We recently submitted the following to Triathlon Business International. It is now displayed on their site (link below). This is a very complex topic but we felt compelled to provide our point of view. We try very hard to take care of our Pros and would love to work with other Sponsors to find ways to do more.
Here's the post.
Professional Triathlete Compensation - Can a Rising Tide Lift All Boats
Let’s think about Triathlon as an eco-system that is comprised of age groupers, event owners, manufacturers, the media and professional athletes. Now, if you gave each constituent group a vote and asked who was in favor of more pay for the pros, we suspect that you’d see a majority of the hands go up.
But, as you all know, the majority of the Professional Triathletes are not, rolling in the dough. Now, before we go any further, we’ll acknowledge that many would argue that market forces will, in theory, determine the “Market Clearing Price” for professional athletes and that they are paid exactly what they are worth. This is logical and works well….in theory. In an “Efficient Market” and in world run by Vulcan businessmen who are devoid of human compassion and who make perfect, fact driven, non-emotional decisions, this discussion would be over quickly. But, given our lack of pointy ears and our inability to make that “V” symbol with our fingers (it just looks like a hand with the fingers spread apart in some weird wave), we’ll be so bold as to suggest that, perhaps, just perhaps, the theory may fall apart when humans are involved.
Try as we might, we can't make this V shaped wave
Maybe, what we have is an “inefficient market” that needs some attention. If we look for an analog in business, we can look at companies that practice Conscious Capitalism. Specifically, The Container Store. As you may be aware, the majority of retailers pay employees “exactly what they are worth”. Market forces keep wages in line and employees deliver a certain (generally not so awesome) level of service.
The Container Store has taken a different approach. They believe that if they pay above market wages, the employees will deliver better service and the Container Store will receive disproportionately high returns. Now, they don’t just give the employees more money and hope for the best. Rather, they spend quite a bit of time explaining their expectations for performance, they provide tools, lots of training, and they Do Not continue to reward employees who over time have shown that they cannot deliver.
Now, clearly retail has its ups and downs but over the long term, the Container Store’s theory has been born out. In fact, according to the Conscious Capitalism Institute, research has found that conscious firms (like the Container Store and Whole Foods) outperformed the overall stock market by a ratio of 10.5-to-1 over a 15-year period, delivering over 1,600% total returns when the market was up just over 150%.”
So, what does that have to do with Triathlon? Well, what if we considered Professional Triathletes as ambassadors for the sport (I avoided the term “employees” for obvious reasons) and looked to them to help grow the industry? From that point of view, perhaps we could take the Container Store approach and work to increase their compensation while, at the same time, making our expectations as sponsors very clear.
In exchange for concerted, continuous and specific actions to bring new entrants into the sport and to professionally promote the events and our brands, we (the sponsors) will work together to increase compensation for pros.
At Coeur, we are of the opinion that, if compensation goes up, more pros will be able to afford to train and race full time, the fields will get deeper, the races will become even more exciting and as a consequence, more people will be drawn into the sport. If we provide training on how to help grow the sport (i.e. be more "Professional"), we may be able to “move the needle”, so to speak.
One of our favorite sayings at Coeur Sports is that “A rising tide lifts all boats” and this may be the case here.
The form of the compensation is a discussion for another day but (in our humble opinion) this idea could work if you believe the following:
- Collectively, the Professional Triathletes are not being fully leveraged to draw people into the sport of triathlon.
- The Pros ability to draw people into the sport is significant and it can grow. Especially if non-endemic press coverage increases (but that's a blog for another day)
- We (perhaps through TBI) can provide the necessary tools (i.e. social media training, public relations help) to allow the Pros to be better ambassadors
- It is in the best interest of sponsors to work together on this issue as opposed to competing
Clearly, this is a very complex topic that cannot be fully captured in a single blog post but at Coeur Sports, we do believe in the Pros. Consequently, we'd be open to discussing this idea with anyone else that believes Professional Triathletes represent significant untapped potential to create a “Rising Tide” for the entire industry.