On Tuesday, after inviting followers to “tune into for this super announcement,” on Facebook, Ironman fans were disappointed to find out that instead of an update on the current race situation, or changes to the Ironman World Championship, the “super” announcement was about a new title sponsor for the race in Kona.
The announcement was made through a 22-minute video presentation that began with Ironman senior VP World Championship events Diana Bertsch introducing the theme for this year’s Kona event – “Kumukahi – A new Beginning,” before getting into the news about the new title sponsor, SuperSapiens.
The post has generated over 300 comments on the company’s Facebook page, the majority of which are negative. Many are similar to Richard Hmann’s post: “Are you serious??? They are announcing a sponsor???”
“More nails in the Ironman brand’s coffin…” said Clement Ahiekpor.
Christopher Schroeder offered up some PR advice for the company: “I’ll answer your ad with my own pitch… your target audience doesn’t care about PR/Advertisement content like this. You need a digital marketing company that can provide data-driven topics that serve the needs of your target audience. Happy to help with said research while providing a content framework that allows traditional PR content & impactful audience-driven content to work together.”
Earlier this year Ironman saw similar criticism over a video it put on its Facebook page in which CEO Andrew Messick provided an update on the challenges the company was facing through the pandemic. Athletes lashed out then about the company’s transfer and refund policy, which has been a source of frustration for many competitors – we wrote about that issue last July.
Many athletes feel that Ironman has lost touch with its customer base: “Again…..nobody cares,” Jim Trainor commented on the Facebook announcement. “We just want to race. Ironman needs to understand it customers.”
“That’s it!!?” Richard Elkington asked. “ A marketing plug for a partner…. wow…. why isn’t this about athletes and the challenges they have been through. Ironman….. I’m out!!! Not happy.”
Challenge Roth announces new presenting sponsor
Contrast that reaction to the considerably more subdued presentation from Challenge Roth about its new presenting sponsor “hep – there is no planet b” that featured popular Ironman world champ Sebastian Kienle and other members of the Hep Sports Team, Laura Philipp and Maurice Clavel.
The most critical comment that came up on the Facebook post was from Friedrich Sold, who predicted the race “Won’t be happening in September.”
The Instagram post of the announcement event got a praise from Australian media outlet Witsup – “Oh this is excellent news!!”
While athletes seemed to recoil over what they felt was an “ad” from Ironman, the Roth organizers expressed how thankful they were to be able to sign a major sponsor during these troubled times, and framed the Hep partnership as a chance to continue the race’s commitment to recycling and sustainability. (Hep builds and operates solar parks around the world.)
“In spite of the global pandemic we are thrilled and thankful to announce that we were able to partner with @hepglobal – there is no planet b,” the Instagram post says. “In future, DATEV Challenge Roth powered by hep will not only ensure athletes can fulfil their dreams in the Roth finish line stadium; with the new partnership, the event will also expand its role as a sustainable triathlon.”
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