State Of The Industry

state-of-union

 

Feb 2019 – Here is the most updated obstacle racing industry report.

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A year ago yesterday, we published this article asking if BattleFrog Series were the 4th player in what has always been referred to in OCR as The Big Three. (Spartan, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash).

In what is still an industry in it’s infancy, things move really fast. 3 years ago in OCR feels like an eternity.  So let’s review what has happened in just the 12 months since we published that article.

Atlas Race came back briefly, then went back out with a whimper.

The Death Race as we knew it with Joe and Andy at the helm, died.

BattleFrog announced 44 races in North American in 2016.

BattleFrog televised the first short course obstacle race on ESPN.

Warrior Dash put on their 2nd World Championship. (It turned out to be their last.)

Tough Mudder put on an urban event.

Tough Mudder announced a “kindler, gentler” half distance Mudder for 2016.

OCRWC announced a move to Canada and multiple course distances for next year’s event.

and most recently…

Spartan and NBC filmed a big budget OCR reality show.

BattleFrog held their first championship and announced an expensive bowl game sponsorship.

Where does all of this leave us, 6 years into this thing called OCR?

About once a month, you can still find “mainstream media” articles that don’t understand the basic differences in the large OCR companies and only focus on the bad news of our industry. The comments from the general public on those articles read from confused to downright mean.

In many ways, even the rest of the fitness and running communities (whom I would hope would embrace us) still don’t know what to do with OCR.

Are we the future of physical activity? Are we an annoyance and a cramp to their sales? Should they jump in and try to “cash in” or  ride the storm and hope everyone eventually goes back to 5ks?

This brings me back to the original question from a year ago. Should we add one to The Big Three?

When we wrote that article last year, many thought BattleFrog were being given too much credit, too early. Many OCR junkies let it be known that lots of media buzz and big cash payouts should not put BattleFrog ahead of several more experienced OCR companies in the race for the Big Four namely;

Savage Race: Used by many as an example of how to do things right, Savage has never tried to bite off more than it can chew. They’ve been around since 2011, and only add a city or two, tops, per year to their schedule. The races are profitable with consistent attendance numbers, and in March, they stepped up the early morning heat. With the help of Garfield Griffiths, they created Savage Pro heats which includes mandatory obstacle completion and cash prizes at every event. This got the “best kept secret in OCR”, a lot more press. So now, should they be considered part of the lead pack?

Rugged Maniac: Another race that has been consistently bringing in participants since their inception in 2010. They got a nice boost in cash from Mark Cuban thanks to an appearance on Shark Tank in 2014. The changes made from that new partnership have been well received. In 2016, they are going to be in 23 markets, including the West Coast and Canada. So is Rugged Number 4?

Down and Dirty: What many still call “The Merrell”, even though they no longer have the shoe company as title sponsor, D&D has been around since 2010. They’ve been in the same 10-12 cities every year and many look forward to their return. They had some hiccups this year eliminating timing and awards mid season. Rumor has it, they are bringing both awards and timing back for first heats in 2016. If they do, should they be a contender for solid 4th?

One trend that seems to be going mostly unnoticed. Warrior Dash is shrinking.

At the their peak in 2012, Warrior Dash produced a whopping 65 event days. Many weekends were 2 day events with 10,000 plus participants. 2013 saw that number drop to 39 event days. In 2014, Warrior Dash produced a similar 38 event days and they put on their first World Championship. 2015 shrunk slightly to 34 event days. Next year’s schedule has only 23 event days and the 100k cash grab they created is gone.

There are countless mom and pops whose wildest fantasies consist of 20 plus event days with 4,000 to 6,000 participants in every city. However, for “The World’s Largest Mud Party”, it’s a very different story. Warrior Dash’s parent company, Red Frog, is not going anywhere. They are an event company that produces massive festivals, and have created their own food and beverage, logistics, and ticket sales divisions along the way. The question is will they keep producing Warrior Dashes, or will Red Frog keep putting on less and less events, and then quietly put it to rest?

We at ORM, never pretend to see into the future. Like you, we take in what’s out there, and make the best decisions we can with the most current, and every changing information. We are as hopeful (and confused) as we have ever been.

Happy Holidays everyone, sound off in the comments as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

Comments

  1. Jorge Robles says

    Wow…kinda bummed OCR is moving to Canada….guess I’ll just have to go to the Spartan World Championship…

    • Do you mean the OCR World Championships Jorge? Don’t you think it would be kind of pointless to have it in the same country every year? The Olympics or World Cup don’t stay in the same place why would OCRWC?

      • NoFret Brett says

        Baseball “World Series” stays in the USA…
        (Many countries are probably not into adopting something that boring to *Play*, as something to *Watch*… Golf – likewise…)

        So… Yes… I anticipate the
        OCR World Championship *Event*
        to “Travel” the World…

  2. Look for Conquer the Gauntlet to grow in 2016. They have added races and more to their series next year. If you are in the middle of the USA (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas) and looking for a race, you need to try the Gauntlet. The races are 4 miles and feature some tough ass obstacles.

  3. Good article. The business aspect of OCR is always interesting with it being a growing sport. I think the Down and Dirty crew also had an “air ball” in 2015 when they partnered with Laird Hamilton for that “Force of Nature” OCR series that went nowhere. Too bad. Diving for your finisher medal sounded cool.

    If BattleFrog pulls off all 44 of the races they have scheduled, they can definitely be put toward the top of the OCR world, but I’m still doubtful. It’s been 4 months since they announced their North American schedule and most races are still venue “TBD.” Phoenix is just over a month away with no venue announced. Their Tri-State date can’t happen at the venue they normally have it at because Mudderella is there there that day. I fully expect a press release mid-January titled “BattleFrog Announces Major Schedule Changes” that combines and cancels events and changes some dates, but I guess we’ll see.

  4. Daniel Villarruel says

    The diminishing numbers in WD is not surprising. I’ve always look at their events, as well as The Merrell, as drone companies so to speak. In a sense they are a little detached from the community of what is now The OCR Community. They lack an intimate relationship with their participants or rather their isn’t that connection or group that bridges the participants to the brand. Over the years I’ve noticed that they are well organized like those of large corporate companies, but lack an inside liason to the OCR Community. Merrell also lacks this connection. Although D and D made a small effort in 2014 by changing it’s name from Mud Run to Obstacle Race. But MESP, the parent company of D and D has failed to open itself outside it’s brand. And by doing so they have eliminated any feedback from it’s participants that would help the growth of D and D and the brand. And or Michael Epstein just doesn’t get the ” OCR Community, “

  5. Alexander Sallahian says

    Great article. I think the industry needs to take a beat. Rome wasn’t built in a day…I love OCR but they need a better strategy. They have to stop trying to copy Spartan. Figure a better strategic model to get a cemented foothold in the industry.

  6. Great article,
    I think there there needs to be sustained growth. What I tend to see is the too many companies jumping the gun and trying to grow to fast. If a company becomes to large the quality decreases during the events. What I hate doing is going to event and finding the exact same obstacles from last year. Personally, that is why I think companies like Warrior Dash is on the decline. Tough Mudder is great but there is only the option of 1 type of event where you find spartan with multiple. After my warrior dash last year and how disatisfied I was with the event, I consider savage race as my top thee. But, I still keep going and running harder every year.