UTMB And Ironman Partnership

A true festival of trail running

The clearest change that has taken place with the UTMB is seen in its outward appearance.

At the launch of the UTMB World Series last year, Paris-based agency MNSTR gave the branding a modern, sophisticated makeover. This slicker, more upscale look provided a blank slate to promote a select group of sponsors.

Hoka, a rapidly developing running brand, is the premier partner of the UTMB World Series, while Dacia and Wahoo take on the role of second-tier partners. There are also technical suppliers including Buff, Camelbak and Compressport.

By aligning with UTMB, these companies have the opportunity to have their branding and publicity seen by a wide collection of people. Thanks to the centralized marketing platform, their logos will be on display in the larger sponsor village at Chamonix and these businesses can take part in real-time activities too; one particularly gripping example was the luminescent light tunnel from Hoka.

UTMB Group has chosen to narrow down their commercial partners to ensure that these chosen few receive more value and exposure, without disregarding the multitude of companies in the outdoor gear marketplace particularly those focused on trail running.

Hoka is the only line of footwear and apparel to have an exclusive partnership with the series, but plenty of other well-known brands like Brooks, Altra, Adidas-Terrex, The North Face, Salomon, Black Diamond, La Sportiva and Merrell are all involved and visible at the Chamonix event. Their athletes, as well as company heads, are representing the companies there.

Brands that don’t have an official sponsorship for the event may not create content from the course, nevertheless, they may buy the image and video footage to publicize their supported athletes and teams.

They also have the option to purchase a booth in the sponsor village. Additionally, they can organize advertising activities in their shops as well as other areas in the city.

Isabelle Poletti, the event director, has expressed her commitment to maintaining equilibrium between partner brands and other brands as various teams represent various brands. It is crucial for the growth of any sport for these teams to be able to build their rosters with their own players.

“Also, we have more than 200km of track. It’s not comparable to a football stadium because we do not have an enclosed space, so it’s impossible for us to control everything that happens in the mountains. It would be better to allow everyone to use the event in whatever way they desire, rather than prohibiting it; if we don’t allow it, people will find ways to do it somewhere else where we cannot monitor it.

It is essential for brands and runners to not miss the opportunity of the UTMB Mont-Blanc which is held for a week. Anyone who is anyone in trail running is here.

Many YouTubers and vloggers are well-known, walking the streets and going to nearby trails with GoPros and gimbals. Athlete influencers, who have worked tirelessly and have nice tans, are frequently going up the mountains to create content for companies such as Strava with the beautiful vista of the French Alps in the background.

Anticipation is growing as the main races draw nearer, while smaller races and promotional activities occur throughout the week. Attendees at this annual trail running event can expect autograph signings, presentations, interactive discussions, early morning joggers, yoga classes, the launch of new products, celebrations, and movie showings. It’s a festive atmosphere of trail running that brings together pros and recreational runners alike.

This week is an extraordinary opportunity for the UTMB Group to demonstrate the highly sought-after enticement of the UTMB series of competitions to prospective collaborators.

Negotiations with a lot of firms are transpiring at the Maison d’UTMB, the gathering point in the centre of Chamonix, and in various other places throughout the town while the planners, backed by an Ironman crew, are seeking to broaden their affiliate list ahead of 2023.

Poletti, the son of Catherine and Michel who established UTMB many years ago, has commented that the upcoming week will be a highly productive one.

More coverage, more exposure

UTMB’s renowned reputation guarantees that the best athletes participate in the event. This occasion has earned its title as the pinnacle of trail running.

This year is unlike any other, with virtually everything being much more severe.

It is thought that the competitors in the major competitions in Chamonix are the most abundant ever seen, raising both excitement and curiosity among spectators and journalists; meanwhile, the coordinators have done their utmost to expand the event’s visibility and influence.

In July, the French press corporation L’Équipe obtained the transmission and digital rights to the UTMB Globe Series, including its main event.

A group consisting of approximately 70 people situated in a hotel in the centre of Chamonix is responsible for the making of the feed, with the recently produced UTMB Live streaming service and UTMB’s official YouTube profile delivering live coverage of the three main events – the 56 kilometre OCC, the 101 kilometre CCC, and the 171-kilometre UTMB – in six foreign languages.

Improving the broadcasting activity has been a major priority for the organizers. The last few years have seen significant enhancements in content generation, causing a rise in the production value, even though Ironman’s financial backing might not have augmented as much.

Poletti states that they are altering, rather than increasing, their investment. We have invested heavily in advertising, television commercials, and signage over the years. We have altered the framework of this year’s World Series with the addition of new teams, but have not increased the expenditure, just allocated it differently. I definitely believe that all the individuals associated with this occasion are highly visible and well-noticed.

Despite the difficulties of having a signal in rough mountainous areas, the transmission is quite incredible.

Rivers remain untainted by the severe disturbance problems witnessed in numerous mainstream activities, and the quality of the production is incomparable in trail running.

Breath-taking aerial footage is captured with helicopters and drones hovering above, as well as roving cameramen that expertly move around to get a closer perspective of the race.

Viewers of all levels of interest will find the combination of the broadcast, the insight of the specialists, and the live observations of the players create an exciting and straightforward experience.

One of the most frequently voiced critiques on social media platforms is that female athletes don’t get enough exposure.

As Friday’s important event draws nearer, there is an increasing demand to enhance gender equality in its coverage as well as across the whole occasion.

Corrine Malcolm, a backed path sprinter and pundit for UTMB, communicated her dissatisfaction unmistakably after the occasion was finished, saying that the makers’ choice to concentrate largely on the men’s race was “a way of life that must be changed”.

A promise of safe, well-organized events

Andrew Messick, President and CEO of the IRONMAN Group, declared that he respects the various cultures attributed to the different endurance sports his group serves, noting it to be the largest supplier of road running (Rock ‘n Roll Marathon), mountain biking (Cape Epic, et al.), and triathlon (IRONMAN) events in the world.

In a phone call yesterday, he affirmed that they trust profoundly that they can offer well-structured, secure occasions for devoted perseverance competitors, regardless of whether it is for mountain biking, a long-distance triathlon, or running. And, that’s what athletes are looking for. The contrasts between trail runners, triathletes, road runners, and cyclists are starkly evident. I believe all endurance athletes share the same goal: to be able to compete in their main races safely, professionally and up to a high standard.

Messick claims the Polettis have the power to recognize outstanding occasions, outline the event involvement, and is certain IRONMAN will be able to mimic it.

He hinted that it was not unexpected to find someone with an IRONMAN M-Dot tattoo combined with the UTMB logo appearing in either Chamonix or Kona; this is due largely to the determination of long-distance athletes to consistently challenge themselves, a trait that makes up their close-knit “tribe”.

The Polettis plan social meet-ups and remarkable activities that can alter lives, whereas IRONMAN focuses its efforts on the organized running of events for the common good.

Messick believes they have achieved what they set out to do with the Tarawera Ultramarathon held in New Zealand, Ultra-Trail Australia featuring over 5000 participants, and the Mozart 100 located in Austria, all of which are part of the inaugural UTMB World Series.

Concerns and cautions

Leaders in both the trail and tri communities responded with both positive and negative feelings and worried about the potential benefits that the merger could bring regarding collaboration and organization.

Despite IRONMAN not attaching their brand to UTMB events, they are still entering into a partnership, resulting in a variety of questions regarding the relationship between the two major parties. UTMB, however, will retain all rights to their intellectual property.

Nancy Hobbs, the Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association humorously remarked, “The idea behind this tale could be summed up as, ‘IRONMAN leaves Hawaii in its dust and heads to Chamonix to start their collaboration with its friend UTMB.’”

Erin Beresini, a former Editor-in-Chief of Triathlete Magazine, expressed her ambiguity when she learned about the UTMB-IRONMAN collaboration. She views the money and simplified structure from the IRONMAN name as a positive. She feels dejected about the inability to keep her neighbourhood’s original atmosphere, which is disheartening.

Greg Vollet, Salomon’s Global Running & Community Marketing Manager, who organized the Golden Trail World Series, another international competition which appeals to ultra trail runners, comments that the “universe of ultra running is becoming increasingly perplexing” and that numerous event organizations are intrigued by this novel “mass market” model, yet he is worried “it will bring a lot of perplexity, pressure, and in the end dilution of top competitors over a variety of series.” Vollet refers to the fact that “every one of the races is as of now full and there are not many elite competitors in ultra running, so what else are they searching for other than business?”

Vollet desires that the cost of admission to the event will not be as high as an Ironman triathlon as triathlon has become a sport that isn’t feasible for every individual.

The core of running on trails is to be able to experience new locations (through participating in competitions and with the assurance of appropriate support coming from an organization), to communicate with each other and to feel a great emotional connection with other runners. I am concerned that entering the sports business industry will take away from the spirit of the game since only those who have financial capabilities will be allowed to participate.

Messick is aware that the UTMB World Series will entice top-level runners away from other competitions but views the ability to choose for the runners as a beneficial thing.

Michel Poletti agreed, remarking that cyclists have exclusive events such as the Tour de France and World Championships to draw from when deciding.

Hobbs commented that some of the same queries were raised when Spartan first got into trail running.

The involvement of Spartan had a beneficial effect, leading to the addition of more people taking part in trail running, garnering media attention, and allowing more chances to indulge with a well-known and successful company. Some of these elements may come into play in the alliance between UTMB and Ironman. Will the outcome of these changes bring about higher entry costs and more barriers to becoming eligible, as well as giving more focus to a small hamlet located in the French Alps, leaving smaller competitions in its expanding path, and trails near Chamonix that get demolished due to too much usage? Will this combination create a strong driving force that increases the exposure of our rising sport in the news, resulting in a larger number of followers and an opportunity for more businesses to reach a global market?

A giant force

The combination of the UTMB World Series and the Polettis’ and IRONMAN’s collective strength will be a formidable power. But, similar to the European Super League project which did not succeed, this joint operation will not be successful unless it meets the needs of the demanding viewers.

American ultra runners commonly have a preference for unique and unusual races with a distinct local theme, which ITRA and ATRA understand and accommodate by providing assistance to smaller race directors and events for participants who don’t want to venture very far to enjoy their sport with companions.

Messick states that when you are sure you want to push yourself, you need to be certain that the course is properly marked, necessary help stations are available, and the measurement of the route is accurate.

On occasion, one craves the taste of the bohemian café while other times, they yearn for its reliability and steadiness.

For those who are looking for multiple options, there are Spartan, Sky, Golden, Xterra, and UTMB. For those seeking hundreds of possibilities, they still exist. It is hoped that, as the sport increases in popularity, none of these participants will be absent anytime shortly!


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