Editorial: Exploiting every opportunity

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It is not often that we give opinions on sports but with the recent showing by Team Antigua in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, it got us thinking of opportunities in the area of sports and how we are missing out on capitalising on them. We have touched on this topic before but it is worth repeating.
Since the Atlantic Challenge is on the top of people’s minds, let’s look at that event as a marketing opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda. This year, 27 teams and 73 rowers across 17 countries are taking part in “The World’s Toughest Row.” Leading off the race from La Gomera Marina back on December 14th was the four-woman team representing China carrying the name Kung Fu Cha Cha. They were closely followed by another four-woman team called the Rowegians, from Norway. We could go on to list all of the entrants and give a breakdown on representation, but the point is, all boats point to English Harbour, Antigua.
For about two months, people from around the world see and hear news coverage of the row and the destination – our bit of paradise. News crews assemble in Antigua to give their viewers, listeners and readers a taste of Antigua and Barbuda because their audience demands more than just coverage of the finish at the seawall at Nelsons Dockyard.
This news coverage is essentially free advertising. It goes without saying that we could not afford the amount of advertising that we get from this row. We know that there are a lot of people that will say that this is a niche type of “racing,” but that matters little. The world is always interested in great feats and are captivated by the stories that result. And, in this case, much of those stories are told in Antigua once the rowers arrive. Just the imagery of the weary but accomplished rowers lighting their flares at the finish line is powerful stuff, and it all happens here at English Harbour.
This year, Team Antigua was the only team representing the Caribbean, and having now fielded two teams in just a few years, that carries a bit of celebrity. Our guys came so close to winning it all and holding the world record that we could almost taste it. We hope that their example has whetted the appetite of other adventurous Antiguans and Barbudans, and there are some out there who relish that world record.
In any case, we think that it would be prudent for the government to do a study on the current marketing benefits that we derive from the row and the additional benefits to be had by sponsoring greater participation. If we could regularly dominate the race, and Team Antigua has demonstrated that potential, everyone would want to know how a small country could be so powerful in ocean rowing. In the same way that Usain Bolt and Jamaica are in the world of sprinting. (No, we are not comparing rowing to sprinting, just the concepts of marketing.)
The row is not the only sports event with potential. The Rohrman Triathlon, scheduled for February 17th, is another event that holds immense potential, both as an economic booster and promoter of the island. In speaking to some of the international athletes at previous events, they remarked that we don’t even know what we have. Just the chance to swim in our pristine waters is a major draw, as the bodies of water that they are accustomed to are usually cold, murky and many times polluted. As well, our running and cycling terrain is apparently very welcomed because of the muscle relief from the variations.
To give you an idea of the triathlon market, here are just a couple of some statistics from a report done by Triathlon Business International. The U.S. market is estimated at US $2.8 billion and “events, travel and accommodations combined take the largest share of the total market.” The other interesting statistic? The average triathlete’s age is 44.
Now, when you pair that with the statistics surrounding the athletes, it gets extremely interesting. According to a 2015 survey conducted for the World Triathlon Corporation (organizers of Kona and other Ironman races), the average annual household income for Ironman participants is $247,000. Okay, those can be some pretty exclusive races, but USA Triathlon, the largest multi-sport organisation in the world, reports that the average income for all triathletes, including those that participate at shorter distances, is $126,000.
Triathlons are big business, and if we were to focus on promoting and supporting the Rohrman Triathlon into becoming the Caribbean’s best triathlon event, we could probably get a good amount of those quarter million dollar earners and their families to head toAntigua and Barbuda for an outstanding event and a great holiday. Make it into a sports and entertainment festival and think of the possibilities.
The point is, we have so much potential in sports that remains unexplored; everything from motorsports to human sports. We have a near ideal climate to woo teams, organisations and individuals in the off season, and we should take advantage of these opportunities.
And in most cases, it can be driven by the private sector with some government support. Let us not stand idly by and allow our Caribbean neighbours to surpass us in this area. It is within our grasp to be first and best, so let’s go!

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