Between Alistair Brownlee’s gold medal-winning exploits in Hyde Park in 2012 and on Copacabana Beach in 2016, the UK triathlon industry grew by 57% to arrive at an industry worth £445 million in 2016, according to the fifth annual research study of Britain’s multisport community by the Triathlon Industry Association (TIA).
The study, which comprised an in-depth quantitative survey of 5,529 triathletes and multiple trade interviews, found that the UK’s growing population of 150,000 triathletes, up 7% on 2015, are now spending an average of £2,970 per year on the sport.
Since London 2012, the areas driving growth included wetsuits (up 137%), sports nutrition (up 82%) and event entries, travel and accommodation (up 67%).
Wetsuit sales, benefitting from the growth in the popularity of open water swimming alongside triathlon, increased 13% last year, with 72% of those surveyed having bought a new wetsuit within the past three years.
The growing adoption of sports nutrition, up 15% year on year, as a training and race aid was evidenced by 75% of respondents now using nutrition products at least once per week.
The economic uncertainty introduced by June’s Brexit vote was unable to stop the industry growing by 4.4% overall on a like-for-like basis in 2016 (Including fundraising, which was measured for the first time in 2016, the market grew by 6.6%). Whilst the ‘big ticket’ purchasing of bikes did suffer, down by 7%, triathletes seemed to console themselves by travelling overseas to race, with 24% racing outside the UK last year.
Despite triathlon no longer being the new kid on the block, its grassroots still look in good shape with 37% of those questioned having started their first race in the last three years. Running is still the primary source for new starters, with 56% of new triathletes having previously been runners.
New starters are also the primary drivers of the sport’s fundraising efforts. They are almost twice as likely than the average 8% of triathletes, who raise money for charity when they race. But when triathletes fundraise they raise hard, with an average haul of £700 per person for good causes.
Reinforcing last year’s social media results, Strava (52%) remains the second favourite social media channel of triathletes, behind Facebook (82%), but last year Strava extended its lead on third placed Twitter (39%).
Mel Berry, TIA Chair, comments on the latest findings: “For a niche yet constantly evolving sport like ours, this annual study is hugely important; it provides us with a detailed understanding of our community, and the trends affecting them, which gives us the vital confidence to make informed decisions, both individually and collectively. I would like to extend a big thank you to all of the 5,529 survey respondents and to the trade representatives who helped fine-tune the report.”
The Triathlon Industry Association (TIA) comprises event organisers, equipment manufacturers, tour operators, retailers, distributors and media.
The full 126-page report was produced by independent firm Multisport Research. It is available free to all full members of TIA. Membership costs £450 + VAT per year. All membership enquiries should be directed to Paul Shanley (paul.shanley[at]tri247.com).