First time versus repeat triathlon participants at Ironman South Africa
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Triathlon organisers and marketers must attempt to achieve a balance between first-time and repeat participants, but should be aware of the attributes that differentiate these participants. This study was carried out to segment participants of the Ironman South Africa event based on the frequency of participation and distinguish between first-time participants and repeat participants via an empirical analysis. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed during Ironman South Africa at the Boardwalk Convention Centre and Spa during the registration period (11 to 13 April 2013). A convenience sample was used to conduct the destination-based survey. Fieldworkers collected a total of 425 questionnaires and the analyses comprised two different stages: a factor analysis, and an analysis of differences based on the number of years participants at Ironman South Africa have previously participated in the event. The results showed significant differences between first-time and repeat triathletes competing in Ironman South Africa based on their demographic profile, behaviour and motives to participate. The key contributions of this research were: First, differentiation based on frequency of participation was found to be a useful segmentation tool. Second, the results revealed distinct attributes that have not previously been identified in previous research, especially with regard to the motives and behavioural patterns of participants. Third, four distinct clusters namely, the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum segments were identified. Fourth, loyalty programme and cards was successfully applied for the first time as a retention tool for endurance sport participants. Fifth, this study also challenged existing sport theory. Lastly, the research contributes to existing sport literature, seeing that this is orginal research done in South Africa regarding triathlons and understanding the distinct characteristics of triathletes. These contributions emphasise that understanding endurance sport participants, in this case triathletes, will help to expand the sport in South Africa and contribute to making the country a premier endurance sport destination.