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Q&A: Infront’s past and future in participation sport

2 min read

Infront has recently restructured its mass participation business, renaming it to the Active Lifestyle unit. Hans-Peter Zuerbruegg, Senior Vice President of Active Lifestyle, outlines the Group’s history in the space and its ambitions for the future

At what point did Infront first become involved in active lifestyle events?

One could follow Infront’s journey in mass participation back to 2012 when it was named the marketing partner of the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, a role we still hold alongside our position as the host broadcaster and media distribution agency. In early 2013, we also received a mandate from IRONMAN to support sponsorship and media.

Following these successful initial agency mandates our strategy evolved with the aim to create worth along the entire value chain in participation sports with a strong focus on IP ownership and building a well-diversified portfolio in active lifestyle.

What did that evolution look like?

We expanded into corporate fitness with the acquisition of B2Run in 2014. Initially the series was held in Germany only with around 10 events, but since our involvement we have brought it to 25 events in the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region with more than 225’000 participants, making it clearly the biggest running series in this region.

The success of B2Run and a new strategic direction led to Infront pursuing a more diverse approach to the mass participation space. This led to our acquisition of XLETIX in 2018, our first foray into the themed fitness space. It’s two styles of events – XLETIX Challenge and schauinsland Muddy Angel Run – represented a new focus on the broader world of mass participation beyond running and for all levels. It also launched XLETIX Kids in 2021, providing an opportunity for all members of the family to get involved.

We followed up with our investment in Threshold Sports in 2019, our first UK property and one which covered not only running but cycling as well as tailored company specific endurance endeavours. We followed with Megamarsch a few months later, our entry point into long-distance hiking.

We took a different approach with Hyrox in 2022. The series of fitness marks a new move for us to indoor mass participation and functional fitness. Indeed, no one in the world is offering what Hyrox does. An elite level to aspire to, a solo event to test the limit of your strength and endurance and team events to help inspire friends, family or colleagues together.

Infront has also announced agreements with the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and Blackmores Sydney Marathon. What is the role Group’s role there?

Both races have ambitions to become a World Marathon Major and Infront is involved to help them navigate that journey in connection with the long-term partnership between Infront/Wanda and the Abbott World Marathon Majors. This is both on an organisational and commercial level. It also means we are aligning with some of the world’s top running events and are keen to introduce more runners to some of the best courses in the world.

How broad is Infront’s Active Lifestyle footprint?

Our portfolio now sits at 15 owned event series as well as five core rights-in partnerships, not bad considering our journey is just a decade old. Our continued approach of ensuring the properties we align with offer something for everyone ensures we keep the participant experience front and centre of any decision, including our commercial ambitions.

Of course, COVID-19 has stalled our efforts, as it has those of almost all involved in the sports industry. However, post-pandemic we have held over 100 owned events and welcomed more than 500,000 participants in 2022. This puts Infront and it’s connected house of mass participation events in a strong position for continued growth.

What are the next steps in Infront’s Active Lifestyle evolution?

In the short-term our focus will be on the further growth and strengthening of our Active Lifestyle portfolio post-COVID. Furthermore, all aspects of our WMM related projects (namely the WMM candidacies Cape Town and Sydney Marathon) as well as the continued strategic expansion of the global Hyrox Fitness series will be a special focus point this year.

We will also continue to build our Active Lifestyle business organically and focus on key partnerships and acquisitions to accelerate growth, aiming to become a global leader in Active Lifestyle.