Two weeks ago it was announced that Little Debbie was signed on as the title sponsor for the newest Ironman race to be held in Chattanooga. The race will take place on September 28th in the beautiful mountains of eastern Tennessee.
If you are a friend of mine, or follow this blog (hopefully you are both!), then you know my thoughts on eating healthy. So as you can imagine, I was a little shocked when I heard about this. Little Debbie is owned by McKee Foods, who’s headquarters is just 20 miles from Chattanooga in Collegedale, Tennessee. So being a title sponsor for such a big event so close to home make sense for the company. But does it make sense for Ironman?
Ironman is known as a grueling event that only the most fit athletes on the planet can dare to take on. Swimming 2.4 miles, Biking 112 miles and then Running 26.2 miles is a daunting task. So why would WTC, owners of Ironman, want to promote a company that is famous for junk food? Surely they don’t think that eating Oatmeal Creme Pies, Nutty Bars, Swiss Cake Rolls and Fudge Rounds should be part of a healthy athlete’s diet? Of course they don’t. But it’s not about promoting what they think is best for the athletes, it’s about getting a sponsor that is willing to fork over millions of dollars to get their name and logo on every sign and piece of Ironman Chattanooga merchandise.
WTC is a corporation. They are in business to make money. People talk about how Ironman events are no longer about the people racing and how the entry fees continue to climb while the gear and race quality continues to decline. But the fact is, these Ironman events continue to sell out in minutes while other “full-distance” races struggle to get enough participants to even hold the event. So when it comes to running a successful corporation, it’d say that WTC has it figured out. They go after the sponsors that are most likely to pay. IM Louisville has had Ford and Norton Sports Health as sponsors. Other Ironman events have companies such as SunSmart, Toyota, Subaru and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain as title sponsors.
I doubt that there are many people, if any, that were signed up for IM Chattanooga that have decided not to do the race since it was announced that the title sponsor is Little Debbie. I would have a problem walking around with an Ironman shirt or hat that had the Little Debbie logo on it, but I doubt that I would throw away the $650 race entry fee just to prove a point! I also realize that even though most adults are aware that junk food is full of artificial ingredients that the body treats as poison, I’m sure that there are plenty of Ironman athletes that still grab a Cosmic Brownie from the gas station in the middle of a long bike ride. I really don’t think that any grown person will see that Little Debbie is sponsoring an event like Ironman and assume that eating their products must be good for them. I do think that maybe some children might get a mixed message from seeing the Little Debbie logo at the finish line, but it’s the responsibility of their parents to make sure that they know what is healthy and what is not.
What I do find a little ironic is the fact that Ironman Chattanooga benefits the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. For those of you that don’t know about Crohn’s Disease, it is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. Guess what causes this inflammation? That’s right, sugars/artificial sweeteners and processed flour – two of the major ingredients in almost everything that Little Debbie makes. It’s almost comical that the race logo (as seen above) features both of these organizations.
So the bottom line is that while I don’t like the idea of Little Debbie getting to promote their crap at an Ironman event, it’s what made best business since for the WTC and it should be obvious to everyone at this point that they have their best interests in mind, not yours. So good luck to everyone racing Ironman Chattanooga and don’t force down too many of those Zebra Cakes in the post-race food tents!
Be sure and visit all of my sponsor’s websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.