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Tough Mudder looks to Asian and Middle East expansion with IMG partnership
Leading international adventure and obstacle race operator Tough Mudder is set to export its electric shocks, mud pits and ice baths to Asia and the Middle East in a new partnership with global entertainment and sports marketing group IMG.
The company will launch its first events in China and the United Arab Emirates this year before expanding to Japan, South Korea and Singapore from 2017. It will also stage its first Indonesian Tough Mudder this year through a separate deal with Seroja Partners, a Jakarta-based media and technology investment firm.
Tough Mudder has grown rapidly since its launch in the USA in 2010. The privately owned company achieved US$100 million in revenue last year, up from US$22 million in 2011, and made a US$5 million profit.
It will stage 122 courses in 10 countries this year and says more than 2 million people have participated in its events - which founder and Chief Executive Will Dean describes as “challenges” rather than races - since they began.
Tough Mudder is among a number of companies looking to capitalise on growing global interest in fitness, wellbeing and live experiences.
Dean (pictured below) explains that having first expanded to the UK, Canada and Australia, he now sees strong opportunities in emerging economies.
Dean commented “China is a very big market and of course it’s a country that’s developing very quickly.
“There is a huge emerging middle class where people are changing from sedentary lifestyles and looking to get more active. Gym memberships and participation in events are increasing very quickly.
“What was very clear to us as we were thinking about expanding into non-western markets is we would need to have partners on the ground who understood things from an administrative and logistical perspective as well as a cultural one.
“The UAE and China are markets where IMG has a very strong presence on the ground.”
IMG produces about 800 events a year, including more than 50 mass-participation contests such as triathlons, marathons and so-called Color Runs – 5 kilometre races where participants are doused in paint powder.
IMG’s Global Head of Events Sam Zussman explains “we have always been looking for that piece missing in our mass participation portfolio - that is the obstacle (events).
“We saw the perfect marriage: the category leader with a proven product and us having all the infrastructure in place without the right play in this industry,” he said.
As Tough Mudder expands geographically, it is also broadening the types of events it offers in order to attract new customers as well as previous participants.
It will stage 26 Tough Mudder Half events this year, which cover five miles instead of the full event’s 10 to 12 miles, and remove some of the most extreme obstacles.
The company devotes about 10 per cent of its budget to researching and developing new course elements to keep its offerings fresh amid a growing field of competitors.
Dean adds “we have to be a bit like Six Flags or Disneyland - having a big new thing every season is a part of our strategy and success.”
Dean cites Ironman, the long-distance triathlon brand bought last year by Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda, as a model for the kind of ‘lifestyle brand’ he hopes to build, explaining “they’ve set the standard for (creating) a global brand (and) are a good example of a company that has shown staying power.”
As part of brand-building efforts it has agreed partnerships with Snapchat and Livestream for live event broadcasting. It has also signed up Microsoft as its official smartwatch sponsor and will create customised training workouts for the Microsoft Band fitness tracker.
Dean concludes “if you’re putting on an event, people are excited the month before and after. 10 months of the year you’re not thinking about or engaging with the brand.
“The big opportunity for us is in the training and wellness space.”
2nd January 2016 - WANDA SPORTS TO ESTABLISH GLOBAL BASE IN GUANGZHOU
7th November 2015 - TOUGH MUDDER AND MERRELL ANNOUNCE A MULTI-YEAR INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIP
7th October 2015 - TOUGH MUDDER ANNOUNCES NEW PARTNERS IN ADVANCE OF 2015 SEASON
11th September 2015 - DALIAN WANDA BUYS IRONMAN TRIATHLON GROUP FOR US$650 MILLION
26th January 2015 - REEBOK SPARTAN RACE SERIES TO STAGE FIRST EVENT IN DUBAI
6th September 2014 - EXHIBITION TO SHOWCASE ONGOING GROWTH OF MULTISPORT AND TRIATHLON EVENTS
8th May 2014 - IMG TAKEOVER DEAL AGREED
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