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The big picture: PTO’s Godfrey on the future growth of triathlon

PTO marketing chief on his vision for the future of triathlon

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The PTO (Professional Triathletes Organisation) recently announced an expanded calendar of events for 2022, but it has a much bigger vision still for the future of the sport according to Tim Godfrey.

While staging successful races is clearly a goal for marketing chief Godfrey and his colleagues, he says they form just part of the story.

Speaking on German triathlete Niklas Ludwig’s Gain 3 podcast, Godfrey was asked which event he thought would be the sport’s biggest draw in 20 years’ time. The answer was illuminating.

He said: “If we have consolidated our events and we have a very successful event structure and our athletes are doing well, they are earning the money they should be, our broadcasters are happy and we are developing and pushing forward the sport, it doesn’t really matter to us.  

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Growing the whole sport

“We sit very agnostically within triathlon because we are the athlete body. We want IRONMAN World Championship in Kona to be very, very successful because it helps the sport. 

Super League Triathlon is a fantastic new format, which has condensed the sport into a short-course format made for TV. 

Malibu, USA - SEPTEMBER 25th 2021 . SuperLeague Malibu, Mens Pro Race at Zuma Beach California, USA 25/9/2021 (Darren Wheeler - That Cameraman/SuperLeague)
Photo Credit – Darren Wheeler – That Cameraman/SuperLeague

“If our athletes compete in Super League, that’s great, because ultimately they get more profile and they can earn more money from it as well. 

“I don’t know what will be the signature event, but all we hope for is for triathlon to continue to move in the right direction and have the right thesis and the right philosophy behind it. 

“We believe we can do that through being the athlete body and the athletes being united.” 

Last year saw the PTO launch the Collins Cup with teams from Europe, USA and the rest of the world competing for the trophy, and 2022 sees Canadian and US Opens added to the schedule

Godfrey said: “The Collins Cup has the potential to be very much a flagship event. Who knows what it looks like in 20 years? It would be phenomenal if that was to be a signature event.” 

The wider landscape

Godfrey, who has had previous success in developing motor racing’s Formula E and sailing’s SailGP, reflected on how different sports have developed – and therefore the need for the PTO to maintain a flexible approach. 

He said: “Formula 1 will always be seen as the pinnacle of motorsport. So, if you were a budding go-karter, who wanted to move up the ranks within that space, the top of that is Formula 1. I’m not sure that will ever change because of the legacy and history it has. 

“Sport develops in different ways. Take sailing and SailGP. The Americas Cup is seen as the pinnacle of in-shore racing. SailGP has come along and disrupted that model. It has created a different concept for the modern-day sports world, so sport is evolving all the time and that’s the way it should go. 

“There’s other examples of things like Tiebreaks 10s, which is the short-form version of tennis. Will it ever be the absolute pinnacle of tennis? I’m not sure it will, purely because the Grand Slams are so entrenched in people’s habits. 

“We hope to grow the whole sport of triathlon, not just the PTO events. The PTO events are there, but we hope to grow the whole sport and make it even more successful than it is.” 

Whether or not one particular event becomes king, raising profile will be the way the PTO can make progress. 

Marketing the ‘Majors’

Sam Long Collins Cup 2021
The inaugural Collins Cup in Samorin, Slovakia in August 2021.

“The strategic vision here is to create a media and marketing product and with that we have to have our events,” explained Godfrey.

“And so, when we’re up to full specification, we will have the PTO Canadian Open, the PTO US Open, the PTO Asian Open and the PTO European Open – and then we will have the Collins Cup. 

“They will be our five majors, and around that event framework, which will be the PTO tour, we will create media and marketing which will consist of the live broadcast at every event, our highlights product and our preview and reviews, which will all get distributed to the world’s biggest broadcasters.” 

Godfrey expects most of the PTO’s revenue will come from media rights, sponsorship and host city fees, and says they can build steadily since they have strong investor support. 

He said: “We are very well funded, so we are not under pressure right now to have money incoming.  

“We have the ability to make the right decisions and the right investments for a longer-term gain. 

“We are putting the right building blocks in place to make sure those revenue streams come in.” 

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Written by
Ed Mezzetti
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