Wanda bares ambition in sports tourism after snapping up prominent marathon organizer
Wanda has snapped up Competitor Group Holdings, Inc (CGI), best known as the organizer of Rock n Roll Marathon series, and bares its ambition in expanding into sports tourism.
Wanda has acquired famed Rock n Roll Marathon organizer Competitor Group Holdings, Inc (CGI), through the group’s sports subsidiary Ironman Triathlon series, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal, marrying an endurance sports specialist with the organizer of cool marathon events, is a match made in heaven. The Ironman Triathlon series features more than 20 running events worldwide, including the marathons in Singapore, Auckland and Bordeaux, whereas CGI runs some 30 events in its Rock n Roll Marathon series drawing more than 600,000 runners every year.
CGI has been operating Rock n Roll Marathon since 1998 and has brought the event to more than 22 US cities and hosted eight international events in China and the UK. The running series, one of the biggest running events in the world, is noted for its party feel spiced up by Rock n Roll music and cheerleaders.
In late April this year, Wanda had already made a move into marathon by forming a partnership with World Marathon Majors (WMM) to bring events to China within three years. Wanda hopes to run three international marathon majors in the Asia Pacific region within the next 10 years.
The popularity of marathons is heating up in China too in recent years. The number of marathon events has increased from 22 per year to 134 during 2011 to 2015, drawing in 1.5 million runners in total. The 122 marathon events held in 2016 had some 2.8 million people take part. A 4-day marathon in Xiamen in 2014 generated 260 million yuan of income. The 2016 Marathon Consumption report published by 21 Jingji and JD.com suggests that China is likely to host more than 800 marathon events participated by 10 million runners by 2020.
Marathons, especially those turned into colorful and fun events, are increasingly popular among young people. Wanda began to expand its niche in marathon in 2015 after buying 20% of Club Atlético de Madrid, thus began its buying spree of sports events and sports marketing companies. The group snapped up Infront, the world’s second largest sports marketing company, and WTC, the world’s biggest triathlon organizer. It is also active in sponsorship for international leagues of football, basketball and ice hockey.
Wanda Group’s chairman Jianlin Wang stated in last year’s sports forum that Wanda’s sports arm would focus on organizing events and associated activities such as event agent, business and media. Its sports strategy is to expand partnerships with international organizations to win event rights, to acquire a relatively large-scale sports company, and to bring major national events and the associated intellectual property rights to host such events in China. The ultimate goal is to profit from sports activities.
A pragmatist, Mr Wang’s thinking is to tap consumption power for the group’s products and services, be it in sports, travel entertainment, malls or finance. The group’s inroads into sports events shows its ambition of leveraging such events to consolidate its foothold in travel and related fields.