T100 World Tour

The race to the bottom: David Tilbury-Davis calls for athlete education with regards to sponsorship

David Tilbury-Davis on the "race to the bottom" in long course triathlon.

Staff Reporter
Last updated -
T100 Triathlon World Tour
Redefining triathlon

In our third and final instalment from an incredibly informative and engaging interview with triathlon coach David Tilbury-Davis, we discuss why a lack of education regarding sponsors is creating a “race to the bottom” for many long course professionals.

Having shared the story of his own path in the sport and dissected the current landscape of long course triathlon in our two previous pieces, Tilbury-Davis offers a candid insight into the fallacies many professionals are buying into as the sport evolves.

Stating clearly that “we’re not tennis and we’re not golf”, the coach of PTO World #2 Ashleigh Gentle urges triathletes to reflect on the hard work necessary to make a living in the sport and shines a spotlight on the skills outside of swim, bike and run that they need to become acquainted with.

“A lot of athletes need to take a step back”

Pointing out the differences in short course and long course pathways for young athletes, Tilbury-Davis highlights how the selection processes and criteria of governing bodies in the Olympic stream helps guide athletes decisions.

Rico Bogen wins the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships
Rico Bogen is one of the young athletes to have opted for a career in long course [Photo Credit – Nigel Roddis Getty Images for IRONMAN]

“I think from a pathway perspective, when we are talking about talented individuals, in short course a lot of National Governing Bodies have specific structures for selection and de-selection.

“If you’re a young triathlete and you have started out and you’re racing short course, you will fairly quickly know if you’ll be supported by your NGB or not and that can help you decide which direction to take with your career.

“In long course however, the PTO and the money numbers they talk around races has given people the expectation that they can come into long distance triathlon and make a living, which is just not true. The younger generation needs to reflect on the graft.”


Influencer vs Athlete

Whilst in no uncertain terms does Tilbury-Davis want young athletes going through the hardships of financial uncertainty for the sake of learning a lesson, he does call for some realism in what to expect when trying to make a living in the sport.

I think the biggest problem facing the sport as a whole is on the one hand, a lot of athletes need to take a step back, look at our sport and say ‘we’re not tennis, we’re not golf.

“On the flip side, with regards to sponsors, a lack of education for professional athletes, because there isn’t a central body to help them understand how to work with sponsors and leverage their brand, means that a lot of endemic sponsors are creating this race to the bottom effect.”

Tilbury-Davis said that when taking into account tax deductions, contracts offered to athletes are often “pretty insulting”, but that many people are accepting whatever they can get because of an inexperience in understanding their worth and properly negotiating deals.

“Athletes are accepting them [poor contracts] because nobody has given them the opportunity to understand how to leverage their brand and a lot of people are having to learn that organically.

“This is where I think a big problem lies for the younger generation, answering the question how do I build my brand without becoming an influencer and still focus on being a professional athlete.” 

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
Discover more
TRI-FIT Geo Coral women's tri suit
TRI-FIT GEO Women’s Tri Suit Review – How does it fare in our quest for the ultimate long course kit?
TRI-FIT women's sleeveless tri suit
5 race day mistakes that are sabotaging your triathlon times (and how to fix them)
Kate Auld riding on an indoor trainer
Rouvy vs Zwift: our indoor cyclists put them to the test
Professional triathletes on the bike course at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam
Fastest triathlon courses: Best IRONMAN, long course and middle distance races for a sure-fire personal best
Patagonman swim start
6 tips for taking on an Xtreme triathlon from a PATAGONMAN champion
latest News
Steve McKenna got the win at the 40th edition of IRONMAN New Zealand.
Australian star Steve McKenna shares emotional message after IRONMAN New Zealand win
Chelsea Sodaro takes the tape at the 2024 IRONMAN New Zealand.
Former IRONMAN World Champion delighted after bouncing back to first full distance win since Kona
World Triathlon Cup Miyazaki 2023 Gwen Jorgensen
Olympic gold medalist praises Boulder training environment ahead of WTCS season opener
Chelsea Sodaro PTO Asian Open 2023 run [Photo credit: PTO / Darren Wheeler]
IRONMAN New Zealand results: Steve McKenna and Chelsea Sodaro take the tape in Taupo
Third placed finisher Braden Currie sits on podium at St George photo credit IRONMAN
Former champion makes shock last minute withdrawal from IRONMAN New Zealand
Story to tell?
Share interesting & inspirational stories with our news team
The SBRX Group

Proudly elevating endurance sports through content, products & services

Share to...