Posted on December 2, 2014

The UK’s Triathlon Industry Association claims that their three-discipline sport is the ‘fastest growing in the UK’. A recent global multisport research project conducted by SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. confirms that swimming, running, and cycling are the three leading sports in the UK for participation, and so there is vast potential for athletes to amalgamate their existing participation and become Triathletes.

Swimming is the number one sport in the UK with almost a third of the adult population classing themselves as a swimmer (participating four times a year or more). Running is second with around 10.5 million participants, and cycling third with just under 9 million. Around 10% of the UK adult population participate in two of the three triathlon sports, and over half of those participate in all three activities, thus clearly demonstrating the potential reach, and growth of triathlon as a unique sport.

While each of the three component sports has long been enjoyed by large numbers of people, we are now seeing real growth in participation in this relatively modern combination sport. Although the origin of ‘Les Trois Sports’ is attributed to France in the 1920’s, the first modern swim-bike-run event entitled ‘Triathlon’ was held in San Diego, California in 1974, operated by members of the San Diego Track Club, making the modern event merely forty years old.

Bearing in mind that this first modern Triathlon was administered by runners at a track club, the claim that running is a major point of entry into the sport is not surprising.

The statistics seem to support this: SMS INC. estimates that of the 8% of the UK adult population who are avid runners (running at least once a week throughout the year), approximately 14% of these are also avid cyclists, 16% also avid swimmers and 4% avid participants in all three sports.

However it is the avid cyclist who is most likely to also participate in the two othertriathlon sports. Over a quarter of these cyclists also profess to be avid runners, one-fifth swim weekly, and 7% are avid in all three.

The higher crossover of cyclists to the other sports could be a consequence of the higher costs of cycling in comparison to running or swimming; neither of which necessitate great cost in terms of equipment. The avid cyclist is therefore someone with greater means and willingness to commit cash to their sport as well as time.

The interest in Triathlon in the UK has particularly flourished in recent years following the successes of the Brownlee brothers at the London Olympics in 2012, and subsequently at the ITU World Grand Final, also staged in Hyde Park, one year ago.

The 2013 World Grand Final, supported by the Mayor of London, was one of the first major Olympic legacy events to occur in the capital and welcomed over 8,500 participants from around the globe, competing for Elite, U23, Juniors, Para-triathlon and Age-Group World Championship Titles. It also offered the opportunity for the Open Age-Group to participate, and experience the same Hyde Park fervour as the sport’s elite.

SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. also endorsed the event as the approved equipment census provider, conducting a comprehensive analysis of all brands used in each discipline.

Blueseventy and Orca were the leading wetsuit brands counted at transition one after the swim through Hyde Park’s Serpentine, among more than 60 different wetsuit brands present.

Asics was the most prevalent brand of running shoe throughout all five days of competition: 25% of all competitors wore the Japanese running specialist’s shoes making it the leader in all competition categories, despite over 30 other running shoe brands featuring.

Ten equipment categories were monitored in the cycling stage including the bike itself, the shoes, the pedals, the groupsets, wheels, aerobar and eyewear among others. While not all competitors exhibited items in all categories (over half of the competitors did not have a cycle computer, and one third did not have eyewear) the report comprises a comprehensive indicator of the complexity, in terms of kit, of the cycling discipline alone, and the multitude of brands that compete there..

So, while committed participants are not discouraged by the multitude of kit that retailers may offer to aid participation, only certain equipment is fundamental to the sport. Stripped back to the basics of simply swim, a ride, and a run, many retailers can supply a potential participant with the essentials of a swimsuit, bike (plus helmet), and a pair of running shoes helping the sport to continue to thrive.

Back to results