Before traveling from Australia’s Gold Coast to the endurance sports nirvana of Boulder, Colorado, 21-year old professional triathlete Jake Montgomery took a selfie from inside the barrel of a wave. And then he shared it to his 2,500 followers on Instagram.
Breaking the mold of what a professional triathlete does today (don’t they just swim-bike-run?), Montgomery is one of the several full-time athletes successful at intersecting their Millennial generation with endurance sports. Companies wanting to easily and authentically associate their brands with the Millennial consumer and digital natives can find unexpected success with these endurance athletes.
Cracking the Millennial Code
Attempts to crack the Millennial code have created numerous campaigns, competing theories, and piles of reports about how to engage with this audience, but here are a few things we know:
- Millennials are typically considered being born between 1980 and 1996. In theUnited States, there are approximately 73 million Millennials between the ages of 20 and 36 years old.
- Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers and will wield huge economic clout simply by their population.
- As a whole, Millennial’s values, attitudes, and behaviors around careers, relationships, and health, are noticeably different from earlier generations. The Gallup organization recently released its report How Millennials Want To Work and Live. A key takeaway is that Millennials operate with the principle “It’s not just my job, it’s my life,” unlike, for example, baby boomers who neatly organized life divided between work and home.
With Millennials comprising a majority of the U.S. population, their ways of life – what they do, their purchases, how they spend their free time – are impacting many industries, including the sports business.
For instance, The Wall Street Journal recently caused a ruckus with its article, How the Millennials Ended the Running Boom, that described how the participation of Millennials in traditional organized running events is dropping as is the number of young adults running non-competitively, ultimately slowing the overall growth rate of running. Millennials are more interested, the article states, in overall health and new experiences than in identifying with a particular activity. “I don’t run 5Ks because I’m a runner. I run 5Ks because I like to be fit.”
Conversely, of the 22 million unique visitors to AMI’s online Active Lifestyle Network, including Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness digital sites, approximately 71% are Millennials. Millennial males are even more engaged on the Men’s Fitness website: 68% of its overall traffic are 18 to 34-year-old males.
Living the Sweet Spot of Brands, Sports and Millennials
Instead of viewing generational differences as threats upending everything we know, we see in endurance sports, specifically triathlon, a promising interplay between the sport and Millennials.
Millennial professional triathletes, with their lifestyle mixing whole body wellness, sports career, and generational mindset, give companies new and dynamic ways of sharing messaging and stories. In their trademark new way, Millennials are invigorating endurance sports:
- Unlike other pro athletes building a legacy within one discipline, professional triathletes combine the three different sports of swimming, cycling, and running – each with its own gear, training demands, and fan bases – into one.
- An individual triathlete has the potential to connect to multiple audiences seeking information about not just about the latest wetsuits and bike wheels, but how to integrate high-performance practices and wellness into regular life, how other activities, such as yoga or paddle boarding, provide fitness, and more.
- A tech-heavy sport overflowing with data-tracking wearables and apps, triathlon welcomes digital natives. Comfortable and savvy with social media, professional triathletes within the Millennial generation have a solid and growing community of fans around the world.
- Excellent at blending the intense demands of being a professional triathlete with the mindset and activities common to Millennials, these athletes authentically speak and listen to the flat-brimmed hat generation and their athletic peers.
- While Millennial endurance sports stars may not (yet) be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the athletes are more accessible and easy to work with, and their reach into markets by companies can be targeted and individualized.
Here are a few examples of how the Millennial generation is adding value to the global triathlon, and larger endurance sports, community.
Staying Strong Through Video Games
Multiple IRONMAN 70.3 champion Sam Appleton trains and races hard, but also understands the necessity of recovery to stay in elite physical condition. More often than not, that period of physiological rejuvenation includes an XBOX and a headset. As a Millennial gamer, Appo enjoys his generation’s downtime activity that also furthers his professional career, sometimes with the aid of recovery pressure devices such as Normatec, pictured here.
Professional Training for Personal Wellness
Only a few days after he turns 21 later this year, triathlon and XTERRA prodigy Mauricio Mendez will have competed four times at the XTERRA World Championships as a professional, including taking fifth at his debut pro appearance at the competition snaking along the beaches and trails of
Maui. Mexico’s Mendez credits his success to a constant focus on developing both a healthy body and attitude. His blogs and social media posts frequently connect his elite athletic training with a larger motivation to improve himself.
Mendez is speaking the language of his generation: Millennials are more engaged when given opportunities for improving a skill and bettering themselves through experiences versus exclusively focused on the outcome.
Traveling as a Sports Ambassador
According to The GBrief, a newsletter focused on Millennials, the generation gets around. The GBrief estimates that Millennials travel more often than other generations and spend about $200 billion a year on travel as 22% of all travelers.Online travel resources and the sharing economy like Airbnb are a few of the tools helping the young adult population explore the world.
Like her generation, IRONMAN 70.3 champion Radka Vodičková is accustomed to traveling, particularly through Southeast Asia and Australia, as she competes and trains for long-distance triathlons. She documents and shares her adventures interacting with local youth or riding a tut-tut with other athletes. The best part is that Vodičková genuinely enjoys the travel in addition to her racing.
Vodičková is not alone within her field. Most professional triathletes are competing at races around the world year-round and are adept at sharing their travel adventures in addition to their training. IRONMAN champ Ben Hoffman has already competed in Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, and United States this year.
Communicating Directly via Social Media
In its report on Millennials, Gallup found that 71% of Millennials use the internet to get news, compared to 51% Gen Xers and 30% Baby Boomers. Only 15% of Millennials power on the television for news compared to a full 50% of Baby Boomers. With smartphones, Wi-Fi, the latest social media, and video sharing apps like SnapChat, Millennials get their news in small segments, at any time from both established media organizations, like-minded peers, and content generated by companies.
While traveling last year across the United States and Australia to train and race, ITU and IRONMAN 70.3 champ Jake Montgomery recorded his travels with a GoPro camera. Not the typical race re-cap and definitely not the standard vacation video, Montgomery’s video was a reflection of a young athlete at the start-line of promising new career. Those videos are complemented by Montgomery’s Snapchat stories(@jakemont23) showing the champion-in-training living his triathlete lifestyle with Saturday training rides and an empty pool at sunrise.
The Millennial triathlete is directly talking to his generation and athletic peers without a big production.
Primed for the Today’s Generation & Tomorrow’s Race
Millennial triathletes are expanding the global fan base for themselves and endurance sports in general thanks to their elite athletic performances springing from physical and personal wellness, social media and tech savvy, traveling instincts, and giving back.
Jake, Sam, Mauricio and Radka are just a few of the professional endurance athletes who are having a blast and finding success at the intersection of their generation and the active lifestyle.
Contact us to explore how Millennial triathletes and other endurance sport athletes are primed to connect your brand to their generation.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, the Human Interest Group (HIG) provides marketing bandwidth, sponsor activation strategies and services, and audience-building content for companies around the world. Our clients are established and entrepreneurial businesses in the triathlon, endurance sports, and active lifestyle industries. Whether needing a credible brand ambassador or wanting a more effective business development strategy, clients value our relationships, knowledge, and credibility within the active lifestyle communities. Got an idea?www.professionaltriathlon.com