Infront adds investment in Upsolut’s Hyrox to mass participation portfolio

The Infront agency has widened its involvement in the personal and corporate fitness space by investing in mass participation property Hyrox.

Hyrox, whose main sponsor is German sportswear company Puma, is an indoor fitness competition designed for both amateurs and professional athletes. Its 2019-20 season comprises nine events in Europe and five in the US.

Hyrox was created by Upsolut Sports, the Hamburg-based sports agency co-founded in 2017 by Christian Toetzke, the former chief executive of Lagardère Sports’ endurance division. Toetzke had launched the original Upsolut agency 24 years ago as a cycling race organiser before it was sold to Lagardère in 2007.

Toetzke said today (Monday): “Infront is an excellent partner with a vast amount of experience in mass participation and endurance events and will help us to achieve our ambitious expansion goals to change the world of fitness by establishing Hyrox as the global leader in fitness events.”

Competitors at Hyrox events cover the same course with up to 3,000 participants competing each time and results measured via timing chip. Races can be run as individuals or in pairs and are composed of eight 1-kilometre runs which include a functional workout after each kilometre.

Hans-Peter Zurbruegg, senior vice-president of personal and corporate fitness at Infront, said: “This investment is all about promoting a new sport and getting in on the ground floor of a growing trend in the fitness industry.

“It forms part of our strategic roadmap to broaden our personal and corporate fitness footprint, complementing our summer portfolio with events during the winter season and meeting a demand from the growing fitness market.”

The level of investment made by Infront has not been disclosed.

The Hyrox deal represents Infront’s latest investment in the sector following agreements struck earlier this year with Threshold and Megamarsch and as it continues to develop its Personal & Corporate Fitness Unit.

Infront first established itself in the mass participation events industry through an agreement signed seven years ago to market the Berlin Marathon rights and quickly followed up by the purchase of the Germany-based B2Run corporate running series in 2014.

The Wanda Sports-owned agency then moved to build up its active lifestyle business through a deal in 2014 to handle the World Marathon Majors’ sponsorship platform. In 2016, the Wanda-owned Ironman acquired Lagardère Sports’ mass participation business and South Africa’s Cape Epic mountain bike race.

Remaining Hyrox events are due to take place next year in the US cities of Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, as well as the German cities of Hannover, Karlsruhe and Munich. The Hyrox World Championships, the culmination of the season, will take place in the German capital, Berlin, on April 4.

Moritz Fuerste, founding partner and managing director of Hyrox, said: “Hyrox is meeting a global demand to become the first mass participation fitness competition which caters to millions of fitness enthusiasts and gym members around the world.

“Its accessibility and attainability for all athletes has helped it grow rapidly. Infront’s investment, which includes leveraging its broad expertise, will help accelerate that growth further.”

According to figures files in its recent IPO prospectus, Wanda Sports generated €284.1m ($312m) in mass participation revenues in 2018, a healthy jump on €251.5m in 2017 and €196.4m in 2016. The revenues include those generated by Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events, which do not form part of Infront’s Personal & Corporate Fitness unit.

Gross profit of €100.9m was reported Wanda’s mass participation activities in 2018, a rise on the €90.3m and €74.9m filed in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Speaking to SportBusiness in September, Zurbruegg attributed the steady growth in revenues at the Personal & Corporate Fitness division to both the inorganic growth through acquisitions and organic growth given rising participant numbers.

He said: “Even in the most classic types of runs, such as the business runs in Germany, our events are growing. In Munich we had almost 35,000 participants in the B2Run in Munich which was a new record. There is definitely organic growth but we accelerate the growth through acquisitions and partnerships.

“It remain part of our growth strategy. When there are good opportunities coming up then we’ll look at them. It’s about growing organically with the current portfolio but also establishing potentially new formats, and capturing growth opportunities through acquisitions.”