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Challenge Family today announced a strategic new partnership with the Rev3 triathlon series, a move that will significantly expand Challenge Family’s presence in the United States. I had an opportunity to speak with Charlie Patten, CEO of Rev3, to learn more about the newly formed union and how this development came about.
“For a few years, Felix [Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshöfer] and I had been casually emailing back and forth about nothing in particular,” said Patten. “A couple years back I asked him about their pro series and maybe trying to come up with a way we could combine our series with theirs, but keep the companies separate. It never really made sense, so we left it at that. But over the winter I was at the TBI [Triathlon Business International] conference and Murphy [Reinschreiber, who heads up Challenge operations in the Americas and manages Challenge Family global partnerships] was there as well. There’s a speed networking session, so I sat down in front of Murphy and he basically said, ‘We should probably talk.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we should talk’. Challenge Atlantic City had already been announced and it was obvious that Challenge Family intended to come into the U.S. market space. It felt appropriate to at least have a conversation with them regarding their plans. It actually started with us both asking, ‘How can we work together? We don’t need to compete against each other. We can communicate, we can talk, we can be friends and plan together.’ That was how the conversation started, and it slowly evolved into, ‘Who’s to say we can’t do this together?’”
The synergy between the brands is easy to understand, given their shared mission of providing an exemplary and family-friendly athlete experience. “After talking with Felix and Zibi [Szlufcik, Challenge Family CEO] and Murphy and learning more about who they are and what their brand stands for, it became clear that it’s incredibly similar to what we believe. It really is a perfect fit,” said Patten. “You have Felix and his mom and his sister and they really are a family–and that’s how Rev3 is as well. My dad’s at the races, my mom’s at the races, my sister’s at the races, my cousins are driving pickup trucks–it’s just a big family environment. And we care about the athletes that race with us, from the first place person to the last place person. Everybody is celebrated, and that’s how Challenge is, too. It was really great to have someone say, ‘We believe exactly what you believe.’”
Rather than negotiating a buyout of one brand or the other, the two companies have partnered to form a new entity under the Challenge Family banner that will become part of the Challenge Family worldwide event series. Patten will remain at the helm of these U.S. races, in conjunction with Reinschreiber, a board of directors and the entire current Rev3 staff. “All of the Rev3 staff stays intact,” said Patten. “That was something particularly important to me. Maybe we are biased, but we feel like we do a phenomenal job at producing our events and a phenomenal job at servicing our customers and making sure that their needs come first. And that doesn’t come from me–that comes from a team of phenomenal people that understand what our mission and values are. Now we get to produce events that are essentially the same quality product with all of the same people involved, just under a different brand.”
The merging of brands allows Challenge Family the benefit of swift and significant growth in the U.S. market, plus the proven success of a respected partner in delivering a quality race experience across the board at multiple events, thanks to Rev3’s established reputation and production infrastructure.
The media release announcing the news did not contain mention of a professional athlete division, however Szlufcik confirmed that plans are forthcoming. “By the end of the year we’ll announce our plans regarding a pro division and prize money structure for the 2015 events that were formerly produced under the Rev3 banner. There will be no changes to the remaining 2014 Rev3 races, and the existing Challenge races in the U.S.–Atlantic City, New Albany and Rancho Cordova–will maintain their existing prize purses and pro divisions. As always, we’re committed to the support and development of professional athletes at all levels,” said Szlufcik. He also echoed Patten’s positive sentiments as to the symbiotic values of the two brands. “This new partnership is an absolutely intuitive fit and a huge step forward in bringing more family-friendly, athlete-focused race opportunities to athletes in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Patten elaborated further on the possibility of incorporating a pro division, and the importance of relying on both companies’ experience to determine the best way to do so. Earlier this year, Rev3 announced the discontinuation of their prize purse for professionals, a decision that was difficult for Patten. “I never wanted to pull that back, to be honest with you. Finances kind of dictated that decision for me,” he said. “I’ve always felt that pros have tremendous value. I think a pro division is a wonderful thing. It helps promote the brand, gives us more credibility and more media coverage and really helps keep us on the map and keep us more relevant. So I’m excited about the possibility of bringing it back. We learned a lot over the last six years in working with pros at Rev3 events, and Challenge has obviously been working with pros forever, so I’m excited to sit down with them to share our ideas and put our heads together to come up with a solid plan. The key is that it needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship between the athletes and us, so we also want to get input from the pros on how we can work together. We need to make sure we’re getting the value that the pros bring, which quite honestly was the problem we had with Rev3. We thought we were getting the value, but really we were not; we did a bad job of that. We need to do a better job of finding ways for both the pros and the race directors to maximize that value; otherwise it’s not a good return on the investment.”
All Rev3 races originally slated for 2015 will go forward under the Challenge brand, save for the Rev3 Rush events, which will remain separate. The Rev3 age group triathlon team will transition to a Challenge Family age group team in 2015. Additionally, more Challenge races will ultimately be added to the U.S. calendar. “Right now we have a lot of races on the east coast and without a doubt we’re looking to expand to more venues out west. There’s a huge void to be filled and we’re excited about the opportunity,” said Patten.
Patten is optimistic about the new venture and the opportunity to continue the work that he feels so passionately about. “I enjoy my job. I love what I do and it’s because at the end of the day you can see the fruits of your labor,” he says. “You can see that you impacted somebody’s life. You see the tears and the smiles and the pain. And knowing that you were part of creating something pretty monumental for people–a milestone in their lives–that makes it meaningful. That makes you want to come back for more.”