The use of insurance cover – to protect valuable gear against theft or damage whilst racing, alongside cover for when athletes’ cannot participate in events due to illness or injury – has been evolving. We’ve certainly seen that specialist insurance targeting the endurance sport community has steadily built awareness in recent months.
Launched earlier this year by Thistle Insurance Services, the Triathlonguard insurance product has started to make in-roads with the UK triathlon community in particular. This multisport-focused insurance offering builds on the company’s Cycleguard insurance package.
With high profile sponsorships of events and a specialist team working behind the scenes, the company feels that it is well-placed to serve the multisport athlete. To find out more, we caught up with Adrian Scott, Product Sales & Distribution Director at Thistle Insurance – who oversees the company’s lifestyle insurance products, including Triathlonguard and Cycleguard…
triathlonbusiness.com (TriBiz): That’s quite a job title, tell us a little bit about your role!
Adrian Scott (AS): The product bit essentially means that I’m responsible for the product structure, ensuring that we serve the industry in the various sectors in which we operate. The sales aspect is about delivering affinity partnerships with key operators, such as event organisers, manufacturers and retailers. The distribution part is ensuring that we have an efficient route to market – so that our web technology is up to speed and we’re delivering on engagement with consumers.
It is quite a multi-faceted role. Although, all of these elements complement each other and it’s essential that we deliver on all aspects of product, sales and distribution.
TriBiz: Can you give us some background to the insurance products you offer, e.g. Triathlonguard and Cycleguard, and how they differ?
AS: Triathlonguard has evolved to specifically address the needs of the multisport athlete.
We originally started introducing the Cycleguard product to triathletes following our partnership with the London Triathlon over the past couple of years.
Having looked at the triathlon market, it became quickly apparent that most triathletes come from a running background. So, we examined the triathlon community in more detail and found that there was a need for a triathlon-specific insurance offering.
So, while a cyclist and a triathlete may both have a Garmin device on their bike, for example, the triathlete will more often have a Garmin on their wrist too. Triathlonguard has thus evolved as a holistic product – addressing all products relative to triathlon.
Also, as a business we’re specifically geared up to serve the endurance athlete. We have a specialist in-house claims team that is fully briefed on the specific needs of the athlete. In the event of a claim, where possible, we always try to repatriate the consumer back to the store they originally purchased from.
Lots of insurance providers use a single retailer to handle replacement products for the consumer. This often means that the insured bike, for example, can’t necessarily be replaced brand for brand – as that retailer won’t have all brands in stock.
We work with lots of individual dealers and always aim to ensure that the consumer gets a replacement product either from where it was originally purchased or via one of our many retail partners.
TriBiz: Why should anyone take out triathlon-specific insurance?
AS: Triathlons are a test of dedication and endurance. They require huge preparation and significant investment. We believe it is critical to provide insurance for equipment whilst training and taking part, whether that is at home or abroad so that you can compete with the peace of mind that your kit is protected.
TriBiz: Can you clarify what is covered?
AS: At Triathlonguard we’ve worked with professional athletes, such as our Product Ambassador Harry Wiltshire, as well as those who work in the industry, to understand the type of cover that triathletes require, especially when competing. This includes cover for bikes, helmets, shoes, gloves, glasses & goggles, jackets, swimwear, warmers, compression clothing, backpacks, water bottles; through to the more valuable cycling GPS units, lights and cycling helmet cameras.
TriBiz: How about event entry? While most races will defer a race entry if an athlete is injured, often subject to the discretion of the Race Director, this won’t mean a refund. How does the insurance of race entries operate in practice?
AS: The cover is in place for all those instances when an athlete can’t do an event. This ranges from cancellation of the event due to adverse weather conditions through to the athlete having to pull out in case of injury or illness. In the case of the latter, we’ll need to see some form of medical evidence, such as a doctor’s note.
The current policy offers a refund up to a value of £300 per event. Although, we’re now doubling the sum insured up to a value of £600 per event. This covers the event entry fee, cost of travel, etc.
We’re also in the process of introducing a sports travel insurance product that provides cover for injury, any hospital fees, plus damage to equipment whilst racing. This is an entirely new policy that complements the Triathlonguard and Cycleguard products. We’re covering the person and the product for when they’re engaged in racing overseas. Such cover is typically not available in regular travel insurance products.
The travel product also addresses event cancellation or if the event date is changed by the race organiser. So, for most of those unforeseen circumstances when the athlete can’t make it to an event, the cover should be in place – up to a value of £600 per event.
TriBiz: When will you be launching the new sports travel policy to the market?
AS: We’re looking to launch in late September in order to really build awareness for next year. As we enter the winter season, athletes will start planning their race calendar for 2015 and we shall be spreading the word about our new sports travel policy in tandem.
TriBiz: Do you see more take-up for your insurance products from travelling triathletes and other endurance athletes who tend to train and/or race overseas?
AS: We do see that, with the higher-end bikes that are being insured, the rider is more often than not taking that bike overseas either to race or to train. When we start with a policy, we usually start with cover for the UK only. Although, the consumer can upgrade to European or international cover as required.
TriBiz: With the Cycleguard insurance offering, would the premiums be higher for those racing regularly during the week, in criteriums (crit racing) for example – where crashes can often be more frequent!?
AS: There is a slight increase in the premium paid by the consumer if the use of a bike is competitive rather than leisure. Although, the majority of athletes taking up the Triathlonguard and Cycleguard insurance would be competitive; and it doesn’t matter if they’re racing throughout the week or every other month.
As with any policy, the cost of the premium depends on the value of the gear insured. With an average household insurance policy a fair percentage will only provide theft cover. So, there’s no cover if an expensive carbon frame or wheel set get damaged.
TriBiz: So, how much would triathlon insurance likely cost on average?
AS: As mentioned, insurance premiums will vary depending on the value and type of gear you are insuring. For example, if you insure your bike to the value of £1,000 and live in central London, you can be insured from as little as £8 per month.
Then, additional cover options for your kit, Active cover (which includes race-fees, cover whilst competing etc), public liability and use abroad are available and it is up to you to choose the cover that suits you best so you only pay for what you need. Discounts can also be offered if you have more than one bicycle to insure.
TriBiz: Staying with the overall cost to the consumer, what would be the approximate premium for covering a refund on race entries? For example, if an athlete raced 2 x Sprint triathlons at £45 each; an Olympic distance at £60 and a Middle distance race at £110; this comes out a total of £260 on race entries, and it would be interesting to get a feel for the additional insurance cost in this instance.
AS: The cover on race entries is an optional extra as part of our Active cover on both the Triathlonguard or Cycleguard products. The majority of our Triathlonguard customers do take out this option. If we took our example above of a bike valued at £1000 in central London, the annual premium here would be £91. Taking a rough calculation, to insure for the four events you outline as well as any others during the period of insurance, the extra cost would be approximately £13 per year.
TriBiz: Any advice you would give athletes about triathlon insurance?
AS: Before purchasing triathlon insurance, it’s a good idea to think about the different races you enter and the equipment you own. For example, what happens if I misplace my wetsuit in a transition area? How can I cover the cost of race-fees if I am injured and unable to take part? Can I afford the cost of a new bike if I hit a pot-hole whilst out training and crack the frame?
Triathlons are both beneficial to your health and well-being and should always be looked at in a positive light, but if the worst happens, you don’t want to be stopped in your tracks. Having the right financial protection can give you peace of mind, allowing you to keep on competing.
TriBiz: You’ve increased marketing outreach for Triathlonguard particularly, with title sponsorship of the Windsor Triathlon – alongside sponsorship of the Brownlee Tri Series and Castle Triathlon Series, and a partnership with the London Triathlon. Have you found this to be a successful way to get your message across?
AS: Working with events has really been about raising brand awareness as we’ve launched into the market. It’s been great to chat with athletes and our next step is reinforcing the brand. We need to have good, relevant content for our audience and we’ll be actively engaging with the endurance sport community – helping to educate so that the consumer can make an informed decision.
We have a number of partnerships and we have more in the pipeline at an event and retailer level. This will help us further the discussion with the endurance sport community and our focus will turn to building on content marketing.
TriBiz: Are you focused on the UK specifically, or do you also see an opportunity in the European endurance sport market and beyond?
AS: We certainly see an opportunity in a number of key endurance sport markets internationally.
Thistle Insurance Services is a part of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group plc, which is a worldwide insurance broking house. We’re looking to replicate the ideas and concepts that we’ve championed at Thistle and expand this model to other territories.
Discussions are under way. It may be a slightly slower process than we’d like due to the variances in law and other regulation at each individual country-level. But a number of interesting markets are certainly on our radar!