Ironman brand owner World Triathlon Corp (WTC) and GU Energy Labs of Berkeley, California, have announced that GU is returning to Kona and beyond – having signed a two-year agreement with Ironman to be the official on-course energy gel and energy chew supplier in the United States.
This latest deal adds further flux to the main nutrition sponsorships at key triathlon events in the US. In only three weeks, we’ve seen how strategic alignments have shifted:
- In late February, California based Bonk Breaker was named as the official energy bar of all US Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and 5150 Triathlon Series events. This saw a realignment of PowerBar’s global role as official energy bar brand for Ironman.
- Last week, PowerBar was named the exclusive energy bar and gel of XTERRA, the US nation’s premier off-road triathlon and trail running series.
- In tandem with this, PowerBar became the official energy gel and sports nutrition bar sponsor for the 2012 Rev3 season.
So, while PowerBar has shifted its focus away from Ironman in the US, it has aligned with other leading tri event formats. This opens the door to up-and-coming bar brand Bonk Breaker and the pioneer of the energy gel category – GU. Both companies are based out of California. Interestingly, although the Ironman 70.3 series touches down in California, the most populated state in the US does not currently have a full Ironman event. Perhaps the addition of two Californian nutrition partners will herald further changes for Ironman in ‘The Golden State’?
Energy gel pioneer
GU created the first energy gel in 1994; and in 1996 at the Ironman World Championship, more than 1,400 competitors were introduced to energy gels supplied by GU. This began a long partnership between GU and Ironman, now brought up to date via the new deal between the two companies.
As the first gel sponsor of Ironman, GU is intimately familiar with the unique energy needs of Ironman athletes. Original GU Gel, Roctane Ultra Endurance Gels, and GU Chomps will be on course, ‘offering Ironman athletes a spectrum of tasty, high-performance energy solutions with the aim of getting competitors to the finish faster – and feeling better.’
“It’s like coming home,” said GU Energy President Brian Vaughan. “We have a historic tie to Ironman, and while our connection with Ironman athletes has never waned, we’re really pleased to be able to step up and serve in an official capacity as an event sponsor for these pinnacle events.”
The agreement covers US events – ten Ironman events – including the Ironman World Championship – as well as 23 Ironman 70.3 events, including the Ironman World Championship 70.3, and five 5150 Triathlon Series races.
“We are excited to welcome GU back to our family of partners,” said Erik Vervloet, Chief Marketing Officer of Ironman. “A large part of our success depends on strategic partnerships. The synergy between these two brands is evident. Neither will compromise when it comes to delivering what it takes to get competitors across the finish line. The team at GU shares our passion for providing the key elements an Ironman athlete needs to excel.”
Reflecting the rapid growth in triathlon overall, Ironman and its portfolio of brands have witnessed historic numbers in recent years. The inaugural Ironman US Championship sold out in just over 11 minutes. Overall annual participation numbers for Ironman races now sits at more than 25,000 in the US alone, up from mere hundreds in the 1970s. The annual number of participants in domestic Ironman 70.3 events is more than 50,000, while the 5150 Triathlon Series each year sees approximately 15,000 athletes participate across events in the US.