You’ve probably already seen Lionel Sanders‘ latest YouTube video which dropped over the holiday season.
If not then check out the (WARNING: expletive-laden) embed below, but fair to say it ticked a lot of the boxes from a
click bait engagement point of view:
✅✅✅✅ F-bombs – lots
✅✅✅ Modern-day GOAT Jan Frodeno vs next-generation Norwegians
✅✅ Fired up for 2023 and with “vengeance in his heart”
✅ Another apparent huge U-turn with his own training philosophy
It’s easy to question lots of it – “I definitely lost money this year going to races” says the man who was second (earning $65,000) at the IRONMAN World Championship in St George and won his Collins Cup heat, prompting the question: “So am I a professional? I’m a YouTuber now.”
And if he was out of pocket with his results then it underlines how far the sport – even in this PTO era – has to go.
But what you can’t argue with is its effectiveness.
Once again the views are heading towards the 100,000 mark and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive and clearly strikes a chord.
On the notion that the long-distance baton has passed from modern-day GOAT Jan Frodeno to Norwegians Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden, winners of the respective IRONMAN World Championships in Utah and Kona, Sanders goes into overdrive:
“That is so ******* ridiculous and disrespectful – the fact of the matter is, these guys have never raced Jan.
“Jan lifted this sport. That’s a fact. Period.”
No arguing with any of that factually – but equally no one can accuse the Norwegians of ducking a battle.
Again though, whether you agree or disagree, it’s pretty much perfect for provoking a reaction and Sanders knows it. He’s pure box office. Even at the Collins Cup and the Sam Long / Sam Laidlow spat, he also knew exactly when he barely needed to get involved.
Setting the agenda
In terms of his social strategy, he’s been a step or two ahead of pretty much everyone in the sport for a while now. Few athletes have a bigger fanbase or a better relationship with it – and he’s using new platforms all the time, Discord last year and who knows what in 2023 and beyond.
So while he berates himself in the video and finds negatives in pretty much everything race-wise in 2022 (even that St George second), it’s also teeing up the comeback story over the next 12 months.
“I am not even a factor anymore – my last two Championship-level races I’m almost in last place,” he says.
“I race best when I’m mad and I have vengeance in my heart. And that’s what I come into 2023 with. I’m fired up.”
Which only serves to underline how much he’s controlling the narrative – he actually starts the new campaign at #6 in the world rankings.
He’s a priceless asset as the sport looks to find new audiences, long may that continue both on and off the race course.