March 20, 2012 – The 1996 Ironman World Championship presented some historic firsts: Luc Van Lierde became the first European champion, The Belgian set a world record that wasn’t matched until 2011. And more than 1,400 competitors were introduced to a powerful, brand-new boost of energy for their long day in Kona: a new product called “energy gel,” supplied by GU Energy Labs of Berkeley, California.
GU created the first energy gel in 1994, and its quick adoption by the toughest race on earth, began a long partnership between the two brands. Today, GU is enormously proud to announce that it is returning to Kona and beyond with a two-year agreement with Ironman to be the official on-course energy gel and energy chew supplier in the United States.
As the first gel sponsor of Ironman, GU is intimately familiar with the unique energy needs of Ironman athletes. Original GU Gel, Roctane Ultra Endurance Gels, and GU Chomps will be on course, offering Ironman athletes a spectrum of tasty, high-performance energy solutions with the aim of getting competitors to the finish faster — and feeling better.
“It’s like coming home,” said GU Energy president Brian Vaughan. “We have a historic tie to Ironman, and while our connection with Ironman athletes has never waned, we’re really pleased to be able to step up and serve in an official capacity as an event sponsor for these pinnacle events.”
The agreement covers US events — ten Ironman events — including the Ironman World Championship — as well as twenty-three Ironman 70.3 events, including the Ironman World Championship 70.3, and five 5150 Triathlon Series races.
“We are excited to welcome GU back to our family of partners,” said Erik Vervloet, Chief Marketing Officer of Ironman. “A large part of our success depends on strategic partnerships. The synergy between these two brands is evident. Neither will compromise when it comes to delivering what it takes to get competitors across the finish line. The team at GU shares our passion for providing the key elements an Ironman athlete needs to excel.”
Reflecting the rapid growth in triathlon overall, Ironman and its portfolio of brands have witnessed historic numbers in recent years. The inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship sold out in just over 11 minutes. Overall annual participation numbers for Ironman races now sit at more than 25,000 in the U.S. alone, up from mere hundreds in the 1970s. The annual number of participants in domestic Ironman 70.3 events is more than 50,000, while the 5150 Triathlon Series each year sees approximately 15,000 athletes across events in the U.S.