Bevin: On today's hot property interview, we're very happy to be able to welcome Chris Hutchens from Maverick Multisport Team to the show. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Hutchens: Thanks Bevin. Appreciate it.
Bevin: We just spoke before the interview and we were talking about how our podcast of light has just been focusing a little bit on the professional ranks and how professionals make money. This being the upsurge in professional Troy teams. We've been talking about BMC recently in Bahrain. You're not quite on those guys' budget levels just yet, but you've been around for a while now. Where did the concept of Maverick Multisports stand?
Chris: Oh gosh. You want the 60-second version or the long version? Which do you want?
Bevin: The long version.
Chris: Long version. Okay. Well, a little backstory on me. I was actually an airline pilot for about five years. When my wife and I had our third child, I ended up leaving Delta to be a stay-at-home dad. After about a year, I got a little stir-crazy. As a former collegiate swimmer and active triathlete, I started in the fall of I guess 2012. Helping out some pros in the sport that were really struggling with getting sponsorships lined up. That's what I went to university for.
I have some experience after college in that market. I stepped in and said, "Hey you're doing this all wrong. [laughs] Let me help. Please let me help you. I don't want to see you banging your head against the wall any longer." I hopped in and I helped three pros that year. It was one of those things where I said, "Hey, I'm not too bad at this. I'm actually having some success at it." That was in 2013, was the first full year that I did that.
From that I jumped in. 2014 is when it really took off. That year I had five pros. I had Matt Hanson on the team. His first year as a professional triathlete, he won Ironman Chattanooga that year and obviously, he's gone on to win Ironman Texas. I think everybody for the most part probably knows who Matt is. I had Amber Ferreira on the team that year. She won Ironman Lake Placid and went to Kona.
That second year, it just went like a rocket ship, and all of a sudden, everybody knew at least who we were as an organization. It just took off. Then last year, well I guess in 2015, we had six pros and we spun off an age group component to give us some additional bandwidth. Last year, it continued to grow with seven pros and 20 age groupers and now here we are.
In 2017, we've signed five pros for 2017 and we've got 48 age group athletes, now that raise for us. It's grown quite a bit from five years ago when I just had three pros and now we've got 53 athletes under the Maverick banner I guess you can say. It's been a fun ride. It's one of those things you can look back and say it like, "Wow. I can't believe where we are." It's just one foot in front of the other.
Bevin: Interesting. Really, really interesting. Would you say that you started off as more of an agent and working with them as individuals? Did it actually get to a point where you started to attract brands to these individuals and thought, "If I can retain all these brands, we may as well create a banner and then bring individual pros under that banner." How did it go from three or four athletes into what is your own brand?
Chris: Actually the name Maverick came from -- I started coaching youth and junior draft legal athletes. Here in the area where I live, I live in Louisville, Kentucky which is home to the Kentucky Derby. I was looking for something that would reflect the area. So horses and maverick and that's where the name Maverick Multisport came around. I started working with these three pros under that same banner and the pro thing really took off. The coach that I was running the junior team with, she moved to Colorado.
At that point I made a decision to say, "Okay. As much as I love coaching the youth and juniors, I'm putting all my chips in with the pros." It was one of those things where I really see a huge advantage being able to go to a company and saying, "I'm bringing to the table five, six, seven professional athletes that are going to have a very uniform look to them. Everybody is on the same bikes, the same wheelsets, the same power meters, wetsuits, everything like that." It gives a very clean look. Obviously if you're a company and obviously you use Polar as an example because Wayne sets this up.
Bevin: Great friend of the show.
Chris: If Polar comes to me, they're obviously a lot -- it's a lot easier for them to activate a relationship with me as one person as opposed to saying, "Okay, Chris. We would much prefer to go out and just find five or six or seven pros on our own." Well that takes a lot more legwork on their end where they can just come to me and say like, "Boom." It's a one-stop shop.
All the sudden, they don't have to worry about the contracts. They don't have to worry about anything else that goes on behind the scenes. It's just basically like, "Chris, we want to work with you guys." You activate the relationship and supply all the content and manage everything on the backside. If I was a company, I think it will be a dream relationship.
Bevin: Did it start like that though? Did you look when you had your first couple of pros and you were looking at them as individuals? Did you immediately into the market with that concept already fully formed?
Chris: No. I just went into the market with I'm going to package everybody under one umbrella as opposed to try and say, "Okay I've got this athlete. What can you do for this athlete, this athlete, this athlete?" I said, "I have a collection of athletes. This is what I wanted to do with them. Can you support these athletes as a single unit?" Fortunately, we had a couple companies that signed on that very first year which allowed it to start that snowball effect.
If that wouldn't have happened then, obviously we probably wouldn't be sitting here. Things worked out that first year and we got some traction. I think once you get a couple big companies signed on board, then the chips just started to fall into place like, "Oh okay. Well, you're working with XYZ company already." That's a pretty reputable brand. You must be doing something right if you already have a relationship with them. It just seemed to work out.
Bevin: Now that you've been doing this for a little bit, what is the sponsorships based like for triathlon? It seems that the budgets are getting a little bit tighter. We've got provisional triathletes that I coach. We talk to professional triathletes who are up and coming in and entering this market. You've just signed a couple of professional triathletes. One who's just entering the 70.3 space coming out of ITU, Dan Wilson who we had on the show a few weeks ago. Do you think that these teams are where most of triathlon is going to end up if you are actually trying to enter in as one of those newer pros?
Chris: If you are new or still relatively -- you're trying to establish yourself in the market, I think that getting onto a team is really and truly the way to go because again not just from a corporate standpoint but from an athlete standpoint if you go to a team, you immediately walk into relationships with bike companies, wheel companies, nutrition companies. You instantly even as an athlete have just a spider webbing reach where -- and then it takes a lot of the pressure of having to develop all these relationships.
I think that's something that certainly you have to do down the road, but if you are like you said Dan Wilson 10 years' racing ITU, coming into 70.3 this year, I think it's a great way for him to segway into non-draft racing. He may be on the team for a year. He may be on the team for five years, who knows, but I think it's a great way for him to get his name out there and step into a situation where he's got a ton of bandwidth behind him; because with 48 age group athletes on the team, all those athletes are obviously going to be following Dan and Clayton and Leslie and John and Rhuidean, all the pros that are on the squad- -and helping to like and re-tweet and follow and just do all the things that go on to help build a brand for them online.
Bevin: When did you decide to deviate into the age group side of things? And I noted from your website that initially you're only looking for a dozen age group for the team, but it's obviously moved out since then because it's successful?
Chris: Yes. I think at the end of the day, this is a business. As a business, you have to look at "Okay, how are we positioning ourselves to make money?" If you go to an Ironman race, a challenge race, 98% of the people on the starting line are age group athletes. How do we tap into that market? How do we leverage that relationship? Best by engaging with the age group athletes as a brand. We started that two seasons ago with six. Last year we had 20 and now we're up to 48.
It allows us to -- as a brand also go to the companies that we've worked with and say -- "The buck doesn't just stop with the five pros that we've worked with. You're also able to tap into and have a trickle down effect with these age group athletes. It's a good relationship. I think it's a win-win-win for everybody. It's a win for the age group athletes. It's a win for the company. It's a win for Maverick as a brand. It's just like a circle. You've got to keep everything going around and you don't want to break the chain. As long as we continue to do that, then I think it continues to work.
Bevin: Okay. Triathletes are trying to make money out there.
Bevin: Maverick's is trying to make money. How does it all work in terms of a business model because you're not doing it -- most of us in triathlon are doing it for the love [laughs] including a lot of the pros, but how does the business model actually work, so it serves both the pros and makes a sustainable living for you as a director of the team?
Chris: It's definitely tough. I wouldn't say that anybody is really getting rich off of it. I think we're able to provide a solid level of support for athletes. I think that there's probably 25 or so men and 25 or so women something like that. Really like globally that are able to I would say like this is --
Bevin: Yes. Paying the bills.
Chris: I've been around long enough to know what most people want, what most people are making. Like you said Bevin, I think most people are doing it for the love of the sport. There certainly are people that are making good money doing it. I know that for a fact. I think that we're able obviously to provide a lot of things that would be difficult to go out on your own and get. I don't want to go into it too much because I don't want to get on it all completely. We support the athletes to a degree where they're able to be successful.
Bevin: Also to a point where you see yourself in the market because as I say some of those other brands obviously -- there's no prints giving you --
Chris: On our back pocket of course.
Bevin: And no property you magnate in Europe.
Chris: We're basically in a stage, maybe you'll lose, get a President elect and put him in a pocket or something like that.
Bevin: Get one who's fond of triathlon.
Chris: That's perfect.
Bevin: What's the long-term goal for the team then? Obviously, it's really well established now. It's been running for a longest period of time. It's in that sickened tier of teams but it's successful and you've got some great brands aligned with you. Your job would be to obviously continue to try to expand.
Chris: Yes. Just like any brand, I come to look at it just like you would at any product. How do we make this watch better? How do we make this bike better? How do we make Maverick multi-sport as a brand better. We did that by continuing to recruit better pro-athletes. We try to do that by creating better relationships with the companies we work with. We try to step up to what we're doing from just a content creation standpoint. Because at the end of the day, as maybe shallow as this may sound, all these athletes is just an extension of the marketing departments for these companies. That's what an athlete really has to recognize that.
You're not part of their production. You're not part of their -- maybe sometimes they're indeed, but you're not part of their shipping department, you're not part of their executive department, you are part of their marketing department. We have to find the best and the most creative ways to help these companies market the products that we represent, so that we can provide the best ROI for them. So that when we come back around to the next year to look at contracts, they'll say "Yes. Dollar for dollar you guys gave us the best bang for our buck of anybody that we work with." That's what I've pretty consistently heard across the board.
The only complaint I've ever had from anyone is like "Chris, you gave us too much stuff," [laughs] which is a good thing. I guess our goal is to continue just to grow. Obviously just like any sport, whether if you're playing American football, you want to go to the Super Bowl. If you're playing in the NBA, you want to go win an NBA championship. Or you want to win a World Series in baseball. I think for us as a brand, obviously we want to try to continue to chase championships. 70.3 World's get somebody top 10 in Kona. Obviously podium at Kona maybe in the next two or three years. It's one of those things, it takes some time and it takes proper athlete. It takes at the end of the day money. But I think it's possible. I think we're on our way.
Bevin: One of the things that we've just talked about is actually last week on the podcast is that -- And I've been privy to a couple of contract offers for some of the athletes, my professional athlete that I coaches who sign for a team. There seems to be some push back from some of the brands at the moment as to where the athletes rise. Do you find that the market is Ironman scene trick from a sponsorship perspective? From the brands that you're dealing with? It is about 70.3 Worlds or do you find that it's a little bit more broader than that and the events like in the past we've had Rev3 and we've obviously got challenged and Toughman Tri's trying to establish itself. Or do you feel some pressure from the industry that it has to be 70.3 and Ironman focused?
Chris: I think that obviously Ironman and Ironman 70.3 is -- that's top dog. It probably will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future. I think challenge is second there. Some of the other brands you mentioned Toughman and Rev3, they're great brands. We've got athletes to do those races, but I think that they still need to establish themselves a little bit more. They need to develop those brands. They need to get the following behind them. It's hard to compete with the brand where you got athletes; as soon as they finished the race, the next day are going to tattoo parlors to stamp.
Though you've got people that are so over-obsessed with Ironman, it's hard to get people to get that focus away. I think from an athlete's standpoint though, as far as companies that we work with, I think they prefer Ironman. I haven't really heard anybody say like "You have to do all Ironman races." I think at the end of the day, it's about how you -- if you go and win Challenge Rugby or whatever it may be, I think that at the end of the day, it's how you relay that information and how you take those results and repackage them and then obviously distribute it, and then just really activate that.
I would rather have somebody go and get third place at a race and we really blow the marketing out of the water and really create some buzz around that- -as opposed to go and have an athlete win a race. And then it's just crickets where nobody hears about it. That does nobody any good. I think it's [sic] really falls on the athlete's shoulders how you put a spin on the race result.
Bevin: This year you've got a few new athletes on the team. It's an exciting year for you because there's always going to be athletes who come and go. Say in Dan Wilson's case, his entry to 70.3 race has been actually pretty spectacular today. You've actually maybe signed up someone who could be quite a heavy hitter at 70.3 before the end of the season. Does that excite you with the people that you're working with this year?
Chris: Absolutely. Yes. Like you mentioned Dan, he transitioned after 10 years of ITU racing to 70.3 and goes and wins Noosa, and then -- the world's largest Olympic distance race. And then he follows it up with a win at the Challenge Shepp and Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney. He's into 2016 on fire. I'm excited to see what his -- how 2017 starts. I think as long as he stays healthy and just continues to do what he's been doing, I think he's going to be just fine.
And then, obviously, we brought on Clayton Fettell, another Aussie and he's had a great career over the past few years. Obviously, he's been to Kona and he's got his sight set on Kona this year. He just got married and had a little boy last year. So I think last year was probably pretty busy for him. From a personal standpoint, I think this year, the focus is going to be pretty lasered and dialed in. I expect great things from him this year as well.
Bevin: Well, it looks like -- You never know, Dan sneaks a 70.3 world title, all of a sudden Maverick Multisport is going to be spoken about in the same breath as BMC in Bahrain.
Chris: You never know. You never know. I wouldn't put it past him.
Bevin: No, I wouldn't put it past him either. Anyway, Chris -- Well. Thank you so much for taking some time out this afternoon to have a chat to us about Maverick Multisport. We'll definitely put the links up to your website and Facebook on our show notes. It's exciting to see the team expand and evolve, and we wish you the best of luck for the 2017 season.
Chris: Well, thank you, Bevin. I really appreciate the time. Thanks for having me on today.
- Interview brought to you by Fitter Radio (http://www.fitter.co.nz) & Chris Hutchens, Maverick Multisport
Check out Maverick Multisports recovery tools: (http://www.rpsports.com/recoverypump-products)