What turned out to be one of the best half Ironman races in the country actually started out with a simple handshake.
Fred Uytengsu, CEO of Alaska Milk Corporation and President of Sunrise Events along with Princess Galura, the General Manager of Sunrise had asked for a meeting at the lobby of the Shangri La Mactan during last year's (2014) staging of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu.
"We need to have another Ironman 70.3 in the Philippines", Fred explained. He talked about how rapidly the Cebu race got closed out and the large number of participants it had and the equally large number they had to turn down after hitting the reg limit. Fred's vision was to provide another world class event to accommodate those who get closed out in the other.
Our company had just finished three straight years of being the title sponsor for the Century Tuna 5i50 triathlon in Subic and was happy with the results as well as the goodwill and positive image that it gave the brand. The easiest thing for us to do was stay in our comfort zone and just renew another 3 years of 5i50. However, we too, saw the clamor for another race as well as the need to keep pace with the expectations of our consumer base in keeping the Century brand "fresh and exciting".
So, it was instinctive and even an easy decision to level up from a 5i50 to a 70.3 tri. This gave our consumers and the tri community a bigger challenge while keeping it fun and most especially, safe.
Our main concern was the date. All the other race organizers had already announced their race schedules for 2015. It was barely an hour from the Cobra IM 70.3 Presscon and we had to announce a tentative date for our newly agreed race. I made it a point not to compete against Challenge Philippines because the race proponents were all our friends. I also insisted not to go in conflict with Ironman Melbourne which attracts a large group of Pinoy triathletes.
There is a sense of kinship that is formed with co-triathletes when we all suffer in the same race course. This is fostered through words of encouragement we give each other while racing. But deeper affiliations are forged especially when we compete together abroad. A simple tap of encouragement on the shoulder in the run course of a full Ironman is never forgotten. This is the sense of brotherhood (and sisterhood) we share as triathletes. A bond that is not broken just because we are organizing our own different races. That is why I insisted on not engaging in destructive competition with the other races scheduled in the early part of the year.
The happy compromise was to be after Challenge Philippines Subic but also do it before Melbourne by making the race a "training" confidence builder for those doing IM Melbourne. I figured, at least we didn't step on anyone's toes. We are, after all, brothers and sisters in the wonderful community of Philippine triathlon.
|Mr. "Pogi", Wilfred "Fred" S. Uytengsu at the IM70.3 Cebu|
Agreeing on March 8th, Fred and I shook hands and thus gave impetus to efforts in staging the Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic. Timing was short but manageable and we figured, we'd work overtime to get this off the ground. Another mandate was that the bike course was going to be along the SCTEX.
I had just mentioned the "deal" to a few teammates but the news spread like wild fire across the big tri community gathered in Cebu for the Cobra event. By the time Fred announced it at the Presscon of IM70.3 Cebu, the audience had actually just been waiting for the announcement to confirm the rumor going around especially at the EXPO area. It was met with some jubilant applause. I remember thinking to myself "Ok, no turning back now".
Given the short lead time to design, organize and stage the race, Princess and I agreed to meet immediately the following week after Cebu. It was good that Princess and I have worked in several events already, Century Tuna being a major sponsor of the 70.3 Camsur and Cebu as well as via our Sunrise Events ran 5i50 race. This gave us a lot of trust and comfort between us and to know each other's requirements and expectations. It also allowed decisions to be made via text, calls, email and even Facebook PM's in between important face-to-face meetings.
|The Events Powerhouse, Princess Galura|
Princess and I pulled off the Pre-event Presscon announcing the final preparations for the inaugural Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic with hardly any face to face meetings. We decided that she puts together the talks about Subic and the use of the SCTEX during the Presscon while I ensure that it had the "branding" of Century Tuna clearly stamped on the event.
To do this, I opted to stage a mini fashion show of swim, bike, run and tri gear sponsored by Toby's, Saucony and Lighten Up worn by Century Tuna Superbod Winners within the presscon to give the event a load of energy as well as to help the media understand the benefits of a maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. The mini fashion show was a huge hit!
|The opening tableau of Superbod Models. Photo from Raceday|
|CT Superbod 2014 Runner Up, Laurens Tolenars. Photo from Raceday.|
|The Presscon Panelists!|
|Who's that handsome guy? :p|
|CT Superbod 2014 Winner, Sarah Polverini. Photo from Raceday|
One of the main goals of staging an event is to align the theme with the sponsoring brand's desired image and identity and get as much media and publicity mileage as possible for the sponsorship and event. In short, make the event "news worthy" and relevant. The true test of relevance is getting on the front page of the newspapers the day after the race.
Superbod = Underpants Run
2 weeks before the race, Princess and I were a bit worried that we may not be able to generate enough buzz for the race to merit a front page feature. Our major draw was the large number of foreign professional and elite triathletes who signed up for the race. But we were unsure that this was going to give us the media coverage and buzz that we were used to.
"Why don't we marry the Century Tuna Superbods equity with the tradition of the Ironman World Championships in Kona and do a Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run", I told Princess during the meeting. Like I said, there is a lot of trust between us. Princess immediately agreed and laid out the ground work to doing this as a side event. Our team at Century hit the ground running and asked our "go to" artist Lester Wong to design the side event logo within 12 hours so we could make the announcement. We posted this in our website and Princess made the announcement within 12 hours of coming up with the idea.
The Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run went viral! Both triathletes and non-triathletes were talking about it within hours after it was announced. And it also had a very high participation count despite being in its inaugural run. Winners in the male and female, local and foreign categories each won $500 cash. An equivalent amount was donated to the SBMA Employees Association.
|"The Bold and the Free" - participants to the Inaugural CT Superbods Underpants Run. |
Photo by Multisport Philippines.
|Contenders! Including Tri Legend, Frank Lacson and Kikay Runner, Noelle de Guzman|
|The Underpants Run make the Front Page|
Presscon and Meet the Pros
Saturday afternoon, D-Day Minus 1, allowed us to present the pros to the press. This was done at the very well dressed up Subic Bay Expo and Convention Center (SBECC) Media Center and Race Expo. A total of close to 100 press teams and bloggers were present for the "Meet the Pros" session. Evidence of the growing public interest and fascination with Triathlon.
|Meet the Pros of the Inaugural Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic!|
|SBECC was converted into the Media Center & Expo|
|Working Hard or Hardly Working?|
The event kicked off the next day at the Sands of Triboa. I will be blogging about the race in a few days. Watch out for it.