Men’s Health, the Rodale-owned fitness glossy, is delving deeper into the world of races. It dipped its toe in the space ten years ago by partnering with Urbanathlon, an obstacle-course race that takes place in three different cities during the year.
That partnership has come to an end because the magazine has found two larger races: the Life Time Tri Series and the obstacle course Rugged Maniac, Men’s Health publisher Ronan Gardiner said. The new deals come during a time of upheaval at Men’s Health, which, most recently, let go of its editor in chief Bill Phillips.
“This space in general is getting a ton of attention now,” Gardiner noted, before offering that Rugged Maniac has “international aspirations,” and TV could be next.
Rugged Maniac, which rose to prominence when “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban became an investor, spans 5,000 meters, or more than 3 miles, and has 25 obstacles. According to Gardiner, a main attraction for the glossy is the scale it can offer its advertisers with its new event partners. The first one under the new deal will be held July 9, in New Jersey.
Case in point: While Urbanathlon boasts 3,000 to 5,000 entrants per race, Rugged Maniac garners more than 150,000, in more than 30 cities, annually. As for Life Time Tri, it runs 11 races in different cities and is in expansion mode. Gardiner, who said Men’s Health would have a branded area for athletes on site, noted that a main draw for advertisers is that triathletes tend to be “wealthy.”
Delving deeper into the business model, Gardiner said that Men’s Health will bring in advertising partners and offer them the chance to have a presence at the race. This may take the form of branded obstacles, for example. He explained that in terms of revenue, the magazine would earn a share for every person it registered in the races.
In order to buttress its circulation, Men’s Health race entrants would be offered a subscription to the magazine, as well as a training guide made by its editors, for a slightly higher fee than regular race entrants. A spokeswoman from Men’s Health said it was still figuring out the pricing.
Rugged Maniac’s entry prices range from $39 (early bird) to $100. Fees for the triathlon are tiered, based on the distance. The entry-level price is $130.
Although Gardiner could not estimate the return Men’s Health would get from the new partnerships, he noted that it would expand its footprint among potential readers and advertisers alike.
“For us to partner with anybody, it has to be synergistic,” he offered. “This makes sense for Men’s Health.”
According to the Alliance for Audited Media, in the six months ended December 31, 2015, Men’s Health’s circulation remained flat, at about 1.8 million. Total single-copy sales fell 16.1 percent to 228, 399.
Obstacle courses, triathlons and other races appear to be a new revenue stream for media companies. In early June, Hearst’s venture division made a strategic investment in Spartan Race, the televised race that has participants scaling walls and climbing through mud. The company’s minority stake in the event coincides with its partnership with NBC Sports, and the development of a new competition reality series, “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge.”