sporting events while showcasing our host cities. We always integrate with them and ensure we are not disruptive.
Though we are always mindful of a busy sporting calendar, because of our unique product we don’t consider it too much beyond arranging around the availability of our athletes and broadcast schedules.
Host City: How many visitors and participants do you typically get at Super League Triathlon events – what’s the demographic?
Michael D’hulst: Our demographic is the typical one of triathlon in terms of ABC1 – but there is one very important difference in that our audience is younger.
There is already a clear trend that fans of Super League Triathlon are a lot younger than, for example, Ironman. We see that in our social media too and help to drive that through our innovative presentation.
Our demographic is very valuable to an event host as they have a higher propensity to spend.
We are also engaging a good percentage of the population of our hosts.
On Jersey, an island of 100,000 people, we get 20,000 people coming to the events.
In 2020 we are looking to grow into bigger cities and we see attendance growing exponentially as a result.
Host City: How is the action shared to viewers that aren’t able to attend in person – what are the viewing figures and on which platforms?
Michael D’hulst: One of the major drawing cards for Super League Triathlon is that we invest a lot in creating free content, live broadcasting, streaming and on our social media platforms.
The biggest audience is in France but there is significant growth around continental Europe.
Our social media numbers have also grown exponentially event by event. If we continue the growth trends we have seen so far we expect a reach of 42 million across Facebook and Instagram for our next event.
In terms of impressions combined across those platforms, we are estimating 65 million plus.
We work with 104 broadcasters to reach 1.16 billion households and our last event in Singapore had 520 hours of broadcast time. We have seen these numbers grow event by event.
Host City: How else do destinations benefit from hosting Super League Triathlon?
Michael D’hulst: We focus on several elements.
Having a direct economic impact is always important to a destination.
Then the media value we drive and the emphasis we have on leveraging television and social media, distributing behind the scenes and destination content in the build-up to a race, pushing out news features, live streaming, highlights, post-produced documentary etc.
But, arguably, the intangible factors are even more important. We are speaking about a very interesting demographic, whose lives and priorities are aligned with the host cities we are targeting.
We have our professional athletes under contract and that means we can utilise them as we create a whole outreach programme that builds into communities and we customise to what the host venue wants.
For example, they may want to showcase their sustainability efforts to the world and promote healthy living – perhaps like Jersey’s ocean culture – or maybe like Singapore leveraging our expertise to help create a high-performance culture because they have Olympic medal dreams.
We will also take our athletes into schools, local communities and businesses.
We customise how we leverage what we bring to the table with our athletes and brand, to make that work for our hosts and also ensure there is a legacy that continues year-round.
At the event itself, it’s more than just the professional racing as we build out corporate hospitality with direct access to pros, participation events for amateurs of all abilities to encourage people to participate in our wonderful sport and a Fan Zone with an emphasis on being family friendly.
Host City: What are the main criteria you look for in a host destination?
Michael D’hulst: There needs to be shared values and an alignment with the demographic and the sport. For example, an emphasis on an outdoor and healthy lifestyle, a focus on sustainability, and also innovation.
Television is a big part of what we do so we look for scenic and iconic spots that people see on television and think ‘wow’, and our venues only require an 800-metre loop.
Host City: I am sure many destinations would jump at the chance to host Super League Triathlon – what’s the process of bidding to host an event?
Michael D’hulst: We are arranging a calendar typically a minimum of 12 months in advance.
We are looking at our 2021 calendar at the moment and we have a Championship Series that runs August-November.
We need to be responsible as well and to look after the athletes and their movements around the world.
It typically all starts with an expression of interest from a host city and then we have a conversation as to how we make that work. The formal selection decisions for 2021 will be made in summer 2020.
Host City: How would you sum up 2019 for Super League Triathlon so far and what are your expectations of 2020?
Michael D’hulst: It was always the case that 2019 was going to be a challenging season because of the upcoming Olympics. Triathlon is an Olympic sport and, understandably, a key goal for many of our athletes, and we fully respect that.
We consulted with them and decided to run two Championship Series events in 2019 but to use this ‘Olympic pause’ to prepare and work closely with our host venues to deliver what will be by far our biggest and best season yet with many more events in 2020.
We have some very exciting times ahead.
Super League Triathlon CEO Michael D’hulst is speaking at Host City 2019 in Glasgow on 26-27 November