6 Enduring Marketing Lessons from the Ironman World Championship

6 Enduring Marketing Lessons from the Ironman World Championship

Reader Comments (53)

  1. Very inspirational Brian! The race is definitely not for the faint hearted.

    It’s truly remarkable as to what you can achieve when you put your mind to something. When you give your soul to it. And when your passion overrides fear.

    I totally agree that building a real business is much more than having a vision. It’s having a solution to reach that vision.

    Thank you for these insights!

    • I had a fun time writing this post, as I literally envisioned some of the endurance races I’ve participated in as I typed. Building an audience and business is definitely not a sprint, so it’s crucial to develop a plan. Without one, you’re being blown in the wind without any course – which usually ends up nowhere near the finish line.

      • Yeah this is great comparison indeed and you got it right. Nothing can be won overnight. Training is inevitable if you want to win. All the other tips like co-opetition is great. I guess guest blogging is part of that world too.

    • Great post. As an Ironman myself, the event taught me more about myself and the limitless possibilities we all have….but dedication to the cause, whatever it is, is the absolute key.

  2. Just what I needed today Brian.

    When you get down and nothing is going your way it’s difficult to continue on. Even when you fall down the thought of getting back up can be overwhelming.

    But when I read the title of this mornings post I had to read it all.

    I’m not an ironman at anything because I’ve not put in the necessary training to become one. Yes, I’ve got a little knowledge about a few things but not nearly enough to say that I’m at that status.

    But I do realize now what my problem is. To be successful at anything it requires training first.

    This is where I’ve failed. Now I’ve been inspired to go train to become truly successful.

    Thanks Brian.

    • I’m often asked how to build a successful blog and establish a following. The one thing I always do is bring up the concept of training vs. trying and how writers often experience “the wall” in the same way marathoners do.

      The early stages of running 26.2 miles, of establishing a business or starting a blog are no different – filled with joy, with ambition and the with the “yes I can” mentality.

      But at some point, we’re met with the physical and mental pain of doing something extremely difficult. That’s when two roads diverge, and usually those who choose the one less traveled by experience the difference.

      In some cases that means finishing the race. In others, it means establishing traction and becoming successful online.

      Either way I encourage everyone not to throw in the towel.

    • Great post you’ve got there Deb, I always enjoy reading personal accounts of Ironman races. More than anything, I simply find it fascinating how many parallels there are with running a business and endurance events!

      • I got all kinds of business ideas from reading Dean Karnazes’s work (he’s one of the people who popularized ultra marathons), but since I don’t run ultra, or even, uh, 5Ks, I thought it would be weird of me to write about it. πŸ™‚ But you’re right — so many parallels.

  3. That video was just…perfect. And I immediately felt the humor and pain of the announcer’s voice when he said, “these folks CHOOSE to do this.” Training is essential if you want any hope of crossing that finish line. And if you’re going to choose the entrepreneurial life, you better get serious about the challenge. Thanks for such a great reminder.

  4. Brian-

    Your post struck a serious nerve with me. I just finished my first Ironman distance race this weekend (Vineman in Sonoma). What a rush!

    I can barely walk even today from the soreness and fatigue.

    Your Point #2 about Sharing a Sponge is spot on.

    I met someone on the run and we ran the whole way together. We encouraged each other to keep running. We pushed each other to finish in under 14 hours. Goals both of us achieved.

    Finishing strong was one of the most profound and moving moments in my life. I kicked it at the end and the cheers from the crowd and the announcer saying “Here comes Jarie, finishing strong!” made me kick even harder!

    I met a women who lost her daughter the week before. She was racing for her memory and the pain and sorrow was palatable. She chocked when she talked about her but vowed to not stop until she finished because that’s what her daughter would have wanted. It moved me to tears.

    I am forever changed by this. I look at life in a completely different way. The only limits we have are the ones we impose on ourselves — be it in life, sport or business.

    You should go for it. If you can do a 1/2, you can do a full. It just takes pushing that little extra bit to make it past the finish line.



    • Jarie – thanks so much for the comment and encouragement. That’s so awesome to hear about your experiences at Vineman. Believe it or not, I had look into that race, and really wanted to get in but it had sold out. Perhaps next year it might be something I consider after I tackle the Big Sur Marathon in April!

      • Brian-

        Vineman is a great one to start with. Great support and scenic.
        I have always wanted to do Big Sur. It’s such a beautiful run. Maybe I’ll sign up and see you there :)!

  5. Whao!
    What can I say Brian?
    That was awesome
    My favorite part is that lady with the inscription of “I can do all things through Him who strengthen me” on her T-shirt

    It was so emotional ” I almost cried!
    Don’t tell any one OK?
    Thanks you

  6. Great post, Brian! I agree with everything you say. You might find in your first full Ironman distance race that training for an Ironman doesn’t completely prepare you for what you’ll face on race day. You’ll have to dig even deeper and make the important distinction between training and execution. I wrote about that distinction in my line of business over here >> http://blog.mcclureco.com/what-ironman-triathlon-taught-me-about-green-building-certification/

  7. Whenever I meet a business owner that doesn’t “have time” for marketing I’m stunned. You don’t have the time to help your business grow and succeed? If you want to make it you better make the time! There is no quick or easy way to win.

    • That’s pretty much the same thing as someone saying… “I really want to run a marathon but don’t have time to train.”

      Um, good luck with that. πŸ˜‰

    • It’s the Big Sur Marathon in California on April 28th, 2013. Perhaps I’ll write a follow up post to this after I’ve completed that. πŸ˜‰

  8. Great analogy, Brian. I’ve completed numerous triathlons, but not the full Ironman. Or even the half, for that matter. But the one thing that becomes apparent in training, especially as the distances increase, is that it is one thing to train and be comfortable in each of the three discplines – swim, bike, run – but another matter to put them all together, back-to-back. While each event stresses a part of the body – arms, legs – the cardiovascular system must perform at peak level for the entire event. As in business, you have to attend to all elements – the product, the marketing and the customer – in order to be successful.

    Alas, I’ve had to give up the running portion of the triathlon because of spinal problems, so I’m focused on masters swimming now. But the triathlon is clearly the most challenging . . . and most rewarding fitness endeavor there is.

    • The funny thing for me when it comes to Triathlon is that I have no problems with the bike and run. It’s the 1.2 miles swimming that was the challenge.

      I suppose that mirrors what we all experience in life, and especially in the business world. We all have an “achilles heel” when it comes to running one, it’s a matter of identifying it and making sure it stays intact.

  9. Wow! Thank you for this, Brian. I’ve touched my toe into sprint triathlons and half marathons, but am mainly and endurance sport fan. Literally, I have the Ironman t-shirt and that’s all! But what a touch of memorable Ironman imagery to inspire my marketing business. In fact, sharing that sponge should just be our way of life in general.

    Thank you for the sponge!

    • Hey Gayle – great to hear you’ve gotten (no pun intended) your feet wet with triathlons. If you’re really looking to push yourself, I’d highly encourage you to watch the entire video above if you haven’t seen it already. They are incredibly inspiring!

  10. Nice post. I agree that there are lots of parallels between success in endurance events and in business.

    On #3 (“Stay in front”), I’d also argue that there are benefits to holding back a bit – both in running and in business – before you push hard to pull ahead of others and/or win. I’ve not yet done an Ironman (though I’ve run 5 marathons and am training for the NYCM now), but there’s also psychological and physical advantage to letting someone else set the pace for a while (drafting) before making a move. In running, at least, this is a much more common strategy than setting the pace or taking the lead too soon.

    Many of my best races and most memorable finishes involved staying back before making my final kick. There’s no feeling quite like passing lots of runners as you charge toward the finish line. Going head-to-head with someone (in running and in business) also helps you push yourself beyond what you can achieve on your own (competition is good).

    That’s how I set my half-marathon PR in Lake Placid (2010): Battling it out in the final couple miles in a less glorified Chris McCormack-style duel of my own (coincidentally against an Australian guy). We pushed each other harder than we would’ve run without the other, exchanging the lead a number of times, before I eventually pulled ahead to crush my previous half PR and beat my goal time on a very tough course. We weren’t exactly the top overall finishers, but I waited for my competition at the finish line and we shared a knowing handshake.

    In business, sometimes it’s OK not to be first to market, especially if it means you’re taking your time to deliver a higher quality product to your customers.

  11. Dear Brian, I am respectfully thankful for this Ironman Inspiration. I have been up and down thinking and trying to be one of people who are successful, when i read this post i realize to be an Ironman is not all thing I usually do right now, but I think i can be one, I am now doing the start and willing to go through. Thank you. Regards

  12. Great article, Brian! The point that resonated with me especially was “sharing the sponge.” Being self-employed is HARD, and in my experience, only other entrepreneurs can understand and appreciate the crazy amount of time, effort, blood-sweat-and-tears it takes.

    Also, a little friendly competition is always a good thing. It pushes you to constantly better your service/product, which means an infinitely better experience for the customer. Win-win. πŸ™‚

  13. Would have been good to see Chris in the Olympic team but i guess he’s more suited to the Ironman distance.
    Did tri’s back in the late 80’s early 90’s and then focused more on swimming.
    Never did the Ironman or half Ironman distance.
    2 hours of pain was enough.
    Would be good if they increased the swimming leg so all legs take around the same time.
    Seems that weaker swimmers can still win races where as weaker runners rarely do.
    Got a lot of respect for people that do these type of endurance sports because it promotes healthy living and is a great way to clean the slate every day rather than hit the Booze or drugs.

  14. Not surprised to see your article here Brian. Just got your ‘Lookie here’ titled newsletter and I’s like superb. Not only the point you’ve made here is great but you even succeeded in propagating Ironman Championship πŸ™‚

  15. Cool! Inspirational indeed. Made me envision bloggers running next to those two men, then BAMβ€”they stop running to check their Twitter streams, Facebook timelines, and RSS feeds. πŸ™‚

  16. Nicely done, Brian! I would add that folks or pros in training for an IM get up and they consistently do the (non-glamorous) work that is required. Every. Day.

  17. Awesome post! I was out there racing my 7th Iroman on that day, albeit a little bit behind Macca & Andreas. πŸ˜‰

    What’s your next Ironman event Brian, or were you crazy enough to sign up for another?

  18. Brian – My biggest take-away from about 15 years of triathlons and some half-Ironmans is how vital the transitions are – and the advantage one can gain by learning how to do them well.

    In a business environment where we are all pivoting more frequently, planning and practicing how to make the next move more seamlessly can save a lot of wasted time.

    • Jeff, it’s really interesting that you point out the importance of the transitions. Most folks emphasize their preparation (with endurance races that is) on the physical element, and not so much the mental.

      In business, I think we all have areas we feel are less important than the obvious ones, but as you said there’s a huge advantage to be gained from focusing on the smaller things.

  19. Very inspiring to keep every one stay in the ‘farm’ and never stop to train. TRY and TRAIN that is the bold statement I find here Brian.

    Any way, that have been months for you to blog more often on your own blog. But this is your only post here, is that blogging activities also part of your training before your post here?
    Can’t wait your next post Brian πŸ˜‰

  20. HI Brian!

    Great inspirational post and certainly ironman has got the ability and most of important from all is that he got the encourage to do every task. Secondly, great compilation the main point with the example I love that Brian ;-).

    Thanks for sharing great worthy content.

  21. I think I’ll just start off with something like Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder. Iron Man isn’t calling my name yet.

    Starting out small and working your way up isn’t a bad idea either. It’s how most small businesses grow.
    Once you master the “basics,” you can continue training/growing to meet your goals.
    Plus, when you become a “front runner,” this doesn’t mean you can start to relax. Especially in Marketing, look for new or improved ways of doing things, so you can stay ahead of your competition.

    Good stuff Brian. Thanks for making these connections.
    Anyone else feel like going for a run?

  22. Very nice and inspiring article, I like the comparison between sport and business. I don’t run ironmans but I often relate between my sport practice and life in general. I love how you differentiate training and trying, it’s so true. You have to set goals, practice, build up and not give up.
    Thanks for that great article!

  23. Good stuff Brian. “frenemies…In the business world I have seen so many people take a me, me, me attitude; even amongst those on the same team. This approach is never a good thing…

  24. John finishes reading the Ironman article. With sweaty palms and an anxiously racing heart he pushes his dark chair back so hard from the desk the wheels almost pop off. The wood floor cracks and pops as his feet slam down to raise his body into the air as he yells, “I’m ready, Brian! I’m ready!”

    … Hey I was just trying to set a new trend in leaving comments. πŸ˜‰

    Great comparison. It’s funny because for me I’ve been somewhat successful in building my niche sites but my blog, not so much. To be fair, I haven’t focused on it much; but that’s changing as I’m going to be releasing a new product soon.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the video and the article. Thanks for taking the time to write it and good luck on your training.

  25. Excellent analogy between the ironman and marketing. To be successful, the marketing and seo of a website needs to be viewed as a long term on-going project. I was bad this summer and took a break from my seo but this video has reminded me that I need to get back at it. πŸ™‚

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