Donnerstag, 27. August 2015

Infront and IRONMAN - a deadly combination in endurance sports marketing

Following the recent acquisition of World Triathlon Corporation, Inc. by Dalian Wanda Group for est. $890 million including assumed obligations raises a couple of questions. Three particular will be addressed in this article.

How and when can get Dalian Wanda get a return on investment?

Dalian Wanda is separated into two divisions. The Real Estate division owns 100+ shopping malls and 70+ hotels and is the powerhouse of Dalian Wanda Group's wealth. The second division is called The Cultural Industry Group are 6,600+ movie screens, including the largest movie theater chains like Hoyts Group in Australia, Wanda Cinemas China and AMC Entertainment Theaters in the U.S. Other assets are Sunseeker yachts from Great Britain and Swiss Sports Marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG.
The 2015 acquisitions of Ironman and Infront Sports & Media properties have made Wanda Group one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive sports companies. Logo: Dalian Wanda Group
Infront was acquired in February 2015. His CEO Philippe Blatter, a nephew of FIFA long term president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, is a triathlete with 15 Ironman finishes under his belt. Infront is in charge of being WTC's marketing and media service partner for EMEA region since 2011. Infront was also one of the parties conducting due diligence on WTC's assets in year 2014, but stepped away from a deal. Maybe the price tag was too high or Dalian Wanda was already approaching early talks of an acquisition of Infront itself. But at one time, a Dalian Wanda Group owned company had already all important data concerning WTC's core assets like IRONMAN and M-Dot brands and owned races.

IRONMAN is missing a real and long term sponsorhip deal and tv coverage on a global scale. Logo: WTC
The Cultural Industry Group could leverage IRONMAN with current Dalian Wanda Group assets like film industry and sports marketing. Short-term exceptional growth rate can be expected in Aisa and esp. in China, while other regions may consolidates.
Infront already manages media and marketing assets for IRONMAN in EMEA region. Logo: Infront 
A major role could play Infront. IRONMAN lacks for years on a real global title sponsorhsip deal or at least a branded sponsorship for all regional championship races as a series, same applies to the majority of regional races. Infront could contribute here and build a win, win situation for Dalian Wanda at this stage: generating commission for sponsorship deals and the deal itself for two of its own companies. Dalian Wanda movie studios, movie screens, Infront and IRONMAN - a deadly combination in endurance sports marketing.

Update: Sportspromedia has released a similar point of view of the importance of Infronts future role and how Dalian Wanda Group acquired WTC:
The Swiss-based agency [...] lead by its chief executive Philippe Blatter, an Ironman participant and enthusiast, was the driving force behind bringing the WTC and Wanda together. 
For its part, Infront made the following statement to SportsPro: “The acquisition of the WTC represents an important step to further expand the strategic involvement in global sports business, a strong move into the fast growing field of active lifestyle and mass participation events as well as into event ownership. Further it perfectly complements Infront’s portfolio, including major marathon events as well as the B2RUN and Happy 10K running series. “Our shared aim is to build a number one position in the global sports market through a variety of major expansion projects.” [2]

Will IRONMAN continue its aggressive groth and expansion plan?

Yes, according to an email Andrew Messick, CEO of IRONMAN sent on August 27: "This ownership transition marks the start of another exciting chapter and opportunity for growth of our company.  This sale allows IRONMAN to continue its aggressive growth, particularly throughout Asia, and reinforces our global appeal."

Will IRONMAN's Senior Management stay in place?

There is no answer for the long term, but the same email addresses this topic as well: "Although this is big news for our organization, rest assured that the IRONMAN team will stay focused on our races, our people, our athletes and our partners.  IRONMAN has a very bright future: I intend to remain the CEO of IRONMAN and will be signing a contract extension as will the core of our senior management team. More broadly, our teams and leadership will remain intact, we will continue to grow and provide opportunities for partners and athletes."

Other sources wrote about a 5 year agreement between Dalian Wanda and the senior management of IRONMAN and its core members. [3]
  1. Transaction confirmed, Dalian Wanda Group acquires World Triathlon Corporation and Ironman for $650 million
  2. WTC new star of Wanda after US$650m deal
  3. Transaction confirmed, Dalian Wanda Group acquires World TriathlonCorporation and Ironman for $650 million